Over the past two years, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives have become even more critical to a successful workforce — and with good reason. Not only is DEI at the forefront of employees’ minds, but research shows that diverse organizations will outperform those that are less diverse. Now companies large and small are adapting to keep up.
I’m pleased to have seen success start to take shape for many organizations, including Philip Morris International (PMI). We’ve watched the number of underrepresented minorities rise in workplaces across many industries and countries. Industry diversity benchmarks are being met — and even exceeded — as workplaces slowly become more representative of real-world populations.
That’s good news. But despite this progress, businesses overall haven’t yet created truly inclusive workplaces. In fact, according to an international survey commissioned by PMI in 2022, more than half (51%) of the 5,129 respondents said they have personally felt excluded in their current or former workplaces. Additionally, 73% of survey respondents said they’d be more likely to stay with their current jobs if they felt more included at work.
The irony of so many DEI strategies is that they’re still underdelivering on a core element: inclusion. That means our work is far from over — but what should the next steps be?
Innovative Study of Inclusion
In 2022, PMI commissioned another study, Inclusive Future, to explore how businesses can strengthen their methods of measuring inclusion — a significant and often overlooked piece of the puzzle for fostering a culture of equity and belongingness.
The study, conducted by the Swiss business school International Institute for Management Development (better known as IMD), examined a range of qualitative and quantitative methods, as well as tools that businesses can use to measure and drive inclusion.
The IMD study found that while diversity in the workplace has improved over the last two years — in large part because it’s easily measured and areas of improvement can be clearly identified — inclusion can still be far more of a challenge.
The first issue, according to the research, is the exact definition of inclusion. For some, inclusion means the feeling of belonging. For others, it means being able to be their true selves at work and with coworkers. Different operational models and definitions make it nearly impossible to find a common approach to defining inclusion.
Then there’s the challenge of capturing employee feedback. The very nature and depth of the topic of inclusion make it difficult to understand how respondents feel about inclusion in just a few questions — and “response fatigue” can easily set in with a survey that’s too lengthy.
So the question we face as leaders is this: Without first understanding the areas of improvement and growth needed for genuine inclusion within our organizations, how can we provide effective solutions that can be measured for success?
What Gets Measured Gets Done
While many organizations track some areas of inclusion in employee engagement surveys, the Inclusive Future research highlighted the need for a deeper measurement that examines all six key dimensions of inclusion: authenticity, belonging, fairness, participation, psychological safety, and uniqueness.
With that in mind, we wanted the Inclusive Future research to go beyond simply analyzing insights, putting forward practical solutions that PMI and other organizations could apply to improve measurement of inclusive cultures. For that reason, the research recommended a new pulse tool, the Inclusion Net Promotor Score (iNPS), which we’re currently piloting at PMI. It asks respondents to provide a rating to answer the following question: “How likely are you to recommend our organization to a friend or colleague from an underrepresented group as an inclusive place to work?”
So far, we’ve found the iNPS to be both cost- and time-effective. Through analysis, we can identify key trends — for example, understanding which demographic groups do (and don’t) recommend our organization as an inclusive place to work. This metric shows us where we’re making progress and where we can improve. I firmly believe that applying this benchmark can help other companies allocate support and resources accordingly, enabling them to measure inclusion over time to show growth and improvement.
Additionally, to source richer, more detailed information, Inclusive Future suggests supplementing quantitative surveys with qualitative methods such as face-to-face open-ended conversations with employees, focus groups, anonymous feedback channels, and more.
This rigorous research has provided the methods and tools to help accelerate our aim of fostering a culture where everyone is accepted and celebrated for who they are and the experiences they’ve had.
The Building Blocks of Inclusivity
Fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce is a key component for building a creative, innovative, and resilient organization. However, a diverse employee population is just one important building block of inclusivity. It also takes time, resources, and, above all, an acknowledgment and deep understanding of the areas of improvement needed to reach that goal.
No question about it: Inclusivity is complex. To begin to understand how to make real strides and progress toward a truly inclusive culture, we need to start by finding a way to measure employees’ feelings about inclusion.
Through open and honest conversations and new quantitative measurement tools such as iNPS, organizations can set benchmarks from which they can measure real progress in their inclusion journeys, ultimately improving productivity, driving innovation, and thriving for the long term as well.