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Blog/March 8, 2017

Making Your Company a Better Place for Everyone to Work

They say that construction and engineering are male-dominated fields, but is that really the whole story? To answer that question, we believe that leaders must look well beyond counts of employees from different demographic groups and gain holistic views of their organizations. For example, diversity metrics include measures that capture the characteristics of the workforce (e.g., the percentage of the workforce that is female).

And while race and gender are the two demographic characteristics most focused on in the workplace, diversity is defined as the differences and similarities that include, for example, individual and organizational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences and backgrounds. Put simply, not all demographic characteristics are federally-protected classes, but states, municipalities and organizations may choose to protect a broader set of demographics.

6 Key Inclusion Measurements

Inclusion metrics are measures of workplace characteristics, with inclusion defined as the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success. Here are six ways to measure diversity and inclusion within your own organization:

  • Unequal pay and benefits
    Have you assessed whether pay is appropriate for the individual within a role when compared to other individuals? What about equal opportunity for status benefits such as a corner office? Where there is the potential for questions to be raised about inequity in pay or benefits, ensure that leaders who make decisions about pay and benefits have valid and defensible reasons for any differences across demographic groups.
  • Unequal access to training and development opportunities
    Have you ever considered who gets to go to the more expensive training and development programs? Track access to the exciting opportunities such as the annual golf trip to Hawaii and ensure that such opportunities are being made fully available to qualified staff without any improper influences affecting who gets ahead.
  • Consistent performance rating differences by the same leader
    Leaders are not all perfect, and some are blinded by bias, giving preference to those who are more like themselves. In a male-dominated work world such as construction, that may put women at a disadvantage. Have you looked at mean ratings by supervisor across key demographics? Consistent patterns over time might reflect an underlying problem, and leaders may need frame-of-reference training to ensure that their ratings are as bias-free as possible.
  • Promotion differences
    Time-to-promotion and promotion rates are two measures worth exploring. Are there differences across demographic groups, with one group being promoted more quickly, on average? Is a greater proportion of one group being promoted than another?
  • Differential access to high-level leaders
    We know from research that access to power networks enhances career success. Leaders must ask what access looks like across demographic groups. Are there close relationships formed by senior-level mentors with those high-potential staff members moving up in the firm, and are those relationships supportive regardless of demographics?
  • Engagement differences
    Your leadership team might have called for an engagement survey to explore employees’ perspectives on their work involvement, their vigor, dedication and absorption. While looking at mean company-level survey results is de rigeur, have your leaders also been asked to drill down for demographic comparisons? Significant and meaningful differences across demographic groups are red flags that the environment is not felt as an inclusive one for some groups. If you have significantly more women than men leaving the company voluntarily, for example, you may have confirmation of an imbalance in this area.

Don’t Overlook the Themes

In addition to the hard measures described above, leaders should pay attention to the themes that surface from employee responses to open-ended questions in staff surveys or leader town hall meetings. Surveys and meetings are an avenue for employees to speak up, and we see patterns in the comments from employees of FMI client companies that mirror the problems being identified by the quantitative inclusion metrics (or in some cases, shine a light on issues that were not obvious from the quantitative metrics).

Here are some examples of employee comments in a recent client survey that show pain points for women:

“There could be more family-friendly policies or norms for telecommuting, flex-time, family leave, and child care.”

“Women in our office have recently felt unsupported by HR when trying to coordinate family needs.”

Think about how access to oral contraceptives has changed educational and professional opportunities for women in our society, for example. Using this example, consider what structures, benefits or protocols could be revised to create a more supportive environment for women to succeed in your organization. By identifying themes around problems and possibilities, you’ll be able to develop a much-needed action plan. Here are some tactics for success:

  • Leaders walk the talk, articulating how and why they value diversity and an inclusive environment, and back up that talk with consistent, supportive behavior.
  • Leaders ask women for their input.
  • A company that values diversity and inclusion is promoted via the company web site, in marketing materials and in internal messaging to employees.
  • Recruitment and selection processes are structured to attract and support a diverse applicant pool, with messaging reviewed and tools validated to ensure absence of inappropriate bias. Targeted recruiting helps move the needle.
  • Performance evaluation processes are structured to limit inappropriate bias.
  • Recognition and promotion is granted for those moving the organization forward on diversity and inclusion goals.
  • Mentoring programs ensure equal access to power networks.
  • Employees have regular contact across demographic groups, facilitated perhaps by cross-training and rotation arrangements.

Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth is

Once problems have been identified, the stellar leader steps up by remedying the inequity (if you’ve made a mistake, apologize, fix it, and move on) and by being transparent. People are better able to assess a situation as fair when they have been provided with sufficient information about the process and results, they understand that inequity has been remedied, and they have been treated with dignity and respect throughout.

The best leaders also understand that bigger problems need bigger actions. Task forces can be very effective at creating social accountability, so put a task force in place to assess diversity and inclusion problems and to generate solutions. Finally, by creating a “diversity manager” position, your company will show that it’s taking the issue seriously and is willing to take action.

In the workplace, what gets measured gets managed. In the absence of data that reflect the nature of the organization, our knowledge is insufficient. It is very difficult to drive organizational change without first identifying and articulating a need for change. Once the need for change is identified, it’s time to take action. Leaders who act clearly and decisively in support of diversity and inclusion generate competitive advantage for the company and make it a better place to work.

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