Using Diversity Audits to Determine Your Company’s Needs

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Lakisha Brooks

diversity audit

Many companies are considering adding diversity initiatives into their organization’s overall goals. Before implementing any diversity intervention, it is imperative to do a thorough diversity audit to determine the true needs of an organization.

It is easy to simply create voluntary diversity training for employees. Though this type of intervention has great intentions, it can easily lead to diversity fatigue. According to Chief Learning Magazine, “diversity fatigue is a term that first emerged in the 1990s when equal opportunity became a major initiative among corporations.” In today’s world, diversity fatigue can occur by stressing and exhausting diversity efforts that do not align with any company goal, pain point or need. To alleviate this, a comprehensive audit is needed. 

Here are six methods I use for a complete diversity audit.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are qualitative data used to capture real-time feedback from employees to gauge their ideas about diversity within the organization. The ideal focus group should consist of six to eight diverse team members. Diversity amongst the group should include age, gender, race, tenure with the organization, role/title, department, disabilities, and if known, identifiers such as religion, sexual orientation, parental status and non-visible disabilities can also be included.

The focus group should last no longer than 120 minutes and should include no more than four questions for everyone to answer. These questions can be sent in advance so participants can prepare. Ideally, there should be an external professional/consultant hired to facilitate the session. If the session is done virtually, it would be wise to record it for future transcription. The same can be done for a face-to-face session as well. When analyzing the data, use coding to categorize common themes and topics. This will help with establishing a possible trend. 

Record Assessments

When considering record assessments, this can be as exhaustive as needed. The primary need for this is to identify quantitative data to determine diversity concerns. Market segmentation, annual sales, hiring, recruiting, turnover, suppliers, vendors and employee demographics are excellent examples of records to analyze and use in an audit.

These records should span over a series of time (three to four years) to increase the chances of reliability and validity. Because this form of data is quantitative, it can be the best method to evaluate the impact of any future diversity interventions. They are also typically the most closely tied to strategic business goals.  

SWOT Analysis 

Similar to a traditional business SWOT analysis, a diversity SWOT analysis will identify the diversity strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of an organization. This SWOT analysis should take place after all other data has been collected and analyzed to offer a holistic approach. For consistency try to have three to four entries for each category. 

Diversity Development Continuum 

The diversity development continuum determines an organization’s overall diversity and inclusion competency level. An organization will fall in one of the five phases on the continuum: compliant, conventional, purposeful, competent, and advanced.

The continuum goes from a scale of zero to 100, and as an organization develops its diversity and inclusion competency, it will move up the scale. There is a 25-point difference between each phase. Ultimately, an organization should strive to get to the advanced phase where it may expand in a new market, implement a translation feature for their learning library, or develop a diversity supplier program. 

Diversity Survey

The diversity survey is a comprehensive questionnaire that gives an organization insight into how its talent views the company’s diversity-related issues. A survey includes a variety of diversity questions to gauge concerns such as demographics, belonging, culture, and policies.

Additionally, a survey should be distributed throughout the organization to ALL employees. For reliable data, set a benchmark of an 80% response rate. To increase your response rate, send an email before sending the survey to inform your team of the purpose of the survey, what will be included in the survey, the length of the survey and what will be done with the results.

Always ensure confidentiality and anonymity. Diversity can be an extremely sensitive topic for many and confidentiality alleviates the stress and anxiety from answering honestly. With any employee engagement survey, such as a diversity-related one, it is imperative to communicate the results in a timely fashion along with delivering an implementation plan. Far too many surveys lead to little communication or action afterward. 

Diversity Scorecard

A diversity scorecard provides an overall diversity grade for an organization. There are various ways to create a diversity scorecard. Additionally, several categories can be added to a diversity scorecard. Some have four categories and others include up to eight or 10.

In my work with Brooks Enterprise and Consultants I look at eight main areas when determining an organization’s overall diversity scorecard.

  • Policies and procedures
  • Demographics/representation
  • Supplier diversity/procurement
  • Recruiting and retention
  • Company internal commitment/culture
  • Company branding/reputation
  • Diversity intelligence (learning and training)
  • Customer profile/external partnerships.

The scores can be determined by items such as the number of diverse suppliers, sales in a certain market, or representation in leadership. In addition to calculating actual scores, also include benchmarks and targets to help develop SMART diversity goals to improve a scorecard. 

These six methods will help an organization conduct a comprehensive diversity audit. Once the audit is complete, a diversity intervention can be recommended. Regardless of the intervention selection, ensuring it aligns with the organization’s overall goals and measuring its impact will better the chance of a successful program or project.