Tips to Measure the Effectiveness of Diversity Communications: Part 1

Communicating the ROI results of your diversity processes is as important as achieving them. When communicating to key audiences about the implementation of the organization’s diversity vision and strategy, it should be viewed as an internal marketing campaign. The goals of such a campaign are identical to those of traditional marketing campaigns: to create awareness and to affect behavior. The diversity communications metrics you use should increase each individual’s understanding of the organization’s diversity strategy and enhance his or her motivation for acting to achieve the organization’s strategic diversity objectives. In fact, it requires a full-blown diversity communications strategy to be created and implemented. I will weigh in on this topic with a few thoughts in a two-part analysis. In Part 1, I will discuss the process to build an effective overall communications strategy and define the diversity communications metrics strategy. In Part 2, I will outline a method to help you determine your critical success factor (CSF) areas that form the basis for your diversity communications metrics. We will also review some of the questions and issues that will help you perfect your diversity performance metrics so they produce value-added outcomes for the organization.

Building a Communications Strategy

A diversity communications strategy is a multifaceted plan to keep the members of the organization informed about the diversity process. In general, the objectives of the communications strategy are to: broadcast the strategic business rationale for utilizing diversity, build and maintain support, involve the whole organizational system, and provide continuous feedback and ongoing communication about what is happening and why. The design of such a strategic process should begin by answering several fundamental questions:

• What are the objectives of the communication strategy?

• Who are the target audiences?

• What is the key message for each audience?

• What are the appropriate metrics to analyze the impact of the communication per its objectives?

• What are the appropriate media for each audience?

• What is the time frame for each stage of the communication strategy?

• How will we know that the communication has been received?

When thinking through a communication and metrics strategy, it is usually helpful to consider the organization’s political climate by asking questions such as:

• What are we trying to achieve at this point?

• Who do we need to involve for the metrics to be accepted?

• Who needs to know and when?

• Who are the “gatekeepers who could block or support the communications message and/or its metrics?

• How will a particular person or group be able to really “hear” what is being said?

• How can we communicate the leadership team’s commitment to the diversity change process?

A key first step in any communications strategy is to highlight the business rationale and benefits to the organization for moving in this direction. The challenge is to communicate frequently at the beginning of the initiative to assure people of the leadership team’s commitment and support. This can be done through channels such as newsletters, regular meetings, at management retreats, staff meetings, town hall meetings, and the like. These communications initiatives set the tone so people understand the overall effort and the rationale behind it. As a result, when employees are asked to participate (e.g., through task force involvement, focus groups, surveys, celebrations, affinity groups, etc.), they will understand how important their involvement is and how it will be linked to the overall effort.

Defining Your Diversity Communications Metrics Strategy

Defining diversity communications metrics usually requires at least three distinct steps. In three steps, you can translate your communication messages or strategies into specific performance indicators. First, it requires that you have identified specific diversity communications objectives that are linked to the diversity communications strategy. Second, you have determined where and how the communications message must succeed to accomplish each objective, spelling out the “wheres” and “hows” as a set of critical success factor areas. Third, you would consider each critical success factor area and define key diversity performance metrics or indicators that will track success on it.

Let’s examine each stage of the process in more detail.

Identifying Specific Diversity Communication Objectives

Creating effective diversity communications metrics begins with identifying specific diversity communications objectives that are aligned with the diversity strategy. These objectives are written such that they focus on the accomplishment of an outcome related to the diversity strategy, such as showcasing the use of diverse work teams to generate new, innovative target market segment products and services. In addition, these metrics must help sort out whether the message accomplished its intent. This intent may include the need to:

Inform – Did the target audience learn something they don’t know about diversity as a result of the message?

Instill an Attitude – Did the target audience adopt a certain feeling about the diversity process or its initiatives as a result of the message?

Generate an Action – Did the target audience do something diversity-related as a result of the message being shared?

Unless you know the results you are shooting for in your diversity communication, your metrics will lack focus and direction. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up somewhere else.”

Once you know your objectives, write them down and check to see if they are 1) specific, 2) measurable, and 3) realistic. If they are specific, they will be phrased in concrete, active words such as “analyze,” “recognize,” “recall,” “state,” “explain,” “summarize,” “select,” etc. If your objectives are not specific, you must come down the abstraction ladder until they are. For example, if the intent is to “generate” an action, does your objective start with a word that is behaviorally specific, that is, does it state an action you can observe someone doing? Even if your objectives are specific, they may not be measurable. In other words, how will you know that you have achieved your message outcome? Can you ask for a vote or get immediate oral or written feedback from the audience or measure a change in the strategy so that you can isolate the root change to your diversity communication?

The third criterion is equally important: Are these objectives realistic? Have you bit off more than you can chew? For example, can you realistically expect to lay out the entire diversity strategy, its initiatives and importance to the organization’s business strategy in a 15 minute presentation at the next town hall meeting? If your reply is no, it is time to redefine your objectives, limiting them to what can realistically be accomplished.

You must also draw on what you have learned about your audience. What can you reasonably hope to accomplish with this group of people? If you need them to make a decision about some key element of the diversity process and they are not decision makers, can you really expect the communications metrics to be credible to show that the diversity strategy was advanced by this message? It might be better to set objectives that would give this audience information about the diversity process, enlisting their support such that they, in turn, are equipped to influence the real-decision makers.

These are just a few considerations. A sample list of diversity communication objectives may include the following:

• Communicate leadership commitment to diversity.

• Communicate the business rationale and benefits of diversity.

• Communicate the benefits of diversity to the local community.

• Keep communications channels open among all employee groups.

• Celebrate and acknowledge the importance of the contributions of all employees.

• Communicate why diversity efforts are critical to the current and future success of the organization.

• Demonstrate the use of strategic diversity management approaches and their impact on improving organizational climate.

• Using the previous three monthly issues of the company newsletter, employees will “recall” two feature stories about the organization’s diversity process.

In the next segment (Part 2), I will provide 25 strategic diversity ROI-based communications metrics to support objectives like those shown. They will highlight a way you can measure the impact and influence of your diversity communications efforts.

Dr. Edward E. Hubbard Short Bio

Dr. Edward E. Hubbard is president and CEO of Hubbard & Hubbard Inc., (, Petaluma, Calif., an international organization and human performance-consulting corporation that specializes in techniques for applied business performance improvement, workforce diversity measurement, instructional design and organizational development.

The American Society for Training and Development  inducted Hubbard into the prestigious “ASTD New Guard for 2003”. The July/August 2007 Issue of Profiles in Diversity Journal featured Hubbard as the “Diversity Pioneer” in Diversity Measurement. In April 2012, Hubbard was an honoree at the Inaugural International Society of Diversity and Inclusion Professionals Legends of Diversity Ceremony in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, where he received the Legends of Diversity Award for establishing the Diversity ROI Analytics and Diversity Measurement Fields/Disciplines. Hubbard serves on the Harvard Business Review, Diversity Executive magazine and Strategic Diversity & Inclusion Management (SDIM) magazine editorial advisory boards.

Hubbard is an expert in organizational behavior, organizational analysis, applied performance improvement and measurement strategies, strategic planning, diversity measurement, and organizational change methodologies. He holds a practitioner certification and master practitioner certification in neurolinguistic programming, a neuro-science discipline. Hubbard earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The Ohio State University and earned a Ph.D. with honors in business administration.