Digging deeper into D&I

How companies are using metrics to advance strategy

Last updated on July 27th, 2022 at 02:07 pm

Following the summer of racial reckoning in 2020, companies across the nation jumped at the opportunity to publicly condemn racism and announce new or ongoing strategies to increase representation and cultivate a culture of inclusion.  

But what’s a strategy without a way to measure its progress and hold leaders accountable? You may have heard the saying, “What gets measured gets done.” 

For Oconomowoc-based Rogers Behavioral Health, it was the morning before a video went public showing the murder of George Floyd in 2020 that leaders had made a formal commitment to improve culture and explore the role of equity at the organization. 

Sue McKenzie Dicks
Sue McKenzie Dicks

“Our plan was to take a year and really look at how best to approach this as a mental health organization, but of course, we (then) kicked into high gear and did what we could. It was more of a reactive, yet very appropriate mode for the time,” said Sue McKenzie Dicks, vice president of healthy culture at Rogers. 

Over the past year, the organization has been able to move out of reaction mode to focus on its plan, defining “what it is we’re trying to do and why we’re trying to do it” and, of course, how it will be done, said Dicks. 

One key D&I goal Rogers set out to achieve was to diversify executive-level leadership. Within the past two years, race and LBGTQ representation of its top 30 leaders has increased from 6% to 26%. From a qualitative standpoint, Rogers uses an annual employee satisfaction survey and feedback from employee resource groups to better understand the experiences and needs of employees of different backgrounds and positions of power. 

But for at least one group of employees, getting an accurate read on representation and workplace engagement – and even apply-to-hire rate – has not been easy. Dicks said members of the LGBTQ population often do not disclose their identity to the company. 

“I think part of that is give and take of trust … that when we ask identity questions, it’s not going to harm them it’s actually going to help,” she said. “The notion of trust is so important to understand that we may not have the perfect measurement now because we don’t have the trust to get the information, and so giving ourselves grace to measure what we can and build trust along the way so we can measure more (in the future).” 

Milwaukee-based Aurora Health Care began devising its D&I strategy about seven years ago, but it wasn’t until the merger with Advocate Healthcare in 2017 that Advocate Aurora Health established goals and metrics tied to leadership performance. 

Cristy Garcia-Thomas
Cristy Garcia-Thomas

“Over the course of the last three years, we’ve seen really good progress in this particular area. But I can tell you it’s not easy,” said Cristy Garcia-Thomas, chief external affairs officer. “I can say myself, as a person of color, we’re getting recruited away from companies at a very high level especially in the last 18 months because there’s a heightened level of commitment (to D&I) from all companies. It’s something that you have to constantly be working on day in and day out to see the type of movement that you’re trying to make.” 

Advocate Aurora’s internal D&I strategy is measured across its talent pipeline, from recruitment – with a metric around interviewing diverse slates of candidates for open positions and unconscious bias training for recruiters – to retention and, ideally, promotion.

“Ultimately, we know that at our entry level workforce, we have a higher level of people of color, and we want to matriculate and have those numbers be reflected in our management numbers as well,” she said. 

The disproportion of diverse entry-level and managerial employees is true on a much larger scope. A recent workforce report from asset management firm Mercer – based on data and survey responses from 52 companies across the U.S. representing more than half a million employees in total – found total exits for Black employees at the manager level was 20% compared to 12% for non-Black employees. 

Mercer’s advanced statistical modeling digs deeper into other relevant factors that drive turnover, which is one significant metric that companies have largely overlooked in their efforts to close equity gaps, said Haig Nalbantain, senior partner and a founder/leader of Mercer Workforce Sciences Institute. 

“Companies are really focused on hiring – they’re over-indexing, if anything, on hiring … but when we look at the other dynamics, it’s very clear that the challenge is turnover,” said Nalbantain. “You’re losing a lot of those people you’re bringing in at critical career levels and part of it is because your internal pipeline – what’s happening to those employees once they’re in the organization is not favorable enough to encourage them to stay.” 

He said the message to Mercer’s global clients as well as to smaller-size businesses who are just starting on their D&I metrics journeys: “Use your data to get a wholistic vision of hiring, promotion, retention and performance rewards, and then find out if and to what extent you’re positioning your diverse talent to be successful.” 

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Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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