Measuring the Invisible Experience – Inclusion

Written by Anju Rakesh & Athira Premarajan

Right from the beginning of the advent of the talent management philosophy of D&I, the ‘D’ for diversity was placed before ‘I’ for inclusion. With the agile evolution that triggered the addition of an ‘E’ for Equity to the existing terminology, D&I now more popularly includes ‘E’ and is known as DEI – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Experts across the globe have suggested the need to prioritize ‘I’ before D or the pursuit of Inclusion before the implementation of Diversity. As reported by numerous studies conducted in conglomerates across the globe, inclusion is the invisible potion that leads to employee happiness and further, business success.

As a concept that defines and determines the culture and performance of a company, inclusion is often looked at as a critical, hard-to-measure component by business leaders. In contrast, diversity representation is considered a visible, easy to measure, tangible measure. Inclusion on the other hand demands more subtle ways of measurement. So, how can it be measured?

Can Inclusion Be Measured?

Inclusion is the degree to which an employee feels belonged at his/her/their workplace. Companies concentrating exclusively on enhancing diversity representation often end up creating a vulnerable environment unintentionally, where employees are not noticed for their innovative and committed contribution and hence, not feel empowered enough to bring their authentic selves to work. They remain feeling excluded, with inclusion not being intentionally pursued. Measuring inclusion is the possible solution that would provide a beneficial outcome, that will help determine further actions.

DEI expert, founder, and CEO of Aleria – a diversity tech company, Paolo Gaudiano derived an interesting technique to measure inclusion. Drawing an analogy between inclusion and healthcare, he observed how inclusion is similar to healthcare, that one experience only during the absence of the essentials. He suggests that inclusion is invisible to those who enjoy it, as it reflects the absence of negative incidents that makes one feel excluded.

In its pursuit of establishing a standard framework model for measuring inclusion, McKinsey Global has identified two key elements that would help best in assessing the required result:

  1. People Experience
  2. Enterprise Perception

While People Experience capture the employee happiness figures including feeling belonged and valued in one’s workplace, Enterprise Perception captures the capability of the company in providing an enabling environment that fosters acceptance and fairness, through the employees’ lens. The promising part of these elements is that any discrepancy in the responses can help figure out the lack of inclusion in their respective companies.

Measuring the Invisible

As companies strive to attain optimum performance meeting employee needs, the concentration on the latter is enabled through a strategic assessment of metrics associated with it. Though capturing inclusion metrics is not as direct as diversity metrics, companies have identified and rolled out customized frameworks to measure the degree of inclusion in their work culture, broadly categorizing them under qualitative and quantitative aspects.

The Most Inclusive Companies in India (MICI) study by Working Mother and Avtar establishes the ability of companies to include by analyzing three key segments:

  • Diversity Representation:

This is a measure of representation of diversity strands (gender, generation, People with disabilities (PwD), members of LGBTQ+ Community, and culture) in the company’s workforce.

  • Recruitment, Retention, & Advancement:

Apart from gauging the representational figures, the study also measures practices and programs in enabling an inclusive and diverse environment. This includes initiatives in training and educating the managers to being culturally sensitive and assuring diverse interview panels to ensure inclusive hiring.

  • Company Culture:

MICI also measures the ability of companies to curate a culture that is inclusive of diverse people through practices like assessing the DEI accountability of managers and checking the existence of a DEI Council within the company. Incorporating LGBTQ-friendly and PwD- friendly measures into the yardstick, MICI covers comprehensively, the significant initiatives each participating company fosters, which helps it pursue its inclusion intent.

As an evolving and dynamic process, the elements to measure inclusion extends beyond the listed horizon. Though the above-mentioned elements are imperative for capturing the essence of an inclusive culture, organizational capability and leadership competency along with employee engagement are other significant markers that organizations need to keep a tab on.

When inclusion as an employee experience is measured and managed through appropriate channels, it sets the organization on a pedestal – that of transformation and growth!


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