We Are All Different, But We Are All Data

When it comes to being effective at maximizing profits, many companies will establish goals, gather data and evaluate change over time. Sociologists Elizabeth Hirsh and Donald Tomaskovic-Devey suggest that companies should tackle diversity initiatives in the exact same manner.

Data collection is crucial for gaining insight into your workforce and identifying gaps that could reveal a lack of representation and transparency, unintended biases, flawed HR practices, exclusion and unfairness. This will allow key stakeholders to make informed decisions. When you have data with a high degree of precision, storytelling becomes easier and more accurate, which will support your rationale for developing DEI solutions.

When creating an online DEI survey, consider varied questions and format types. Here are a few suggestions to ensure you have a high-quality survey so you can perform quality analysis on quality data.

1. MAKE IT AN ANONYMOUS SURVEY. Anonymity can elicit more honest feedback.

2. WHEN BUILDING OUT CERTAIN QUESTIONS, CONSIDER HOW YOU’LL ANALYZE EACH ITEM. For example, it would be better to present the question “What department do you belong to?” as multiple-choice, listing all the departments. When it comes to analyzing data by department, you can create filtered survey reports on this item while still having hierarchical data when filters aren’t turned on.
3. WHEN IT COMES TO DEMOGRAPHIC QUESTIONS, THINK OF ALL POSSIBILITIES, narrowing it down to provide identity-specific options to choose from. For example, break down “Persons with Disabilities” into several options including physical disability, learning disability, sensory disability, cognitive or neurological differences, mental illness, etc.
4. CONSIDER USING RANKING QUESTIONS. In a DEI survey, gaining insight into an employee’s priorities is important.

5. SELECT ALL THAT APPLY. Pose questions where respondents can multi-select answers that apply to them.

6. USE LIKERT-SCALE QUESTIONS TO ASSESS YOUR EMPLOYEES’ ALIGNMENT WITH YOUR CULTURE AND CORE VALUES. Knowing the extent one agrees or disagrees can provide an understanding of whether an employee appreciates the culture or the social fabric of your company.
7. USE OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS. Allow your employees to type in how they feel, what they feel and why they feel that way. Pose questions that elicit information pertaining to personal interests and personal dissatisfactions. Open-ended questions can be harder to analyze, but with word cloud and tagging capabilities built into some online survey tools like SurveyMonkey, you can get a feel for the themes and trends being presented.
8. ASK VARIOUS FREQUENCY OR DURATION QUESTIONS, such as “How long have you worked here?” This will get into the intricacies of your storytelling. Are there noticeable differences between your veteran employees and newbies?
9. CONSIDER USING ONLINE SURVEYS’ BRANCHING LOGIC FUNCTION. Branching is a good way to probe further on a specifically selected answer or to present a set of additional questions that only applies to some employees due to the nature of their selected answers.

Pulling quality data from your DEI survey won’t only articulate the reported dynamics that are currently at play in your organization, but will help get you to the stage of developing your DEI solutions.

In 2020, the City of Mississauga conducted its first Diversity and Inclusion survey that generated a response rate of 47%. Data was collected to identify the gaps that may exist in representation of equity-seeking groups. One of their key takeaways was that employees who identified as racialized are significantly under-represented across the workforce compared to the population at large. In May of 2021, the City of Mississauga responded to their survey data and took actions. They:

  • Performed a needs assessment to design a comprehensive learning plan for both leaders and employees on Diversity and Inclusion
  • Established partnerships with outreach organizations to utilize their expertise
  • Created an Employee Equity Advisory Committee to serve in an advisory capacity to the City Manager’s Office and Human Resources
  • Held monthly Equity Alerts to raise awareness on DEI topics

After you’ve closed your DEI survey, look for key takeaways in your data. A lot of times, key takeaways aren’t obvious by looking at the data from an overview. So play around with it by turning on filters, creating several filtered reports, and tagging answers on open-ended questions to create categories or themes. Based on your findings, when you have deemed your data to have a full story, begin to articulate the narrative, creating in-depth storytelling.

From here, involve stakeholders to brainstorm on identifying critical priorities. Draft a business plan that includes business objectives and the full scope of your proposed DEI solutions. Lastly, create a project plan that identifies who will be involved in contributing to the development and roll-out of your DEI solutions, and the path you’ll take to meet your business objectives.

Statistician William Edwards Deming once said, “Without data you’re just another person with an opinion.” By utilizing DEI survey data it won’t be an opinion guiding you as you develop your DEI solutions, but the truth.

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