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Redefine Inclusion from Feelings to Making a Business Difference

Updated: Aug 24, 2020

By Lexy Martin, Principal Customer Research and Value, Visier

Now, more than ever, focusing on improving diversity and inclusion matters in organizations. Not only do diverse leadership and teams deliver improved financial outcomes, higher trust, and competitive innovation, but the participation of all is necessary to weather through the COVID-19 pandemic.

For a brief period after the start of the health crisis, organizations’ attention rightfully veered toward keeping the workforce safe and well. But now diversity and inclusion is back at the forefront, as the world protests the horrific treatment of Black people today.

My colleague, Ian Cook, vice president at Visier, reports, “The key to not leaving aside your D&I policies when things get tough is to make sure they are embedded into decision making processes and supported with the availability of data to make it easy to do.”

How do we best use our data? It starts, I think, with ensuring our definitions of diversity and inclusion lend themselves to effective measurement.

Defining and measuring inclusion

According to SHRM, diversity refers to the “similarities and differences among individuals accounting for all aspects of their personality and individual identity.” Diversity recognizes that each individual is unique along dimensions of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities and more. Diversity is what organizations count, where they are today, and how they are trending on these dimensions. Many organizations are doing a good job of measuring diversity and making inroads to improve it.

Inclusion is the act of ensuring that all people are given the same rights and opportunities within an organization. It’s what organizations do to ensure equity in hires, promotions, pay, etc. It also relates to the experiences employees have while employed and their reactions to these.

When it comes to trying to measure it, which few organizations are yet doing, inclusion is often defined by the feelingof inclusion and a sense of belonging. It requires asking questions about these feelings, oftentimes through engagement surveys and then conducting sentiment analysis.

Of course diverse groups want to feel included, to belong. But, diverse groups don’t want to just feel we belong, we want to be able to make a difference through our decisions and actions.

I’m a member of two diverse groups–female and over the age of 70. I spoke of my desire to be able to make a difference to Amit Mohindra, Global Head of Talent Strategy and Analytics at Wayfair recently. He agrees that, “Change happens if diverse people can make a difference and are listened to. Otherwise, they leave. Change is more likely when people of different backgrounds and persuasions feel included and heard.

So, I propose that inclusion is more than the feeling of inclusion. It’s about being able to make a difference. One way is for them to participate in settings where key decisions are made: strategy meetings where vision is articulated, sessions where goals and plans are set, product prioritization, budget meetings, and succession planning. Another is for them to lead key groups where critical business outcomes are created: revenue by sales, customer satisfaction by customer service, patient outcomes in multiple healthcare operations, and the list goes on.

How to use analytics to measure inclusion

To measure inclusion, we need to reframe the definition beyond “feelings of inclusion” or “a sense of belonging,” enabling us to expand how and what we measure.

In doing this, we can move beyond needing to do engagement surveys and conducting sentiment analysis, to instead review concrete D&I data such as participation in those key decision-making meetings and promotions into decision-making roles. Here are some ways to use analytics to better measure and monitor progress on inclusion:


Organizational network analytics (ONA), available through organizations such as Trustsphere, can show the strength of relationships and thus, we might look at whether people are participating in key meetings, the ones that make the biggest difference to business outcomes. ONA data is already used to look at employee dialogue (via email, Slack, etc.) to identify the organizations’ influencers and their critical relationships that facilitate success of reaching outcomes. From this, organizations can understand where differences exist by gender or minority differences and their networks in different hierarchies.

Strengthen relationships

Visier’s people analytics solutions work seamlessly with ONA platforms to analyze and measure the impact of an employee’s internal network. For example, by correlating ONA data on employee networks with promotion data, you’re able to see which groups may need more opportunities to build their internal connections. This data can be used to identify candidates for training or coaching programs that connect diverse groups to mentors and set them on paths for promotions.

Career pathing

By tracking the career paths of CEOs, we see they frequently have had responsibility for running a major businesswith responsibility for revenue growth. Using Visier, you might see whether females and minorities manage revenue or cost centers, which puts them on a better track for C-suite and other leadership positions.

Business outcomes

People analytics helps you juxtapose diversity dimensions with key business outcomes. For example, knowing that female leaders or highly diverse teams are responsible for highest performance or customer satisfaction yields important insights and conversations on what contributes to these outcomes.

A member of the people analytics team at Merck KGaA has used machine learning and cluster analysis to identify ways to reduce turnover of teams, but this same type of analysis can be used to examine which aspects of teams, including allowable diversity dimensions, contributes to the highest outcomes for an organization.

Focus on helping diverse groups make a difference

Contributing to key outcomes is critical. Knowing who, whether a leader, an individual or a team contributes to outcomes or who participates in places where key outcome-oriented decisions are made is invaluable. So, don’t just measure whether these people feel included, look for ways to measure whether they do or can make a difference. Redefine inclusion as diverse groups will make a difference!

Lexy Martin Bio:

Lexy Martin is a respected thought leader on HR technology adoption and value achieved. Known as the originator of the Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey, she now works at Visier with customers to support them in their HR transformation to become data-driven organizations.

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