The Secret of Effective DEI Surveys

DEI surveys put your employees and their experiences at the center of your DEI efforts, right where they belong. Learn how DEI surveys can make your DEI strategy as communicable, solid in substance, and impactful as any other performance matter in your organization.

Business leaders perceive themselves to be communicating more consistently and effectively on DEI than they actually are.

Only 15% of leaders feel they are not communicating frequently on DEI, while 30% of employees and 25% of HR professionals feel their leaders are not doing so, according to PwC. Similarly, while only 54% of employees feel their organization makes information on diversity regularly available, 74% of leaders feel they do.

In an area where lip service has been rampant for years, earning respect for DEI leadership requires showing up with substance and commitment. Fortunately, with in-depth insights at their fingertips that can enable targeted and measurable DEI strategies, leaders have the opportunity to communicate with impact. 

Importance of DEI-specific surveys

One of the biggest disservices leaders can do to their organizational culture, and employee engagement, is to shirk the responsibility of treating DEI with the same rigor as any part of the business. The state of DEI health in the organization is a performance matter, and it should be managed accordingly to drive results. 

DEI surveys help you to demystify and get a real pulse on the state of affairs when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. They equip you to identify and understand the problems in the cultural ecosystem of your organization - and can provide tangible data, insights and guidance on what gaps exist in your organization, as well as the why, how and where of those gaps.

DEI surveys enable employees to confidentially self-report on their identity and their experiences in the workplace, yielding a wealth of critical DEI analytics so organizations and leaders can achieve a realistic live overview of what is happening and identify specific areas for DEI strategy to intervene to impact change.

Rather than leave your DEI efforts up to speculation, DEI analytics support your organization to choose priorities, design meaningful DEI strategies and create measurable impacts. The best DEI surveys will not only help you benchmark the current conditions and diagnose the issues to address, but will evolve to continue to track and measure the progress of your DEI strategy. 

Additionally, DEI surveys take the burden off of your employees to self-report incidents of discrimination and exclusion. They help to surface issues that may have otherwise gone undetected until they became a bigger problem. 

Ultimately, DEI surveys do exactly what is necessary - they put your employees and their experiences at the center of your DEI efforts, right where they belong. 

The Challenges of Conducting a DEI survey

The first challenge of creating a DEI survey is achieving clarity and setting objectives. Doing a DEI survey is not just about getting more information but getting the right kind of information that your organization needs. Setting out your objectives , and making sure that your objectives relate DEI efforts to business goals, is important from the very start, and will help to guide the creation of your survey.

Employee participation can also be a challenge. DEI initiatives are not a backroom project that you work until you have a glossy final presentation to roll-out to your workforce. DEI strategy works best when it’s transparent and iterative, and embraced with a growth mindset. A strong way to introduce a DEI survey is for leadership to authentically champion the survey as part of a bigger commitment to creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce - and then to be iterative in the sharing.

It’s critical to not only understand diversity data, but also to gain a deep and candid window into the experiences of different groups in your workplace. DEI surveys ask for employees to be radically honest and reveal experiences that can be difficult to disclose if they feel their words will be judged or misconstrued. To encourage engagement and disclosure, it’s highly recommended to involve a third party that is able to ask questions with sensitive information that employers are not allowed to ask and that will make employees feel more comfortable in sharing anonymously.

If you’re asking employees to take time out to share their experiences, then looping back to actively communicate to your workforce how that information is being applied will matter. Therefore, securing executive buy-in from the outset is critical, including the receptivity to take in harsh truths and constructive criticism around the organizational culture, and hold themselves accountable for leading the charge of change.

Designing an inclusive survey that uses inclusive language and encourages openness in response is very important. This design includes the kinds of questions, the way responses are provided (open-ended versus scales), the length of the survey and more. If your intentions with DEI are substantial, the questions will be carefully crafted to dig beneath the surface and not stop at superficial assessments. And, if you don’t know what you would do with an answer, the question shouldn’t be there.

How to Get Better Results from DEI Surveys

What makes a DEI survey impactful includes, in part, how aligned leadership is, how engaged employees are in participating and how well the survey is set-up to be focused and fertile in providing rich data and insights. But ultimately, the survey at this stage is just a diagnostic tool. The secret to an effective DEI survey is how effectively you mine the learning and then apply the learning to inform your DEI strategy. What happens after the DEI survey is what makes the real difference.

Information overload is as paralyzing as a lack of information. With the help of a third party, you can effectively sift through the data and draw out core insights, gaps and narratives around what is getting in the way of your DEI objectives and specifically as it applies to different groups within your organization. Data visualization is extremely important to being able to convey complex key points quickly and impactful. Expert data analysis will draw out the key storylines, themes and punch points in the data, so it becomes a live resource that sparks the right discussions and actions. 

DEI analytics and analysis help to provide the framework for further leadership engagement and alignment to actions. Creating actionable plans and strategies based on the learning, ones that will help you to move towards your DEI objectives is critical, followed by executing the plans and measuring the progress and results. 

Communicating to your employees about the results of the survey is very important. Leadership needs the willingness to take employees with them on the journey from insights to strategies to action plans to accountability to outcomes, including admitting to blindspots that have been uncovered, as seeing your own biases is a key indicator of DEI leadership that gains credibility among employees. 

One DEI survey is never enough and repeating the survey - at least annually - in order to track progress converts it from being only a diagnostic tool to a barometer of how well your DEI strategy is working, how inclusive your culture is and what needs to be recalibrated.  With help of a third party expert such as Pulsely, DEI surveys can make your DEI strategy as communicable, solid in substance, and impactful as any other performance matter in your organization. 

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