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A Guide to Communicating Your DEI Survey Results to Employees

POSTED ON 
July 26, 2022

In my work as a consultant, clients panic when a few things reliably happen: a big, unexpected news story hits; a major layoff or merger is about to be announced; and… the results of a DEI survey come in.

It may sound like hyperbole, but few pink elephants are more distressing than inclusion survey results that paint a less than rosy picture of an organization’s progress on DEI. “How will our employees feel about these results?” “What’s the best way to share them?” “Will being transparent intensify negative perceptions around DEI?” clients ask.

These are normal questions to have, especially in our current climate. As Glassdoor’s 2020 Diversity & Inclusion Workplace Survey reveals, DEI is top-of-mind for a labor force increasingly comprised of Millennials and Gen Z.  

More than 3 in 4 employees and jobseekers (76%) believe that diversity is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers, and nearly 2 in 5 employees and job seekers (37%) would not even apply at a company where there are disparities in employee satisfaction among different racial groups.

With so much laser focus around how companies are responding to DEI (read my 2022 DEI Progress Report and Trend Alert for more on that!), it’s natural for organizations to want to get this right. And yet, as a DEI practitioner, I’m surprised by how little there is “out there” that helps organizations understand how to share their inclusion survey results in a way that actually supports – rather than harms – progress.

No matter what your inclusion survey results say, your organization can get this right. Read on for 4 steps to rollout your DEI survey results to employees with confidence!

@linkList;Jump to a section or read on:;1. Craft a Data-Driven Action Plan;2. Consider Your Target Audience(s);3. Avoid 100% Transparency with All Employees;4. Invite ERGs to Help Report Sensitive Findings

1. CRAFT A DATA-DRIVEN ACTION PLAN

So, your DEI survey results are in – and you see some noticeable gaps between where you are and where you want to be. When reviewing your results, it’s normal to take some time to process responses before you spring into action.

But – spring into action you must. According to CultureAmp, employees don’t get survey fatigue – they get lack-of-action fatigue. Organizations that take months to report back on survey findings, let alone to start implementing recommendations, will lose their people’s trust in the survey process.  

It’s essential that your organization outlines steps it will take to address gaps in diversity, equity, and inclusion with metrics. For example, if your organization is currently comprised of 30% BIPOC employees, you can set a target of increasing BIPOC representation by 5% next year – and support this target through regular company audits and creative recruitment strategies. (And YES, a 5% increase is a meaningful target, especially in larger organizations!)

💡 PRO TIP: Clients often ask me whether it’s better to set an ambitious goal and fail, or to set a modest goal and succeed. While the answer depends on the organization, my general DEI mantra is, “progress, not perfection.” If you set an ambitious target and miss the mark, that’s OK. Your people will cut you slack, as long as you are demonstrating your efforts to address their concerns.

Read Designing Employee Surveys for Actionable Data

2. CONSIDER YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE(S)

Whether you’ve contracted an outside agency to design and draft your DEI survey findings (hey! our Research team is really good at that!), or your in-house research team has just sent you a beautiful, 116-page findings report broken down by demographic insights, always consider who your target audience(s) are when sharing DEI survey results.  

Your leadership team and a small group within the People function, including ERG leads, should have access to the most granular results and all comments. From there, it really is a spectrum of who needs to know – and why. Overall, consider who is responsible for taking action in response to the findings.

If your organization expects managers to drive action on a grassroots level, it’s important that they receive timely results that directly impact their reports and any areas under their purview, including performance management. While managers don’t need the most granular results, they will need access to demographic insights and a clear understanding of where they are responsible for improving the overall employee experience.

3. AVOID 100% TRANSPARENCY WITH ALL EMPLOYEES

It’s essential that you report your DEI survey findings to all employees, ideally within a few weeks of the survey close date. But being 100% transparent about your findings to a broad employee audience actually hurts progress.

While transparency is an excellent value for any organization to hold, like all values, it must be put into context. Too much transparency can lead to lower morale, especially with sensitive and sometimes personal inclusion survey results.  

According to McKinsey, “the first rule of thumb [in deciding what employees need to know] is to strive for a match between transparency and responsibility.”

Since all employees are not responsible for DEI strategy and execution, it’s better to provide high-level findings that enable folks to find a focus or gain a shared context. No more, and no less.

The all-employee readout should be high-level, easy to digest, and strike a positive tone about embracing a growth mindset. In most cases, I recommend that organizations roll out their findings through multiple channels, including town halls, people manager meetings, and the intranet.  

💡 PRO TIP: For the town hall, I counsel clients to cut down their full findings report to 5-10 slides at most. Here's how I'd recommend breaking it down:

4. INVITE ERGS TO HELP REPORT SENSITIVE FINDINGS  

By nature, DEI surveys have more sensitive data and results than your typical employee engagement survey – and any communication rollout around them should take this sensitivity in mind.

Generally, the CEO or CPO is responsible for sharing inclusion survey results with all employees. While there is wisdom in this approach – it gives the right gravity to DEI and sends a signal that leadership cares about this important issue – be sure to consider the optics of this approach if your C-Suite is predominantly white.

If there are significant disparities in employee satisfaction based on demographics such as race or sexuality, invite your ERG or DEI committee leads to help share this information with the organization. This is not to “soften” the blow of bad news, but to send an even more important signal that your ERGs are aware of the data and are empowered to drive change.  

Organizations with empowered and thriving ERGs are more likely to retain top talent – and that is always the ideal outcome of any engagement survey.

SHARING DEI SURVEY RESULTS IS TRICKY BUSINESS, BUT YOU CAN GET THIS RIGHT!

As more and more organizations respond to employee calls for diversity and inclusion through inclusion surveys, it’s important that your company shares your DEI survey results in a way that is actionable, effective, and empowering.

Start with an action plan, consider your target audience(s), and empower your ERGs to help share sensitive findings in company channels like town halls. If your employees took the time to share their honest feedback, return that trust and keep going!

Read our 2022 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Progress Report and Trend Alert.

Looking for more bite-sized brilliance? Be sure to subscribe to our monthly employee experience newsletter, the Inkwell, and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest!

Farida Habeeb, Ph.D.
SENIOR STRATEGIST

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