Measure Global Diversity by Thinking Locally

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This article was co-authored by Mary Martinéz and Michal Fineman.

Question: How can we measure global diversity?

Answer: Of all the issues that face companies globalizing their diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts, one that seems to be especially difficult for many is how to measure their progress in countries outside the U.S. Part of the reason this is such a challenge is that, very often, organizations equate diversity metrics with workforce demographics. As a result, they focus on legal or cultural constraints that make counting people by demographic groups difficult in some countries and defining demographic categories in a consistent manner around the world challenging.

However, it is possible to generate useful global D&I metrics if organizations:

  • Let go of the notion that each country must have the same measures.
  • Engage local staff fully in determining the “differences that make a difference.”
  • Use a wide range of measures—beyond demographics—to demonstrate progress toward inclusion and full utilization of available talent.

For example, to find out which demographic categories are most relevant locally, talk to HR staff and line management about diversity issues in their countries. Ask whether there are certain kinds of people who tend to have certain kinds of jobs and, if so, why that is the case. Ask whether there are barriers that keep anyone from getting a university education. Asking such questions will help increase awareness of exclusion and educate local champions as well as augment the knowledge of those on the headquarters D&I team.

To identify demographic metrics that can or should be reported on a worldwide basis, first identify global goals and then establish appropriate measures. Most often these include the gender distribution of professional and managerial staff and the nationalities of corporate senior leaders. In addition, some organizations track age or disability on a global basis and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender populations in countries where homosexuality is not illegal.

Where possible, demographic data should be kept in personnel records associated with each individual so that it can be used in analyses of HR processes and outcomes, such as promotion rates for one group compared with another. When privacy considerations preclude this, however, employers can collect and report aggregate statistics, such as those gathered in employee surveys.

A well-balanced D&I scorecard should include measures related to:

Program efficiency, such as how well specific programs have been implemented and whether they are achieving the goals for which they were designed. Examples of relevant measures might include:

  • The percentage of participants in a mentoring program who receive promotions.
  • Any changes in the gap between the performance ratings for women and men following training for managers.
  • Any increase or decrease in purchasing from female or minority suppliers following a vendor fair.

Work environment, such as perceptions of employees expressed in surveys, focus groups and interviews. Often, the most telling information comes from comparing the responses of different demographic groups to survey questions about career opportunities, engagement, fairness of pay and the like.

Business impact of D&I efforts, such as how diversity and inclusion efforts have affected the organization’s ability to achieve its mission and objectives. Data can include:

  • Anecdotes about how diversity and inclusion have contributed to the business, even if not quantifiable.
  • Increases in market share, profits and customer satisfaction in diverse market niches or geographical regions.
  • Return on investment in D&I programs; the amount of money that has been saved or generated as a result.

Remember that metrics are useful only if they lead to change. While it is possible to analyze a great deal of data in order to diagnose problems and evaluate progress, it’s best to streamline reports to management as much as possible for maximum impact.

Mary Martinéz is director of ORC Worldwide Workforce Management & Diversity Consulting and Michal Fineman is senior consultant in ORC Worldwide’s Global Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Practice.