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Development Best Practices

1. Choose Wording Carefully

  • When developing a diversity and inclusion survey, it is important to consider the wording of the survey and potential answers very carefully.
  • This was included as a best practice because the demographics the company chooses to include or exclude from the survey and potential survey answers communicates the company’s ideology to employees.
  • For example, if, under a question about gender, only man and woman are listed as potential options, that could alienate workers whom do not fit into those two categories and communicates that the company is very traditional in thinking about gender diversity.

2. Base Survey on Template

  • Experts recommend utilizing a well-designed template to build a diversity and inclusion survey.
  • This is recommended because of the challenges of good survey design as well as the need for completely unbiased questions about the sensitive topics of identity and diversity. Without a well-crafted survey, the results can be meaningless.

3. Consider Using Pre-Collected Data

  • A full set of new surveys may not be necessary if the company already collects employee engagement data.
  • This already-collected data can be combined with employee demographics like gender and race in order to lay the foundational understanding for where diversity and inclusion are lacking within the company, and help the company decide where to focus their next efforts.

4. Use a Format that Allows for Viewing by Category

5. Utilize Questions with Result Benchmarks

  • In order to set up the survey for easy analysis, it is helpful to choose pre-established questions that other companies have also used.
  • In this way, there are benchmark answers and companies can compare themselves to others.

6. Consider a Focus Group

  • In order to gather deeper insights than a simple survey could provide, consider following up on the survey with a focus group.
  • A focus group can provide qualitative information to help leaders fully understand the results of their surveys, and can help leaders gain an understanding of what solutions employees believe would help.

Implementation Best Practices

1. Gather Buy-In

  • Prior to even creating a diversity and inclusion survey, experts recommend seeking buy-in from key stakeholders. These would include key leaders in the HR department and members of the c-suite. This is important to ensure that the survey is successful and has follow-through from the company.
  • This is an important step to identify the reasoning behind providing the survey, creating an understanding of what the expectations are and beginning to form an idea of what will happen with the results of the survey.

2. Obtain Survey Responses

  • Experts recommend providing ample time for employees to complete the survey, as well as having managers encourage their direct reports to complete the survey.
  • This is important, because without a high response rate, the survey results could be skewed.
  • Additionally, if employees from under-represented minorities do not complete the survey because they do not feel comfortable, results could be extremely misleading.

3. Make Questions Optional

  • Experts recommend making all questions optional in diversity and inclusion surveys.
  • This allows for respondents to participate in the overall survey even if they don’t feel comfortable answering some questions, and therefore helps companies to reach a higher response rate.

4. Share Survey Results

  • After the survey, it is important for company leaders to identify key findings and share those key findings with employees via “structured communication and moderated discussions.”
  • However, experts do not recommend simply sharing all survey answers with 100% transparency. Instead, experts recommend “provid[ing] the right amount of information required to enable folks to find a focus or gain a shared context.”
  • This is important, because if respondents know that their answers will be shared directly with their coworkers, even if the responses are anonymous, they may not feel comfortable providing truthful answers or may censor themselves.

5. Post-Survey Action Plan

  • After having given the survey, it is important to create and share an action plan based on the results of the survey with employees.
  • If the survey is given but nothing is done with the results, employees will feel as if they were not heard or their responses were not important. According to Inclusion At Work, once the survey is given, “doing nothing will no longer be an option.”

6. Repeat the Survey Regularly

  • In order to gauge company progress, companies should repeat the survey process regularly to compare results over time.
  • Experts recommend repeating the survey every 6-12 months, bearing in mind that complex initiatives will take time to show results in the surveys.

Possible Questions

1. Belonging

  • Experts recommend asking employees if they feel a sense of belonging at the workplace.
  • This is important because a greater sense of belonging means that employees are more likely to be productive in the workplace and stay at their workplace longer, improving employee retention.

2. Contrary Opinion

  • Experts recommend asking employees if they feel comfortable voicing a contrary opinion without any fear of consequences.
  • This is especially important because if everyone in a diverse team feels free to voice their opinion, healthy debate can occur and the best result can be chosen. But if some members of a diverse team do not feel comfortable voicing their opinion, then the diversity of opinions is lost.

3. Feeling Heard

4. Personal Improvement

  • Companies will want to ask employees if they feel like the company believes in the ability for employees to improve.
  • Companies that demonstrate this growth mindset — that employees can grow and improve while they are with the company — will have a better time retaining employees and improving their abilities.

5. Commitment to the Needs of Employees with Disabilities

  • Companies should ask their employees if they feel the “organization demonstrates a strong commitment to meeting the needs of employees with disabilities.”
  • Being committed to employees with disabilities can expand the hiring pool, improve employee retention, and enhance staff moral.

6. Administrative Tasks

  • Experts recommend ensuring that administrative tasks without a direct owner are shared fairly among staff. Employees should be surveyed on if they believe this is happening.
  • This is important because unequal distribution of administrative tasks can be a microaggression towards certain groups of employees (like women or racial minorities). Asking about administrative tasks can therefore highlight if this microaggression is happening and if it needs to be addressed.

7. Action Against Discrimination

8. Organizational Values

  • The survey should include a question asking employees if they feel the organization is committed to diversity and inclusion; if this is one of the organizations values.
  • This is increasingly important companies search for more millennial workers to fill senior positions, as the majority of millennials (80%) “consider company policies on diversity, equality and inclusion during their job search.”
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