What to do when your company scores low on Inclusion in your employee engagement survey
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Why it’s important to understand the context of a low score ❗
- How to identify the origin of a low score 🤔
- How to get buy-in from the top 😎
Do you feel lost because you want to take actions, but you don’t have a direction or a vision for D&I coming from the top?
It’s hard to define what to do next, especially when D&I is not your full-time focus and you also need to juggle this “passion project” along with your actual job in the company.
So you’re probably thinking and maybe even blaming yourself a bit —
“We’re not doing enough, we should do more”
But if you keep doing more of the same of what you’re doing now, how would it change things?
Transformation of an environment, a change of company culture doesn’t happen by hosting more Women in Tech events or adding more LGBTQ+ activities on top of celebrating Pride or setting up more Employee Resource Groups (ERG) in the company.
Alternatively, copy-pasting what other companies are doing doesn’t guarantee it will work for your problem when you don’t know what the problem is.
That’s like building a feature for a user problem you don’t bother to understand & rush to solve it instead.
Something has to change. But what? 🤔
To answer this, first, you need to understand why your company scored low.
Inclusion can’t be measured in a couple of questions.
You need context to understand the meaning and origin of the low score
Have you done a survey that examines Inclusion in depth?
Have you performed in-person or phone interviews with the employees to understand their experiences, their reactions, and emotions?
Compare how the employees' experiences are different by office, team & function, seniority, underrepresented group (e.g. gender, race, age, etc)
Naturally, we think that others have similar experiences to ours when we have something in common.
E.g. a gay woman of color would not have the same experiences that a white gay woman has.
Understanding Inclusion requires asking often, listening actively, and taking actions.
It requires to look beyond your own experiences.
If employees don’t report incidents that jeopardize Inclusion, that doesn’t mean they don’t happen.
Do people of color in your company feel comfortable to file a complaint with HR if they are mistreated on the basis of race?
Has anyone ever asked them in order to understand if incidents could be underreported in the organization?
That’s just one of the many things you’d like to identify through the survey and employee interviews focused to diagnose the state of Inclusion in your company.
Where you are and where you want to get
The survey and employee interviews will allow you to understand where you are. You‘d need resources to proceed with diagnostics of the state of Inclusion in your company regardless of whether you plan to do it on your own, with the help of your colleagues, with my help as a Diversity & Inclusion Consultant, or with other external help.
In short, you need buy-in from the top in order to get started with this.
How to get buy-in from the top? 😎
- BUILD YOUR CASE:
Get prepared by defining why a low score on Inclusion is worrying and requires action. What’s the score of Inclusion? What can you benchmark it against? Has it changed in the last year(s)? Why does Inclusion matter to your business or your culture? How will it affect innovation? How will it affect overall employee engagement over time? Is a low score for Inclusion in conflict with the companies values? Are any other scores in the engagement survey lower than the usual? Do you see a correlation between those? Can you define what the ROI of digging into D&I would be? Focus on the business case. How does it affect the business bottom line? Even if you can’t multiply some numbers here, you can show correlations that are hard to argue with by supporting with a Harvard Business Review report on the subject, for example.
2. FIND SUPPORTERS:
Identify influencers in the organization who agree with the urgency and severity of the problem, understand the risks a low level of Inclusion creates for the business growth, and are willing to look for more support higher in the organization. Talking to people would allow you to understand what’s missing or can be improved in the case you’ve built. When you work on the pitch, make sure you have a clear ask. What do you need from the leadership team: a budget, their blessing, or something else?
It’s key not to limit yourself to one influencer.
Be strategic when you pick the influencers. Ideally, you’re looking for a mix of people — some who are allies and others who are part of underrepresented groups. It would be great to have people from different functions, too, so that it doesn’t seem like a concern of one team or department.
3. TALK TO THE DECISION MAKERS:
As you have prepared your case, found support from influencers, and iterated on your pitch, you’re ready to take this to the top.
DECISION MAKER(S): If you’re unsure who the decision maker is, consider approaching a few people. This is very unique in every organization. In the research I did for my “2019 Diversity in the Workplace Report”, I observed that D&I falls as a high-level area of responsibility sometimes with the CEO, often the COO or CSO, while in the presence of both COO and Chief People Officer, it’s with the latter.
APPROACH: Depending on your personal style and strengths, you can pick an approach or combine a few of the following approaches: A) request a meeting via email explaining the urgency & severity of the problem; make sure you’re clear and concise B) address openly during a company-wide all-hands meeting C) have a non-meeting — that’s when you avoid the formalities and you go with a more casual approach. E.g. you’re queuing in the canteen and you can stop by to say hi, casually open up the topic, and eventually ask for 15min of their time to make your case.
If you don’t get a response or they say the moment is not ideal, don’t give up. Keep improving your case, gather more supporters, and follow up!
Vessy.com is a Diversity & Inclusion Consultancy
I identify and remove obstacles to Inclusion and talent growth for businesses based in Ireland 🇮🇪 and Bulgaria 🇧🇬, so they can innovate at full capacity.
On Medium, I write articles with practical advice on how companies as small as 20 employees and as big as 16,000 employees approach Diversity & Inclusion across dozens of countries around the world.
➡️ See “2019 Diversity in the Workplace Report”, published in January 2019.