Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

How to Set DEI Goals and Measure Progress

Mar 03, 2022 - Cat DiStasio

Everyone is talking about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) in the workplace. Everywhere you turn, there are important conversations about improving diversity in recruiting, rooting out implicit bias in hiring decisions, and creating more inclusive work cultures. Most HR leaders understand the importance of having goals but, since so many elements of DEIB seem intangible, it can be confusing and overwhelming to set those goals with confidence.

How do you know what goals to target? How far into the future should you set your sights? And no matter what goals you set, how can you tell if your organization is heading in the right direction? These are common questions from HR leaders in organizations of every size, in every industry.

You need metrics to tangibly measure where you are in your diversity journey and track your progress along the way. Even if your DEIB goal is as simple as “do better than last year,” you need to know how to measure the impact of your efforts.

Set DEIB Goals that Make Sense for your Organization

Every organization starts at a different place in their DEIB journey and your goals need to be in relationship to where you are now. The first step is evaluating where you are now. Most organizations will want to measure different aspects of DEIB to get a real picture of what you’re working with. Start by determining the best way for your organization to measure diversity (the easy part) and inclusion (more nuanced).

Once you understand your starting point, you can begin to look into the future and consider what realistic goals you can work toward. This step requires quite a bit of homework but it’s a crucial phase of the process. Look at benchmarks in your industry, both current and aspirational. Look at your local community population, and consider how closely your organization should represent those demographics. Look at your direct competitors, both in business and in your target talent pools.

Another key factor is how your DEIB goals will align with your culture. Have discussions within your organization to learn what goals and progress are important to your teams. There’s a lot of complexity to this, depending on where you’re starting from, but if you already have business resource groups (BRGs) or employee resource groups (ERGs) in place, it’s important to involve them in the conversation about the DEIB goals that make sense for your organization.

Baby Steps are Better than No Steps

It might be easy to set aspirational goals for 10 years down the line, but we need shorter term goals in order to translate those ideals into meaningful action. Break long term goals down into 5-year, 1-year, and quarterly goals, and then create strategies to target those short term markers. As you think about your programs and policies, keep in mind that affecting small changes right now will make a difference in people’s lives and in your organizational culture.

Identify Meaningful KPIs

Many organizations make the mistake of trying to fix diversity through hiring alone. That often means you can improve diversity in lower level positions, but you may not have much of an impact on diversity at the higher levels. So it’s crucial to have other ways to measure diversity over time and for your goals to reflect the broader effort involved. For example, it may be a goal to launch employee BRGs/ERGs or other foundational work within the existing organization, or to create new programs to measure the growth and engagement of those initiatives over time.

Effectively measuring your DEIB progress relies on strong data. Today’s HR tech tools gather more data than ever, but that doesn’t automatically mean you have the data you need to measure what you want to know. Audit your data collection and address gaps so that you’re best equipped to move forward.

When it comes to specific KPIs to track, consider recommendations from experts like the Gender and Diversity KPI Alliance (GDKA), SHRM, Harvard Business Review, and other organizations that focus on your industry.

Measure on a Regular Basis and Adjust Strategies as Needed

DEIB goals, like most things in business, aren’t “set it and forget it.” Decide how often you’ll measure your progress. Smaller organizations might be able to get away with an annual review; most organizations should make this a quarterly practice.

Many organizations will find that, as their journey progresses, what they want to measure and how they can measure it, along with their goals, will evolve as this effort matures. For example, many organizations are already measuring and strategizing around diversity, but still grappling with ways to measure progress towards equity, inclusion, and belonging. Make sure you’re regularly reviewing your goals so you don’t miss the opportunity to take action on important ideas like these.

Be prepared to pivot quickly in response to your findings—even if you learn things that surprise you or run counter to your assumptions. If you’re unsure what to do next or feeling stuck in your diversity journey, ask for help when you need it. There’s no shame in partnering with a consulting firm on DEIB strategies if what you’re doing isn’t yielding the results you want.

Meaningful Progress by the Numbers

Determining the best DEIB goals for your organization is an ongoing process with a lot of complex steps and important considerations. Organizations that have a long way to go in their diversity journey may have more work to do at the beginning, but any forward motion is progress when it comes to DEIB and even the smallest steps are worth celebrating. Setting realistic and measurable goals, regularly tracking KPIs, and reassessing the relevance of each will help your organization stay on track to bring the realities of your workplace in alignment with your values.

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