Diverse, equitable, inclusive workplaces are not nice-to-haves. Survey after survey finds that workers gravitate toward and remain loyal to employers that prioritize DEI initiatives.
Fostering such workplaces requires ongoing commitment and effort. Top-performing organizations understand this, and they look to set frequent, evolving goals for their DEI efforts.
Here’s how real-time rewards data can help organizations define and redefine their DEI goals.
Questions to Ask Before You Begin to Define DEI Goals
Goal-setting in any domain means defining where you are and where you want to be.
Lots of organizations are good at defining the latter. But defining where they are now — i.e. where they fall short of being a diverse, equitable, inclusive organization — is a frequent sticking point.
“Most organizations are missing a hypothesis for their diversity efforts — an understanding of which drivers will actually affect their diversity outcomes,” writes the team at Mathison, whose software helps companies improve their DEI efforts. “This has left organizations with a sense of where they are but little idea of what they need to change.”
Such hypotheses will vary from one organization to another. Intuition is a helpful guide at this stage. Do you or your team get the sense that certain people earn promotions to the exclusion of others? Or do you feel people in your organization who take time off to care for children get penalized by a lack of future opportunities? Those are the kinds of questions to ask at this stage.
In a piece from 2020, Rajiv Ramanathan, Disha Luthra, and Jeff Lee at AON offer a few more questions to guide your thinking:
- “Why do we promote women at a slow rate and an even slower pace when they are women of color?”
- “What is the talent supply net deficit when we lose more people of color than we hire?”
- “If we continue with the same rate of hiring, attrition and promotions, what does progress toward our DEI targets look like? Will we reach our goals in two years or ten?”
- “Will spending money to close pay equity gaps get to the root cause of why we have pay gaps in the first place?”
- “How does our location strategy influence our ability to attract and retain diverse talent?”
Ellyn Shook, Accenture’s chief leadership and human resources officer, offers some even deeper lines of inquiry that get at the foundations of an organization’s culture:
- “Are you actively listening to your people and holding open conversations about diversity? Are people comfortable speaking up?”
- “Does your work environment enable people to be their authentic self?”
- “Can people see others like themselves in your workplace?”
Asking these kinds of questions is a necessary step toward setting attainable and impactful DEI goals.
What Impactful DEI Goals Look Like
Once you’ve identified something that needs work, you can begin to define where you want to be and how your organization can get there.
The SMART goals framework is useful here, as FairHQ’s Ruby Dark writes. That means setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Here’s an example of such a goal from Dark’s piece:
“By 2025, we will achieve 40% representation of women in management. At the end of this year, we will improve that figure from 13% to 20%.”
Let’s work backward from that example. We cannot jump from hypothesis to SMART DEI goal in one move. We need to know what’s measurable, what’s attainable, what’s relevant, and what time frames make sense for our goals.
This means it’s time to dig into company data.
What You Can Learn From Rewards Data
Let’s take the first question Ramanathan, Luthra, and Lee at AON offer: “Why do we promote women at a slow rate and an even slower pace when they are women of color?”
In such an organization, rewards data could help begin to answer that question. But remember that we’re talking about total reward, not just salary. If there is an inequality or a systemic bias that excludes women and women of color from promotions, then seeing the full value of total reward is necessary to get a full and accurate picture of what’s happening.
From here, you can begin to compare total reward against things like demographic data. Paolo Gaudiano, cofounder and president at Aleria Research Corporation, talks about this in a piece at Forbes:
“[W]hen analyzing promotion data, a common metric might compare the percentages of individuals who got promoted in a given year across demographic segments; a useful additional metric would be to track how long it takes people from different segments to get promoted to a certain level.
“This can shed light on potential biases not just on the promotion process itself, but on other factors that may contribute to an employee being prepared adequately for career advancement.”
Gaudiano continues with an example organization in which white men get promoted to management faster than any other demographic group. With that insight, he notes, you could begin to look into whether white men in the organization are the ones taking on more stretch assignments, getting more one-on-one time with managers, or getting more opportunities to mentor other employees.
Let’s imagine your research does indeed reveal that white men are taking on more stretch assignments and making themselves appear disproportionately qualified for promotions.
A SMART goal in that context might look something like this:
“For the next 12 months, we will ensure 50 percent of stretch assignments go to employees of color and employees who don’t identify as men.”
Best Practices For Ongoing Goal-Setting
Once you create a SMART DEI goal, someone has to measure it, analyze the outcomes, and set a new goal to keep the organization moving forward in its mission to be a diverse, equitable, inclusive workplace.
An important aspect of keeping that going is ensuring you have a visual dashboard for tracking real-time rewards data. That lets HR leaders and their teams see at a glance how a change in rewards can impact efforts in addressing things like pay gaps or promotion biases.
From there, you can begin to put that data in a larger context. And to see that larger context, you’ll need to pull data from elsewhere. Useful data sources include:
- Employee surveys. Ciara Trinidad, who has led diversity and inclusion teams at Lever, Blend, Netflix, and LinkedIn, says surveying employees with open-ended questions offers rich, qualitative data about their experiences in the workplace you’re trying to shape. Try asking employees whether they think their total reward is fair, and then segment those responses according to demographic factors such as age, race, or gender. These are the kinds of questions DEI consultancy Paradigm asks respondents.
- HRIS data. Your human resources information system (HRIS) will track employee-engagement metrics such as employee turnover rates. Pair this with your SMART goal tracking to get an idea of what broader impacts your efforts are having on the company. An employee probably won’t write, “I’m more likely to stay with this company for the next 12 months because of its commitment to DEI,” but their actions might reveal how they feel.
- Employee resource groups. In larger organizations, ERGs allow employees from specific communities or with shared identities to come together to ensure their interests are represented within the company. Their input can be especially valuable in setting company-wide DEI goals. To learn more, McKinsey’s Natacha Catalino, Nora Gardner, Drew Goldstein, and Jackie Wong have an excellent guide to forming and running ERGs.
Use that data alongside your total reward data to keep pushing your DEI efforts forward. Look for new hypotheses in your data, and allow new goals to take shape. That’s what an ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion looks like in practice.