Insights from a diversity and inclusion survey can act as an effective launching pad for determining priorities for your DEI work. But without careful planning, you might not be able to make the most of the survey and the insights it can provide. Running a D&I survey in-house, with often scarce resources for DEI work, is not always the best idea. Below, we have listed questions you should ask before committing to carrying out a D&I survey to make sure that it adds value and is not “just another employee survey” that does not lead to concrete actions and tangible change.
Are we able to gather relevant and honest data?
Confidentiality, privacy, and transparency about data usage are key priorities in a diversity and inclusion survey. These surveys include personal and sensitive questions related to e.g. respondents’ gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, and experiences of inappropriate behaviour. This is not something you should take lightly; D&I surveys need to be planned and executed carefully.
When employees are asked sensitive questions about their identity, views and experiences, it is to be expected that they may be sceptical and concerned about whether the responses are truly anonymous and who will have access to the data. If the respondents don’t feel safe answering the survey, the results can be incomplete and misleading.
You also need to take legal requirements and restrictions into consideration when gathering demographic data. Some diversity categories are highly sensitive and can only be asked in larger organisations with a big enough number of respondents.. It might also be risky or unsafe to ask questions about some themes in certain markets and locations. Determining the right combination of questions in a D&I survey is the result of careful consideration of the legal context and requirements, balanced with gathering relevant data in a way that provides a safe and comfortable experience for all survey respondents.
To guarantee a safe and truly anonymous survey experience, and the collection of honest and relevant data, you might want to consider using a neutral third-party survey provider. However, make sure that your survey partner also understands the specific legal requirements related to D&I surveys and has taken measures to safeguard anonymity in practice.
Are we asking the right questions in the D&I survey?
There are many aspects to diversity and inclusion. It is important to carefully select the right questions and determine which metrics to follow. Start by asking yourself: Do you already gather data related to diversity and inclusion in your existing employee surveys? What does the existing data tell you? What areas of inclusion are especially important to know more about? Do you have specific goals and measures in place that need to be taken into account when planning the survey?
By using a trusted third-party survey provider, you can mitigate some biases in the planning process and have a more objective approach to the survey content. When choosing a survey provider, make sure that they have core expertise on DEI topics. This helps ensure you’ll ask the right questions and get relevant insights that will add value to your DEI work.
How can we ensure a high response rate?
As with any employee survey, the higher the response rate, the better. Reaching a high response rate is important for drawing valid conclusions, especially when measuring diversity. The response rate will depend on the industry, the size of your organisation and previous employee engagement survey response rates.
Communicating proactively and regularly before, during and after the survey is your best tool for ensuring that your employees know the survey is happening and feel motivated to respond to it. Messaging should include open and honest information about the purpose of the survey and how the data will be utilised.
The most common pitfall of D&I surveys is that employees either don’t know the survey is being carried out, or that they don’t feel safe or motivated to answer it. Creating a communication and participation plan, involving leadership in sharing information about the survey, and even running short comms campaigns, such as creating short written Q&As about the survey can help get the message across and encourage employees to answer the survey. If you’re choosing an external partner to carry out the survey, it is good to know whether they can support you in your communication efforts, and how.
Are we getting enough insights to see the full picture?
Quantitative data from a D&I survey gives you an overall picture of how different groups are represented in the company, and how employees experience the work environment. However, it does not provide you with an explanation, for example, for why certain people may have adverse experiences in some areas of inclusion or why they may not feel safe to report their experiences of inappropriate behaviour. As such, it is highly recommended to include questions that capture qualitative data when conducting a D&I survey.
There are however limitations in gathering qualitative insights, and designing the survey in a way that preserves anonymity may require extra effort, knowledge, and time from the survey team. Oftentimes, a D&I survey may highlight the existence of a particular issue, but further research and data gathering might be needed afterwards to understand the phenomenon more in depth.
A survey provider can help you to save resources, and garner valuable insights, but also give you a sense of security when it comes to confidentiality and privacy. You want to make employees feel safe to share their views and ensure that their sensitive information is not handled appropriately. Using an external, impartial expert organisation to analyse the qualitative data, or conduct further insights gathering initiatives, such as interviews, is often the best way to ensure this.
What is the way forward after the D&I survey?
The most important step of any D&I survey is not gathering the data but taking action based on its findings. One concrete action we recommend is debriefing the results with the leadership team, your DEI working group or team, and the whole organisation. Providing a space and time to discuss the findings will help understand DEI at the organisation, foster commitment to advancing it, and create momentum for positive DEI change. Communicating the way forward is important because your employees want to know if their responses are used to make real improvements.
From our State of D&I in Finland survey in 2020, we learned that 86% of the companies do employee engagement surveys, 64% measure diversity demographics, and 50% measure inclusion, but less than half of the companies have D&I specific goals & measures (36%) or a D&I Strategy or Action plan (47%) in place. Without resources, knowledge, or support from DEI professionals, companies can struggle with making the most of their data and using it to make actionable changes.
Inklusiiv’s approach to D&I surveys
Our goal at Inklusiiv is to use survey insights to find pragmatic solutions to advance DEI. Our D&I survey always includes analysis with group-based observations and recommendations from our DEI specialists that support our clients to set priorities and define the next steps.
After the survey, we also recommend monitoring employee experiences of inclusion on a team level through, for example, short and regular pulse surveys. It has been said that too many surveys lead to “survey fatigue” but as this Culture Amp article points out, instead of survey fatigue, it might actually be “lack-of-action fatigue”. If employees are convinced that their feedback leads to concrete actions, they are happy to take the time to share their views.
At Inklusiiv, we offer a comprehensive D&I survey service to measure the state of diversity and inclusion in your company and provide recommendations that support prioritisation and action planning. We act as a neutral entity who places privacy and a safe and comfortable experience for survey respondents as our highest priority. A carefully designed, step-by-step process and customised surveys enable the collection of honest and relevant information. We can also help you review your existing plans to measure D&I in your organisation and/or provide consultation on incorporating DEI elements into your existing employee surveys.