How to Make Diversity Measurable

October 25, 2016 by Stacey Barr

There are lots of goals that are really hard to measure. I’ve written about measuring workforce capability, but another hard-to-measure goal is workforce diversity. Don’t expect a list of the best measures, though. The problem lies with what diversity actually means to you…

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I don’t take on much consulting work anymore, but I do love the 3rd day of our PuMP Blueprint Workshops, because participants start implementing the first few steps of PuMP to create their own measures.

On these implementation days, there is almost always a team that works on a goal like this:

“Enhance the diversity of the workforce”

I guess unsurprisingly, workforce diversity is important to many organisations. But they all struggle to measure it, meaningfully. They default to trivial measures about gender percentages and ethnicity percentages. And people feel ho-hum about this. They know that diversity is much richer than gender or ethnic group alone. And that diversity has a purpose that might be unique to their strategic direction.

What happens when our participants apply PuMP to a goal about workforce diversity, is that they spend more time to really talk about what diversity means for them. Step 2 in PuMP has a technique called the Measurability Tests (3 of them are discussed here), and one of the tests is about the use of weasel words: if there are weasel words, they must be translated into clearer language.

Diversity is a weasel word. That’s because it means different things to different people, and it means nothing to some people. Goals can’t be like that. Goals have to mean the same thing to everyone, or they can’t be achieved.

So when one of our Day 3 groups took their “diversity” goal through the measurability test about weasel words, they ended up with this:

New Goal: “Our people have a wide range of skills and experiences.”

Measure: Average number of positions that employees have previously held for more than 2 years.

Don’t think that generic goals, like those about diversity, are good enough. They’re not. Diversity will mean different things to different organisations, depending on what they need the diversity for:

  • Gender diversity is relevant for the front line of policing, to better handle domestic violence and rape incidents.
  • Age diversity is relevant for counseling services that have to help both young and old.
  • Ethnic diversity is relevant for call centres that provide help to communities with higher immigration rates.

And don’t take your current goals for granted. Test that people really understand them, and that they share the same understanding of them. You need to be able to explain your goals very easily in language that a 10-year-old could understand (or someone who is outside of your work domain). That’s the only way to make sure everyone will understand it.

It’s not about dumbing it down. It’s about making its true meaning clear and obvious to everyone who contributes to it.

When the goal is clear and specific, everyone can align to that goal; they can make the decisions and take the actions that will help achieve it. That’s what we want.

DISCUSSION:

Does your organisation have a goal about diversity? Are you measuring it? Measuring it meaningfully?

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