How do you measure Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at work?


Jocelyn Lincoln, Chief Talent Officer at Kelly, explores the importance of creating impactful DEI strategy and accurately measuring success.

Many organizations want to build diverse and inclusive workplaces that reflect the communities around them. They recognize the value in not only doing the right thing by their people but in infusing their businesses with a diversity of thought and experience. By embracing a wide range of perspectives, they can better reflect customer experiences and accelerate creativity and innovation. Diversity can also have a significant impact on your bottom line. McKinsey’s most recent report on diversity and business performance found diverse executive teams are 36% more likely to demonstrate financial outperformance.

But what does great look like when it comes to diversity? How do you measure inclusivity of culture? And what are the metrics that matter most when it comes to making everyone feel like part of the team? DEI is a huge topic, covering everything from socioeconomic background to race, sexuality, religion, neurodiversity, and more. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the scale of the task or unsure how to measure success. In this blog, I explore the ideas and frameworks that can help businesses to successfully shape and measure DEI in both contingent and permanent workforces.

Start with Data and Strategy

You can’t measure your success without knowing where you are today and what you’re trying to achieve. Are you looking to increase the diversity of your talent pipeline or ensure a consistently diverse talent slate? Do you want your workforce to look as diverse as the community you serve? Are you trying to address a specific diversity or inclusivity imbalance? These goals need to be underpinned and informed by a clear understanding of your current diversity picture and what you want it to look like in the future. This means taking a deep dive, not only into the makeup of your workforce on paper, but into understanding how your culture welcomes (or excludes) people from diverse backgrounds.

Know that DEI is for Everyone

DEI strategy often focuses on the permanent, full-time workforce, meaning that organizations overlook contingent communities. It’s vital to bridge the diversity gap between full-time and contingent talent, ensuring that you listen to, understand, and care about the experiences and needs of all workers. For contingent workers, it’s particularly important to partner with suppliers who are committed to DEI and can help to drive forward organizational diversity and inclusion strategies and principles. It’s also crucial to include contingent workers in listening tours and DEI conversations to understand how their experience might differ from that of permanent employees.

Understand the Three Indicators of Inclusion

It’s easy to see diversity and inclusion as the same thing and to reduce both to a numbers game. How does your internal community stack up against the external local community or the workforces of your competitors? How many diverse candidates are you interviewing and hiring? And, while it’s important to understand and review these metrics, it’s equally important not to overlook a deeper understanding of inclusion, which can be measured in three key areas: equality, openness, and belonging.


Equality refers simply to fairness and transparency. Do diverse team members have the same opportunities in respect of recruitment, pay, and promotion? Are they offered the same opportunities for career development and retained in the business in the same numbers as other groups?


Openness is all about organizational culture and how people treat each other. Are bullying, bias, and discrimination issues in your business? When problems do arise, how are they handled? These issues aren’t always easy to see, and anonymous engagement surveys can help to provide insights into culture across a company.


The third element of inclusion is belonging. Do diverse individuals feel a sense of connection to the organization? Do they have a sense of community? A truly diverse and inclusive organization is one where people feel safe and where they feel a strong sense of being part of a larger mission.

These aren’t factors that you can measure in an afternoon by running a report. It’s only by listening to your people (both contingent and permanent) – through surveys, interviews, and listening tours ­– that you can begin to measure and understand inclusivity. Blending quantitative and qualitative diversity and inclusion measurements is crucial to building a complete picture of your DEI success and highlighting areas for improvement.

Talk About Results

A report from The Society for Human Research Management – ­­­­Global Diversity and Inclusion; Perceptions, Practices, and Attitudes – ­found that the greatest barrier to increasing diversity was a general attitude of indifference. That’s why it’s vital for any DEI strategy to have sponsorship at the highest levels of the business and to be highly visible. Many organizations now publish key DEI metrics publicly and talk about them audibly within the business. Not only does this help to focus attention on an incredibly important set of issues, but it also opens up new internal conversations on diversity and inclusion, making it easier to gather rich data and to understand lived experiences within an organization.

Understandably, many businesses want to solve DEI challenges quickly and completely, particularly in response to social and political issues. But rushing to put something in place without a clear understanding of your current state, clear goals, or how to measure success can undermine a program before it’s begun. If you set out to flip a switch and achieve perfection overnight, you will fail. DEI can’t be a program or a project, it has to become part of your cultural blueprint and this means committing to sustainable, constant change. It’s better to take achievable, measurable steps that are meaningful to your organization and add to them over time than to create sweeping, intangible goals that are impossible to measure or reach.

The good news is that DEI is higher on the corporate agenda than ever before, and we have a collective opportunity to make real and sustainable change. Our Equity@Work initiative shines a spotlight on those unjust barriers that prevent access to meaningful work for individuals and communities. We are not only examining systematic barriers to work but actively looking in the mirror to identify our equity challenges and make impactful improvements. We also partner with organizations that are committed to removing these barriers and creating opportunities for all. If you would like to learn more about this program or talk DEI barriers in your business, get in touch. Equitable work isn’t a distant target, together we can make it a reality.


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