How to Conduct a Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Audit at the Enterprise Level

Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
April 12, 2022

Lots of companies talk about improving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). But talk is meaningless without material changes to the way HR departments and business managers hire, support, and promote candidates from diverse backgrounds. And — just like any other business function — doing so effectively requires an evidence-based strategy, which starts with taking stock of your company’s DEI benchmarks.

Enter diversity, equity, and inclusion audits. Diversity, equity, and inclusion audits evaluate how well organizations support employees from minority backgrounds in their workplace, reveal what needs to be changed, and help chart a path toward a more inclusive work environment.

A diversity, equity, and inclusion audit will involve compiling existing company DEI data, surveying employees, and creating a report for further analysis. If your company is looking to conduct a DEI audit, here is a framework to get you started.

Define the DEI Audit’s Purpose With Leaders From Across Departments

Looping in leaders across your organization serves a few key purposes, including making the whole company aware of the unique challenges each department faces, setting goals that feel applicable for everyone, and holding leaders accountable for improving diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts from the start. Consolidating the knowledge across departments to create a holistic view will help make the audit stronger.A DEI audit is a large undertaking and a variety of perspectives will enrich and define the areas to focus on — from gender, sexuality, race, educational attainment, socioeconomic status, disability, age, and other areas relevant to your business. For example, the demographics from department to department can be vastly different. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2020 data, women accounted for 66% of public relations professionals and 91% of public relations professionals were white. Departments will have different demographics based on their work, so including all the perspectives is critical.

Select Key DEI Metrics To Measure

Improving diversity is such a broad goal that it will be hard to gauge progress without first narrowing your focus on a few key metrics. Your metrics can include hiring, promotion, and retention of under-represented groups. It can also measure employee satisfaction and engagement. Here's a list of seven key categories to focus on defined by Culture Amp and examples of areas to measure:

  • Hiring — Percentage of interns by race who are extended full-time job offers
  • Representation — Percentage of people with disabilities who make up your workforce
  • Retention — Average length of time women of color stay at your company
  • Advancement —  Percentage of people without a college degree who are promoted
  • Job satisfaction and engagement — Percentage of people from the LGBTQ+ community who report being supported by their managers
  • Employee resource group (ERG) participation — Rates of attendance per meeting
  • Leadership — Percentage of women in executive leadership

Include Employee Input In Your DEI Audit

The audit should also include qualitative comments from underrepresented employees that help illustrate their lived experiences. It’s important for HR leaders to get anecdotal feedback because people’s stories offer insights into their daily work lives, and highlight the ways an organization can make it better for them. There are a few different methods to get valuable input from employees about their workplace experience. One method, detailed by Internal Audit 360, is to conduct small focus groups with eight to 15 people. The small size makes employees feel more comfortable sharing difficult truths, the author says. Some companies will use employees of the same level to create the groups. Others will mix employees across seniority levels. Online surveys are another option. They allow companies to get feedback in a scaled format (ex. rate your hiring experience on a scale of one to 10) as well as open-ended feedback (ex. tell us about a time you felt your identity was disregarded or disrespected at work). You will need to think carefully about whether you want employees to assign their names to the survey or if they can remain anonymous. Usually, a good compromise is to make names optional.

Create a Data-Driven Plan To Move Forward

Once your diversity, equity, and inclusion company data is collected, the important work begins. It’s time to transform this information into actionable plans and policies.To get started, the same leaders that decided the audit’s purpose should reconvene and analyze where the company falls short. Areas to look for include where the greatest statistical discrepancies exist — for example, if one department is made up mostly of people under 35 years old or if recruiters are not reaching out to candidates who indicate they have a disability — in addition to pain points mentioned in the employee feedback. It’s important the organization’s goals are written with follow-through in mind rather than in general statements, such as improving work/life balance or getting more women promoted. “Goals are an even more potent mechanism to achieve behavior change,” said the authors of “How to Best Use Data to Meet Your DE&I Goals.” “They serve to mobilize both the will (motivation) as well as the way (effort and strategies) of behavior change.”A final point to consider is how transparent you will make the audit, goals, and progress. By and large, diversity, equity, and inclusion goals should be readily available and accessible across the company to enable transparency. Many public and private companies choose to publish their diversity report publicly for accountability and go further by highlighting shortcomings and sharing their plans to improve.

Regular Diversity and Inclusion Audits Make Your Company Stronger

After HR professionals conduct a diversity, equity, and inclusion audit and establish goals for your company, let some time pass, whether that’s six months or a year. Then, conduct another audit to see if progress has been made toward those goals. A consistent and thorough evaluation is an important way to ensure change is being made. DEI audits are critical tools that, when done thoughtfully and consistently, can be a real conductor of organizational change. Investing in this type of work increases opportunities for people from minority backgrounds and creates a stronger workforce with more perspectives and experience.

