In the workplace, this time of year can be hectic, to say the least. As we speed through Q4, many organizations are reflecting back on their past year, wrapping up current projects, and anticipating the months to come. That often includes taking a look at DEI data or collecting it anew.
So you launch a DEI audit: You send out a survey to employees, you ask HR to pull out demographics. You dust off the handbook. You scroll through your social media. You take note of your client pool and external partners.
And then the results come in, and they don’t look good. You receive a report with insights, recommendations, numbers, quotes, and feedback galore, all seemingly pointing a giant finger at you: “You’re doing it all wrong.” Or at least, it is easy to perceive it that way–we tend to see and believe the negatives first, which can prevent us from meaningfully engaging with challenging DEI audit results.
Rather than act out of defensiveness and frustration, consider how you can use these results to move forward with grounded action to improve DEI and company culture.
The most important thing that you can do at this moment is to pause and breathe.
Digest the information that you have received without compelling yourself to dive headfirst into a flurry of reaction and hasty decisions.
What you do next is critically important for the future of your company’s DEI journey. It is worthy of time and measured investment.
5 Steps To Improve Your DEI Audit Results
- Demystify the data
Data can look scary, especially when there is a lot of it and the conclusions aren’t great. Re-frame your thinking from data as an attack to data as a tool. Let the data shine light on the most prevalent parts of your culture (good and bad).
First, explore what you are doing well based on the survey results. These are things you want to keep doing! Ask:
- What are some bright spots?
- What contributes to these positives (individuals, systems/processes of support, specific initiatives)?
- How can we keep the momentum going?
Next, look at the areas that you struggled with. Consider the following:
- Where did we struggle the most?
- What might have contributed to these challenges (individually, collectively, and systemically/process-based)?
- Whose voices are most present, and whose are missing?
- What are our next steps towards change?
- Leadership must take ownership and chart the way forward.
Leaders are the cultural architects of an organization and must take ownership of moving forward from poor DEI audit scores. This includes owning responsibility/culpability in creating the environment that allowed exclusion and problematic barriers to develop in the first place.
Leaders who demonstrate vulnerability and own their humanity have more trusting and productive teams.This creates a more psychologically safe environment to learn, share, and challenge at work–all things that are a hotbed for creativity and innovation.
As leaders, you are more than the people in charge. You are the guides with the access and tools to chart the way forward, and your teams are looking to you to demonstrate what walking the walk looks like.
- Create spaces for people to understand what’s happening.
A poor DEI audit is a reflection of how the people in your organization are feeling–and they’re not feeling great. Create spaces for people to understand the themes your audit unearthed. Be transparent and name challenges, including dynamics of power and privilege.
Small group dialogues (like Unsiloed’s “Conversations Beyond Silos”) are a great way to open up space for stories about experiences. Employees feel valued when they feel seen and heard. Create that space, and work with your employees to co-ideate what a new, more inclusive reality can look like.
- Set micro-goals to support a path forward.
All too often, the period following a DEI survey begins with a flurry of goal-setting and big-picture ideas about culture change…and quickly falls off. While setting long-term targets is important, without tangible micro-goals, they can fall to the wayside. You don’t want to wait for another annual survey before you start paying attention to culture again.
Identify areas to focus on that are clear, attainable, and oriented towards long term culture change. Psychological safety, for example, can be tracked and measured over the course of an entire year, allowing you to use the insights from each check-in to re-adjust goals for the most needed areas.
- Hold yourselves accountable to tracking progress.
Truly committing to changing action after a poor DEI audit cannot happen without systems of accountability. Ask yourselves how you will build those systems into your plan. What does accountability look like to you? How will you measure it? How will you demonstrate it to your employees?
Consider these 3 E’s:
- Execute your new DEI ideas to improve systems within the organization while encouraging new voices.
- Evaluate: Periodically, do an internal evaluation of how your employees are feeling. This can include internal surveys, assessments, questionnaires, listening circles, and 1:1 meetings.
- Evolve: Use insights from evaluations to adjust goals and needs.
Where Are You? Where Do You Want To Be?
Receiving a low DEI survey score doesn’t have to be the end of the world for your organization. It can be an important stepping stone to an improved DEI commitment, and an opportunity to cultivate an environment of trust and belonging.
Don’t be afraid to learn and grow from your mistakes; it can be the best thing your company can do for itself, and more importantly, for its people.