What gets measured gets done: Using metrics to support diversity

Building a diverse workforce can be a daunting task.

Conceptually, diversity is pretty easy to understand — what it is and what it means to an organization. Turning that concept into reality is a different matter altogether.

But by creating diversity metrics organizations can set firm targets to track the progress of women and other demographic groups, translating diversity aspirations into a work environment where every employee can contribute and has the opportunity to advance.

Metrics can strengthen almost every aspect of a diversity initiative and, most importantly, secure the commitment of senior management, an essential step to diversity success.

Numbers provide a clear picture of an organization’s talent pool, and can be placed in the context of broader demographic data to put workplace diversity into perspective. Metrics can be used to encourage accountability, measure progress over time and maintain long-term momentum.

Metrics versus quotas

Many organizations — hesitant to employ anything resembling a quota — shy away from using metrics. It is important to distinguish between setting a target and instituting a quota.

Tracking metrics is not about setting a hard and fast number. It is more important to track and understand progress in terms of the rate of change. Remember the main goal of a diversity initiative is not hitting a number — it is to create a supportive work environment that produces a level playing field for all employees.

Moving forward

The first step is to identify the demographic groups for which HR data will be tracked. It’s a good idea to track data across different groups including women and visible minorities. Important trends to track include representation, hiring, turnover, retention and promotion. These metrics should be taken semi-annually if possible or at least once a year.

After establishing which groups to track, begin to compare and contrast a range of metrics. This data should provide a clear idea of where employees stand in relation to each other, and illustrate the specific needs of different segments of the workforce. For example, what are the relative proportions of women among entry-level hires? Do women leave the organization at higher rates than men? And after the diversity initiative is in place, the metrics enable the HR department to see how effective programs are.

Keeping score

Consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) created a diversity index to measure and analyze its efforts. This model incorporates several metrics into one index, which has helped the company focus on its diversity priorities.

The index groups are divided into three categories: communication, recruitment and retention, and advancement.

Each category has a subcategory such as conversion of minority interns into hires, turnover of high potential employees and percentage increase of women partners.

These subcategories are assigned a point value and the value of each subcategory is dependent on PwC’s organizational goals. The index is calculated four times a year and used as part of the evaluation process at year-end.

It is calculated for the firm overall and for the three key lines of service. Meeting diversity targets is a component of executive bonuses. Scores are compared across service lines to determine the portion of the bonus available to each group.

The interim measurements allow senior leaders to assess the progress their departments have made. In addition, senior leaders are evaluated and assessed on their efforts to be inclusive.

“PwC’s diversity index combines traditional diversity metrics with goals for internal and external communication,” said Toni Riccardi, PwC’s chief diversity officer. “The intent is to acknowledge effort and to reward progress on the part of our service lines. Lines of service results are linked with the firm’s balanced scorecard, which is tied to the compensation of our partners. This tool promotes accountability and allows us to drive continuous improvement over time.”

Susan Black is the vice-president of Catalyst, a not-for-profit group dedicated to advancing the interests of women in business. These steps for creating workplace diversity metrics were taken from Using Metrics to Support Workforce Diversity, produced by Catalyst. For more information visit www.catalystwomen.org.

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