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How to Conduct a Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Audit at the Enterprise Level

Lots of companies talk about improving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). But talk is meaningless without material changes to the way HR departments and business managers hire, support, and promote candidates from diverse backgrounds. And — just like any other business function — doing so effectively requires an evidence-based strategy, which starts with taking stock of your company’s DEI benchmarks.

Enter diversity, equity, and inclusion audits. Diversity, equity, and inclusion audits evaluate how well organizations support employees from minority backgrounds in their workplace, reveal what needs to be changed, and help chart a path toward a more inclusive work environment.

A diversity, equity, and inclusion audit will involve compiling existing company DEI data, surveying employees, and creating a report for further analysis. If your company is looking to conduct a DEI audit, here is a framework to get you started.

Define the DEI Audit’s Purpose With Leaders From Across Departments

Looping in leaders across your organization serves a few key purposes, including making the whole company aware of the unique challenges each department faces, setting goals that feel applicable for everyone, and holding leaders accountable for improving diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts from the start. Consolidating the knowledge across departments to create a holistic view will help make the audit stronger.A DEI audit is a large undertaking and a variety of perspectives will enrich and define the areas to focus on — from gender, sexuality, race, educational attainment, socioeconomic status, disability, age, and other areas relevant to your business. For example, the demographics from department to department can be vastly different. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2020 data, women accounted for 66% of public relations professionals and 91% of public relations professionals were white. Departments will have different demographics based on their work, so including all the perspectives is critical.

Select Key DEI Metrics To Measure

Improving diversity is such a broad goal that it will be hard to gauge progress without first narrowing your focus on a few key metrics. Your metrics can include hiring, promotion, and retention of under-represented groups. It can also measure employee satisfaction and engagement. Here's a list of seven key categories to focus on defined by Culture Amp and examples of areas to measure:

  • Hiring — Percentage of interns by race who are extended full-time job offers
  • Representation — Percentage of people with disabilities who make up your workforce
  • Retention — Average length of time women of color stay at your company
  • Advancement —  Percentage of people without a college degree who are promoted
  • Job satisfaction and engagement — Percentage of people from the LGBTQ+ community who report being supported by their managers
  • Employee resource group (ERG) participation — Rates of attendance per meeting
  • Leadership — Percentage of women in executive leadership

Include Employee Input In Your DEI Audit

The audit should also include qualitative comments from underrepresented employees that help illustrate their lived experiences. It’s important for HR leaders to get anecdotal feedback because people’s stories offer insights into their daily work lives, and highlight the ways an organization can make it better for them. There are a few different methods to get valuable input from employees about their workplace experience. One method, detailed by Internal Audit 360, is to conduct small focus groups with eight to 15 people. The small size makes employees feel more comfortable sharing difficult truths, the author says. Some companies will use employees of the same level to create the groups. Others will mix employees across seniority levels. Online surveys are another option. They allow companies to get feedback in a scaled format (ex. rate your hiring experience on a scale of one to 10) as well as open-ended feedback (ex. tell us about a time you felt your identity was disregarded or disrespected at work). You will need to think carefully about whether you want employees to assign their names to the survey or if they can remain anonymous. Usually, a good compromise is to make names optional.

Create a Data-Driven Plan To Move Forward

Once your diversity, equity, and inclusion company data is collected, the important work begins. It’s time to transform this information into actionable plans and policies.To get started, the same leaders that decided the audit’s purpose should reconvene and analyze where the company falls short. Areas to look for include where the greatest statistical discrepancies exist — for example, if one department is made up mostly of people under 35 years old or if recruiters are not reaching out to candidates who indicate they have a disability — in addition to pain points mentioned in the employee feedback. It’s important the organization’s goals are written with follow-through in mind rather than in general statements, such as improving work/life balance or getting more women promoted. “Goals are an even more potent mechanism to achieve behavior change,” said the authors of “How to Best Use Data to Meet Your DE&I Goals.” “They serve to mobilize both the will (motivation) as well as the way (effort and strategies) of behavior change.”A final point to consider is how transparent you will make the audit, goals, and progress. By and large, diversity, equity, and inclusion goals should be readily available and accessible across the company to enable transparency. Many public and private companies choose to publish their diversity report publicly for accountability and go further by highlighting shortcomings and sharing their plans to improve.

Regular Diversity and Inclusion Audits Make Your Company Stronger

After HR professionals conduct a diversity, equity, and inclusion audit and establish goals for your company, let some time pass, whether that’s six months or a year. Then, conduct another audit to see if progress has been made toward those goals. A consistent and thorough evaluation is an important way to ensure change is being made. DEI audits are critical tools that, when done thoughtfully and consistently, can be a real conductor of organizational change. Investing in this type of work increases opportunities for people from minority backgrounds and creates a stronger workforce with more perspectives and experience.

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