The big picture value of D&I efforts include improving performance and retention, but these are long-term metrics. How can People Leaders (or startups that are focused on helping companies improve diversity, inclusion, or belonging) prove value quickly in order to have the longer term engagement necessary to prove the big picture value?
Thanks for the question, @mpathak!
You raise a good point about the long-term benefits vs. short-term benefits of D&I.
In D&I, the long-term benefits can be easier to talk about and understand. Most of us have probably heard about statistics and studies that show how important inclusion, belonging, etc. are to employee engagement – which in turn, is affects productivity and business performance.
It’s the “short-term” effects that can be hard to quantify and measure – but that’s often the case for People work in general, not just D&I.
However, the most effective D&I programs can balance both effectively. As in, not just staying in the land of abstract data, but also focusing on the real experiences of humans on your team, especially those from underrepresented groups.
I can share an anecdote to illustrate this further!
Just last week, I was advising a startup where there are over a dozen men and only woman in the office. She ended up opening up to me about the struggles of being The Only One - how even though she does love the team, she often feels isolated and tired from constantly questioning herself. She said that she constantly feels like she’s trying to put on a mask to fit in, because while every individual is friendly, the group dynamic doesn’t always feel safe for her. She told me that in meetings, she hesitates, and often doesn’t speak up about her opinions because she feels like she won’t get taken seriously.
These are extremely common experiences for underrepresented groups, and especially “the only”s on their teams. And notice how tough this experience is, even though she likes everyone on the team and knows they’re well intentioned.
These are the type of short-term effects we could all be thinking more about – and maybe even before that, become more aware of / sensitive to. If you’re a business, you absolutely want all employees to be speaking up – it could be the idea that leads to identifying a new business opportunity, or avoiding a big disaster!
The woman I met last week shared more of her story, how at a recent offsite, another male employee (who is based out of a different office) actually approached her kindly and asked, “Hey, I imagine it might be a little tough to be the only woman in X office, how are you? Do you want to talk about it?” She said she felt so seen, and so appreciated the fact that someone just noticed and wanted to check in with her.
So going back to your question, how do we measure, and prove these type of “short term” effects? I honestly don’t know. And maybe we don’t have to, and the question is worth re-framing. While metrics about engagement and productivity are important to the business, so are the ordinary human interactions that make up a big chunk of our day to day. So I hope the discourse on D&I can continue to talk more about the long term vs. short term effects - while recognizing that just because the short term effects aren’t as easy to measure, it doesn’t mean they aren’t as important.
(Related: check out this article: https://medium.com/awaken-blog/a-love-letter-to-the-onlys-underrepresented-people-experiencing-tokenism-and-isolation-at-work-888e0288145f)