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How To Embed Accountability in Your DEI Efforts and Why It’s Critical for Long-Term Sustainability

In 2022, accountability for your DEI programs is as important as any language or philosophy behind it. For all the good intentions and grand promises, it’s meaningless if leadership teams are not held accountable when initiatives don’t receive the support they need or organizational culture doesn’t evolve in a way that fosters success for DEI programs.

Like any other tactic, DEI initiatives require a strategic mindset and measurable targets that drive impact not just representation but also inclusion, pay equity and a sense of belonging within the organization.

Accountability is crucial as it creates the sense of importance needed for DEI efforts to succeed. On a foundational level, if no one is accountable for results, there is little to no incentive for things to get done. To ensure that your DEI efforts are built on a foundation of accountability, we’ve outlined a few things you’ll need to do in support of all your DEI efforts.

Identify Metrics

There is a school of thought that DEI is the job of everyone within the organization. Unfortunately, it’s an idealistic view that subverts accountability. If everyone is meant to be doing it, what are the key metrics, milestones or deliverables? If everyone is responsible for it, who is taken to task if the effort fails?

Any effort in finance, marketing or accounting will have established benchmarks, milestones and results that define them as failures or successes, and DEI should be no different. These areas may be intertwined as it is no secret that a diverse workforce can impact the bottom line or make teams more innovative.

Your metrics cannot simply be quantitative, as in “hired x amount of a certain group.” They must also be qualitative, as in access to opportunity, performance reviews and talent-development investments. These benchmarks may be perceived differently, but measuring them through employee sentiment and feedback is vital to changing behaviors and creating a sense of inclusion.

Inclusion data is its own metric and is both quantitative and qualitative and requires analyzing them in conjunction with one another, such as turnover rates combined with exit interviews and employee surveys.

As you set out to identify metrics that suit your organization and its goals, you also consider how that information will be communicated to leadership, your employees and the general public. Transparency is key to building credibility and showing that accountability is at the core of DEI strategy.

Create Effective Scorecards

Scorecards and dashboards are valuable tools in creating accountability, providing a visual representation of successes and pain points to leaders, and creating the needed transparency to make your efforts credible.

Scorecards can show progress on a number of metrics, from the representation across various levels of the organization (new hires, executives, mid-level management) to even the succession pipeline promoting employees into supervisory positions. They are also effective for tracking supplier diversity and benchmarking efforts to change culture and leadership.

READ: Scoring Your Scorecards: A Guide to Evolving and Presenting Diversity Metrics

To further refine scorecards, contracting a third party to help review and evolve them is helpful. By bringing in experts who can help you see the bigger picture of what is displayed in the scorecards, companies can ensure a scorecard format will remain relevant as their metrics and definitions of success evolve.

As representation grows and companies begin addressing how people progress through the ranks, metrics around how management builds trust and engagement with employees will become critical factors like talent retention and something that has long-term ramifications for the sustainability of DEI efforts.

Leadership Accountability

The scorecard can then show where leadership needs to focus its efforts and where the company needs to improve. Leadership accountability on DEI with real consequences tied to compensation for failure empowers leaders to make decisions authoritatively rather than having HR and diversity teams spinning their wheels or venting about hurdles.

If leadership isn’t held accountable for diversity efforts, it sends a message to the rest of the organization that these initiatives don’t matter or aren’t something that the higher-ups view as a priority.

Passion for equality is not enough to drive results. When leaders can’t shirk accountability, it creates incentive or even a sense of urgency to meet goals. This accountability will then trickle down to other areas of the organization and prevent progress from stagnating.

If the accountability sits with a DEI leader, it’s worth emphasizing that this accountability from follow-through can’t happen without proper support. The last couple of years have seen a spate of Chief Diversity Officers on the move, partly because organizations have struggled to follow through with resources, budgets and the talent needed to support those executives.

Many organizations are just coming around to hiring diversity-focused executives and quickly realizing the importance of a support system. Without one, a CDO tasked with driving cultural and systemic change within the organization and creating an environment where inclusion is a priority for everyone (and not just the DEI and HR teams or the executives that oversee their efforts) will be working from a deficit.

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