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Why A Diversity Audit Is An Important Part Of A Successful Work Culture

DEI audits are as important as any other compliance inspection for successful CEOs. Undergoing a DEI audit recognizes that diversity is not as simple as checking a box on a form, and provides you with valuable information to assess your company’s progress in DEI in a number of ways, such as demographics, employee feedback, systems analysis, pay analysis, identity disclosures, psychological safety, or client/partner diversity. Regularly conducting a DEI audit keeps you on the pulse of company culture, tracks your progress towards DEI goals, and identifies areas for improvement.

Often, a diversity audit is conducted by an external professional in the space, who can provide an objective analysis and better hold you accountable to diving deep into your company culture. This ensures that you most fully reap the rewards from the efforts put into creating a more diverse workplace. A successful work culture must know its bright spots, barriers, and have clearly identified and trackable DEI goals. Audits capture this information and more, particularly when it comes to making employees feel included, safe, and heard–vital parts of psychological safety in the workplace. Regularly auditing and speaking to employees encourages them to share their experiences and then see those reflected in reports and policy changes.

While diversity audits can look differently depending on your needs, some general principles apply across the board. Here are some guidelines for you to keep in mind as you plan a diversity audit at your company.

Have a plan for your audit.

As described, there are numerous ways for you to go about conducting a diversity audit, and no “one size fits all” design to data collection. That said, regardless of how you plan to undergo your audit process, you should design and conduct it with a goal in mind. Data collection alone will tell you nothing; you need to know what it’s telling you, why you want that information, and how that information fits within your general understanding of company culture. Know what you will do with your audit, and focus on specific areas to capture information on.

Stay current.

A common pitfall in diversity audit processes is to assume that they are “one and done.” While one diversity audit can be extremely helpful for assessing your culture, ideally you should be regularly engaging in data collection that informs you on progress towards your goals. By their nature, diversity initiatives take time and must be monitored to identify impact, employee feedback, and revise goals/methods. There is no right or wrong time to conduct an audit because there is no right or wrong time to think about diversity; inclusive organizations are always thinking about diversity in big and small ways.

Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4 are less important than measure 1 + action 1; measure 2 + action 2; etc. Break your yearly goals into tangible and regularly measured engagements/assessments. Return to these over time and you can start to see patterns and directionality.

One measure that we love is psychological safety, which we can measure in a scientifically-validated way using a statistical tool over the course of a year. Being able to track how seen, heard, recognized, and safe employees feel is data that directly reflects the state of diversity in your organization.

Collect Your Data.

You can’t make informed changes without first knowing your current state, and this means collecting data. It is up to you to decide what data will be most helpful for your diversity goals, but some things to consider include:

  • Company and client demographics.
  • Anonymous employee surveys with quantitative and qualitative questions.
  • Notes/feedback from exit interviews.
  • Your processes: hiring, HR, information-sharing, promotions, rewards, consequence.
  • Employee focus groups on specific diversity-related topics.
  • Public-facing DEI commitments and actions.
  • Data from HR on diversity-related topics: reports of discrimination/harassment, incidents, common complaints.
  • Psychological Safety

Start with Culture and Structure.

Culture is not by default, it is by design. The first and foremost aspects of your organization that you have to understand and design are the culture and structure. Diversity builds off of strong, psychologically safe culture and inclusive organization structure. Diversity audits are best used when they focus on what Unsiloed calls C.A.S.E Clarity, or “Culture Assessment and Structure Evaluation.”
Culture Assessment: Get clear on the voices and lived experiences within your organization so that you can understand the real pain points and invest in a way that positively shifts the culture. Speaking to employees about their experiences provides invaluable qualitative data while demonstrating your investment in DEI as a company. Stories are the soul of data.

Structure Evaluation: Culture cannot exist on a weak foundation. A successful diversity audit takes into account organization structure from a 360 perspective: foundational, internal, and external. What values is your organization built on? What do internal processes reveal about the state of diversity? How do your external stakeholders, partners, and clients reflect your values for diversity?

Develop a roadmap that identifies who will monitor and implement changes, how they will do so, and the intended outcome. 

Your diversity audit reports should be reviewed and owned by a group of people at your company. What that looks like (panel, DEI committee, Employee Resource Group, etc) doesn’t matter as much as who it comprises. This should be a diverse group of people who represent a number of different parts of the company and levels of leadership, including employees, people managers, leadership, and executive/C-suite team members. Efforts should be made to also represent a diverse number of identities across the group, in particular historically marginalized identities that are directly targeted and impacted by diversity initiatives and whose voices are vital to any audit. Many organizations benefit from initial outside party guidance when creating initiatives like DEI committees or Employee Resource Groups. These are valuable spaces for integrating learning opportunities and building a stable foundation for diversity programming, especially when your organization has struggled to do so in the past or is new to these actions.

Engineer Inclusion by Creating Structures and Space for Diversity.

A DEI audit can’t end with data collection. If anything, that is only the very initial beginning. Once you have data, then you get to actually dive into true change, working to engineer inclusion within your organization.
Next, here are some helpful tips and how-tos to get you started thinking about what those actions might look like:

  • Ensure there are systems and structures in place that encourage respect.
  • Lead by example, and do not be afraid to change as you grow and achieve these goals.
  • Create the structure for a panel or committee to have the time to meet and perform these tasks. You must foster Inclusion in your organization.
  • Implementation and support of plans for those in the front lines of change within your teams is critical during all stages of your DEI, Safety, and Inclusion plan.
  • Recognition is often underutilized. Are the efforts of those doing the work in the front lines recognized?

These are just a few ideas to get you excited to start your journey. Once you complete your first audit, you will be able to see areas where you may need to work harder to ensure all your employees have the opportunity to shine in their positions. Creating a culture of value and respect will bring a level of pride and a sense of ownership to your teams.

Remember, culture is by design. Be the architect.
See how Unsiloed approaches DEI audits.