How to measure DE&I – successes, failures, opportunities
It’s a numbers world and we’re just living in it. Without data, diversity commitments are little more than words on a page. Corporate fancy-speak to impress the LinkedIn audience and the shareholders with little substance and even less staying-power.
Now when we say metrics, we’re not talking quotas – those are too often messy and ethically ambiguous. What we’re talking about is being conscientious of how people find your company, where and why people fall off during the hiring process, and whether or not your data can point to some unknown bias in that process. We’ve found it helpful to track these (sometimes overlooked) metrics to get a better sense of our own DE&I development – let us know if you find them useful too:
1. Ask about your candidate’s parents or guardians
The person you see in an interview – the software engineer, the accountant, the marketing manager – is the result of a long line of decisions, experiences, and lifestyle adjustments. They are the product of their nature and nurture, and no picture would be complete without better understanding what made them who they are.
That’s why we think it’s important to not just ask about a candidate’s education or to make an effort to include diverse academic backgrounds, but to ask about their parent or guardian’s highest level of education. This information contextualizes the socio-economic background of your candidates and helps to nail down a more slippery piece of diversity data than say, race or gender.
2. Ask about your candidate’s ethnic background
Okay, so this one isn’t so unusual. It’s pretty normal for larger companies to ask about a candidate’s ethnic background during the initial application process. Nothing too invasive, just a simple “if you’re comfortable, please select how you identify” and a drop down menu.
The unusual bit comes down to how you use this biographical information. Counter to popular belief, we don’t recommend using this information to determine your hiring decisions – instead, use it to help keep a pulse on the types of people your job posts attract and alert you to possible gaps in your outreach. It’s a roadmap to how you might diversify your hiring process, outreach efforts, and job postings going forward.
3. Follow the money
This one might be a little uncomfortable, but bear with us. How a company allocates its resources tells a story of what it prioritizes. If a company partners with ethical vendors, gives charitably to diverse organizations, and sets up programs whereby employees volunteer once a month at a local X Y or Z, then the money says “this company is making DE&I real.” If, on the other hand, the company spends money without any view to DE&I – an innocent oversight for those of us who hadn’t considered this metric before – the money says “DE&I is not a priority.” What does your money say?
For the longest time, our money said something along the lines of “I don’t know.” We gave back to diverse organizations and supported our community, but we didn’t do so on a consistent basis and we didn’t audit our spending with a view to DE&I. If you’re in a similar boat – there’s no shame in it. This is an opportunity to be more intentional about your spending, if that’s something your company wants to do.
With buy-in from top executives, try encouraging your company to audit how it selects vendors by asking:
- What restaurants are my company’s go-to when ordering lunch?
- What vendor do we use to print business cards?
- Who is in charge of these decisions and what factors do they consider to select the best choice?
Of course, there are about a million more metrics you could track – but not all metrics are made equal. Sometimes asking more questions just leads to question-fatigue without providing any real insight into your workforce. By zeroing-in on the most revealing metrics and sticking with them over the course of months and years, you’ll be able to really get a sense of your company’s progress.