Current State

About three-quarters of employers are deploying a strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) or are developing one, according to Brandon Hall Group’s study, Building a Culture that Embraces Diversity and Fosters Inclusion

That’s good news — as most organizations understand that DE&I is not an initiative or a program but a strategic endeavor involving cultural change. But 57% of organizations have only had a strategic plan for two years or less, meaning that the shift from programs, initiatives and tactics to strategy is still in its infancy for many. 


Most DE&I strategic plans (85%) communicate the mission, values and principles of the organization, but less than half (48%) contain a framework for managing change and even fewer address DE&I in ways that drive meaningful business impact. 

Many organizations (82%) address improvement of diverse hiring in their strategic plans, but less than one-third follow up by focusing on retention of diverse employees. It is important that a diverse employee population has a sense of belonging, feels valued and believes there are opportunities for them within the organization. However, few employers are assessing and measuring inclusion as part of their DE&I strategy. 


Despite the best intentions of employers, the business impact of DE&I remains modest. For example, the diversity of the talent pipeline has improved in only 39% of organizations. Pay and benefits equity has improved in only 19% of organizations and the diversity of the leadership team has improved in only 24% of organizations. 

Only one in four organizations has metrics established for understanding the impact of DE&I. Organizations measure what matters. This lack of measurement — including 43% of organizations that do not measure inclusion in any manner — indicates the messaging and rhetoric around DE&I has not yet fully translated into a business priority. 

Interest in DE&I will eventually wane if this does not change. 

Critical Question

  • How can organizations better understand the impact and value of their DE&I strategies? 
  • How can organizations effectively target areas of improvement for DE&I? 

Brandon Hall Group POV

When our researchers ask HR and DE&I leaders in interviews about their progress in DE&I, most point to more diverse job candidates and their overall increase in diversity numbers. But diversity is not that meaningful if the diverse employee population is not engaged and does not believe they can advance their careers. You can’t understand that without measuring inclusion. 

Of course, you must have diversity metrics for various demographic groups before you can measure inclusion. About one-third of organizations (31%) also do not track diversity metrics either. 

Therefore, most organizations need to really focus on diversity, equity and inclusion metrics if they want to drive business impact. 

Inclusion metrics are particularly important because they can identify how different demographic groups are treated. That is unlikely to come to light otherwise. If there are significant gaps between groups, you can take steps to understand the causes and create strategies to bridge them. This enables your DE&I strategy to be more successful. 

Some of the most important inclusion metrics are those used most infrequently: 

PERFORMANCE RATINGS Are there meaningful differences in average performance ratings between demographic groups that could reflect unconscious bias or different standards of evaluation? This can cause distrust and create flight risks. 

TEAM PERFORMANCE When a team underperforms, it’s often due to distrust, a feeling of inequality, lack of belonging and inappropriate behavior. By integrating DE&I with team development, you can help drive team performance and enable diverse employees to develop their potential. 

RECOGNITION Many organizations struggle to give — and track — meaningful recognition, which can impact employee engagement. But if there are differences in recognition rates between different demographic groups that can point to a larger problem. Many types of recognition technology — both point solutions and included in suites — can facilitate recognition from managers and peers, and make it easy to track any disparities between demographic groups. 

PROJECT TEAM INCLUSION Employers have increased experiential learning to drive engagement and better understand employees’ capabilities and their potential for growth into new roles. Projects, teams and action learning are vital forms of experiential learning. If selection is not equitable, you can create barriers to career advancement between diverse groups. Measuring inclusion creates a deeper understanding of the effectiveness of your DE&I efforts and enables taking action to improve. It should be a significant part of your DE&I strategic plan.


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Claude Werder

Claude Werder oversees Brandon Hall Group's analyst team, new product development, corporate development, the HCM Excellence Conference 2015, publishing, and social media and marketing strategies for Brandon Hall Group. In that role, he manages Brandon Hall Group’s research priorities, Membership Program and Member Center, and Brandon Hall Group’s exclusive KnowledgeBases of research data and HCM solution providers, services and products.