4 Important DEI Measures for Your Employee Survey

By Christian Nielson – Chief Revenue Officer at DecisionWise, 10+ years consulting experience

As the workforce continues to evolve, the need for organizations to focus on, measure, and improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is becoming increasingly important. DEI means creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and supported, including recognizing the unique perspectives and backgrounds that each individual brings to the table. 

A commitment to DEI benefits more than just the employee. Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace can lead to a more productive, creative, and innovative environment. It can also help attract and retain top talent. Companies that focus on DEI are not only doing the right thing but are also making smart business decisions.  

So, how do you approach measuring and improving the DEI landscape of your organization? Your annual engagement survey is a great place to start. To help our clients measure DEI, DecisionWise has developed a framework of DEI survey questions based on four critical constructs: Voice, Growth, Belonging, and Organizational Commitment.  

  • Voice – Employees feel their thoughts and opinions are heard and reasonably considered in organizational decisions. 
  • Growth – Employees feel they have opportunities and resources to develop professionally in the organization. 
  • Belonging – Employees feel accepted, comfortable, and connected within the organization’s culture. 
  • Organizational Commitment – Employees feel the organization champions and sponsors diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

We frequently embed this framework into our employee engagement surveys and confidentially code survey responses to employee demographic detail (age, gender, ethnicity, etc.). The four constructs help us understand and measure current DEI conditions and surface areas for improvement. Voice, Growth, and Belonging are assessed implicitly using survey items that do not directly mention diversity, equity, and inclusion. Organizational Commitment is assessed with items that explicitly reference aspects of DEI. 

Voice

Is anyone listening?

When employees feel their voice is heard, they feel cared for and valued. For an employee, a sense of voice is important within the team setting, with their direct manager, and with the organization. Providing employees with a strong sense of voice doesn’t mean every employee idea or request is accepted and acted on. It means that employees see and feel that their opinions and ideas are “heard and reasonably considered.Often, that means when an employee’s idea isn’t viable or reasonable, a manager closes the loop with a respectful “no” or “not right now.” 

When we break out responses to the employee voice item, “This organization values employee input, feedback, and suggestions” by demographics such as gender, ethnicity, and age, we can identify underlying populations that don’t feel heard. The results can be very specific, depending on the demographics the organization provides. For example, how much do female African American managers feel they are being heard compared to the rest of the employee population?  

Growth

Can I explore my potential here?

Growth is critical to measuring DEI. All employees want to progress and improve in ways that are meaningful to them. Sadly, in many organizations, minority populations do not feel they have the same opportunities to grow and progress as do their peers in the majority. Leveraging growth items in your employee survey can help identify if, and where, perceived inequities exist. 

The following are three items we frequently use to assess growth. 

  • I am satisfied with the opportunities for my own professional growth in this organization. 
  • My supervisor supports my efforts to develop and grow. 
  • I have received the training I need to do my job well. 

Belonging

Do I belong here?

Of the four constructs, belonging is the most important. All human beings have a need to feel they belong. Employees need to feel their work provides them with a sense of safety, acceptance, and connection. The DecisionWise survey item, “I feel like I belong here” is our best predictor of employee engagement. In many ways, employee engagement efforts are really employee belonging efforts. When employees feel they truly belong, they engage with their best efforts and ideas. 

All populations need to consider belonging. Once again, demographics and org structure filters help identify where groups feel like they do not belong. Belonging helps us understand high potential turnover areas and where increased DEI efforts may be needed. 

Organizational Commitment

Does my company care about DEI?

In addition to feeling heard, growing, and belonging, employees need to know that their organization cares about DEI and is working to actively strengthen its work environment. Measuring organizational commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion can directly gauge if the organization is doing enough and communicating effectively in their DEI efforts.  

To measure DEI, we evaluate Voice, Growth, and Belonging using implicit means. However, for Organizational Commitment, we use explicit measures that call out aspects of DEI in the survey questions themselves. For example, “Employees here are treated equally regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation.”  

These explicit measures help identify if all employees feel their organization is committed to creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment. 

Summary

When measuring DEI, consider focusing your efforts by looking through the lenses of Voice, Growth, Belonging, and Organizational Commitment. This framework helps organize some of the complexity of measuring DEI and prioritize actionable components of the employee experience. 

Getting diversity and inclusion right is not a singular event. It takes a consistent approach of meaningful measurement, interpretation, action, and accountability. With the right organizational commitment to DEI, great things are possible. 

Measuring DEI Through Engagement Surveys

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