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  • June 30, 2012

Engagement: The True Measure of Inclusion

by Andrés T. Tapia –


Multiracial Hands Making a CircleInclusion! It’s the rallying cry in today’s organizations – a response to the urgent recognition that diversity alone is not enough. This has become more evident as organizations have become more diverse, but have failed to achieve the promise of diversity.

While a key diversity metric is a count of the different ways an overall workforce is diverse, inclusion requires different measurements. I believe there are three key inclusion metrics: influence and decision-making power, strength of the talent pipeline, and engagement. Today, I want to talk about engagement. (Look for my take on the other inclusion metrics in future postings.)

As seemingly obvious as this is, few organizations fully leverage engagement and employee satisfaction surveys to measure inclusion. And here, I’m not talking about the four to five questions around diversity and inclusion. Rather it’s about being able to use and analyze every single engagement survey question through a diversity lens.

A good number of companies are doing demographic cuts of the data. But I’ve been surprised that it’s still a limited number. However your organization defines the mix (diversity), it should be measured by how well the mix is working (inclusion). I can’t think of a more powerful, embedded, systematic, and accepted tool to do this than the engagement survey. It’s smart to hook diversity and inclusion to engagement, which often is already an accepted, and even valued, metric.

A few tips:

  • If you are already measuring “people of color,” see if you can break the group down into the different racial or ethnic population segments. You’ll very likely find variance in the results.
  • If you are measuring engagement by age and tenure, see what it looks like when you break the data down by generation. Evaluating age ranges within a generation can be more beneficial than simply looking at age.
  • If you are proud of your lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) inclusion efforts, count your LGBT population and measure their engagement.
  • If you want to discover more people with invisible disabilities, give them the opportunity to self-identity in your engagement survey. When they do, offer a handful of questions specifically about their experience as a person with a disability in the organization.

Be sure to measure these aspects in a multidimensional way. Don’t just look at your female engagement. Rather, look at the engagement of Millennial women versus Xer women versus Boomer women. Then look at those cuts through a racial or ethnic lens. With this approach you can look at multivariate results that lead to much more pinpointed and meaningful issues that in turn lead to much more focused interventions and solutions that can lift inclusion of those particular groups.

Measurement is not enough, however. When the results come in, be sure they are analyzed in crossculturally competent, diversity savvy ways. Much interpretation of engagement results is governed by cultural and worldview assumptions, beliefs, and preferences. Challenge preconceived notions of what is and is not engaging. Tap into the different groups for insights. See what’s missing that should be considered.

Diversity and inclusion practitioners need to get really smart about the art and science of engagement. Are you a part of those key engagement conversations? If you are, be ready to provide your diversity and inclusion practitioner insight coupled with a credible grasp of the engagement discipline. For those of you who aren’t currently plugged into your company’s engagement efforts, connect with the person who owns engagement. Ask him or her, how do you use this tool? What are its advanced uses? What are the challenges? Get to know that person and their engagement work.

As you learn from them, offer to help them become even better engagement professionals by allowing them to see the diversity and inclusion implications from a crossculturally competent way. The more diverse the workforce gets, the more diversity savvy all of human resources must become when it comes to making the most of the engagement surveys.

In upcoming messages, I look forward to sharing more thoughts on the other two key measures for inclusion: influence and decision-making power, and strength of the talent pipeline. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you about this topic. Share your thoughts in the space below.

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