Over the last decade, there has been an expansion of corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs; however, since 2020, what was once viewed as an off-shoot of human resources has rapidly evolved into an essential component of running a business. More recently, “belonging” — as in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) — has come into focus.
“Belonging” represents the potential outcome of inclusive efforts, a thing employees feel rather than do. Over the years, corporate America has figured out how to measure nebulous concepts such as client satisfaction and employee engagement, but how do we quantify something as intangible as belonging?
5 Steps to Measure Belonging
If your team is attempting to incorporate “belonging” into your company’s DEI efforts, consider these five steps to measure the effectiveness of your efforts:
- Establish a definition: Every company may have a slightly different take on what belonging is, but it’s important to establish what belonging means within the context of your organization’s culture. Get specific! Until you create a shared vision, you can’t begin to collect credible data.
- Create and distribute surveys: Using an agreed upon definition/framework, create a series of standardized questions that can be distributed at regular intervals. Whether they are embedded into an already existing survey or take the form of a newly developed questionnaire, questions should ask employees about their experiences of their team, manager, and organizational work environment. While there should be open-ended questions as well, be sure to ask for ratings along a specific scale to better understand employee perception. For example, in response to statements such as, “I feel like I belong at my company,” “My perspective is considered during decision making,” or “I can speak openly and honestly without fear of retaliation,” ask people to rate how strongly they agree or disagree on a 5-point scale.
- Evaluate data across demographics: There are a number of reasons why belonging scores may vary, but if you aren’t digging into data across demographics, you’re potentially missing valuable insight. If your data tells you that groups of underrepresented staff are having a different employee experience, the intervention may be influenced by your DEI strategy, at least in part.
- Monitor changes: Keep a record of any changes, segmenting data and tracking how programmatic enhancements correlate to employee responses.
- Examine employee retention rates: If, when you examine your retention rates, you discover that some populations are leaving the organization at a higher rate than others, design a more targeted exit interview to get to the root of why this is occurring. Is exclusion or lack of belonging the issue?
A Starting Point
Though less measurable, building a culture of open feedback feels like a vital element of any strategy to foster connection and cooperation. Like others, I’m still wrapping my head around how a sense of belonging can be quantified in the workplace. Employees need to feel like they belong to something they value and that they have the power to bring about change when needed.