How to Use Diversity ROI Measurement to Get a Seat at the Table

As the diversity and inclusion industry climbs the ladder of recognition, relevance and importance, more and more diversity and inclusion professionals want to learn how they can gain C-suite access and earn a seat at the proverbial table of power. After all, it’s no secret that if you sit with the executive team, you become instrumental in strategic decision making – one of the best ways to influence change. To get the coveted seat, you must speak the language of business and focus on the critical business objectives and metrics, such as increasing revenue, decreasing costs and reducing cycle time. There’s no doubt that we must communicate effectively and demonstrate our value to the bottom line. Diversity ROI metrics and performance improvement processes help us focus first on tangible outcomes, then on interventions. When people focus primarily on the intervention, such as the diversity content, the method or the technology, it’s easy to be led astray by current fads, thus wasting valuable time and money. Instead, focus first on the desired outcomes and DROI analytics to determine what kind of measurable diversity intervention, if any, is necessary.

Conducting glitzy diversity training or other diversity activities and implementing fad-based interventions can distract decision makers from what truly counts. The glitz may make things fun, louder and interactive, not necessarily better. Without a clear, data-based front-end analysis of organizational performance gaps, any intervention, including diversity training and the like, is a guess. Add in sophisticated diversity intervention technologies without an adequate front-end analysis, including metrics, and it becomes an expensive and often complex guess. Systematic diversity training design procedures, for example, includes DROI analytics and metrics, needs assessments, objectives, targeted competency-based design and multi-level evaluation processes. That framework provides a method to get the coveted seat at the table. Why? Because when used properly, that knowledge base can help companies increase revenue and decrease costs using diversity and inclusion practices that impact organizational performance outcomes. In other words, you can earn your seat at the executive table by applying what you already know as a diversity ROI-focused professional. It’s successful because the DROI metrics and processes you use are solidly based on the behavioral science research results about how diverse people interact and what drives their behavior to produce successful organizational outcomes.

Measuring the ROI of diversity initiatives requires diversity professionals and practitioners to understand and utilize the full range of measurement sciences and approaches diversity and inclusion has to offer. If our work is to be seen as credible and providing value to the organization, we must hold ourselves to a high standard, whether or not the C-suite and others are asking for it. It is disheartening to know that although Donald Kirkpatrick’s “Four Levels” of training measurement has been around since the 1950s, and a primary intervention in the diversity and inclusion field is diversity training, only a select few diversity professionals and practitioners consistently use a comprehensive, instructional systems design (ISD) research-based approach to diversity training evaluation. My books, Measuring Diversity Results (1997), How to Calculate Diversity Return on Investment (1999), The Diversity Scorecard (2004), Implementing Diversity Measurement and Management (2004), The Diversity Discipline (2008) and Diversity Training ROI (2010) and others outline numerous approaches to measure the ROI impact of diversity interventions. They are designed to give diversity practitioners business acumen and “how-to” measurement tools, templates, strategies and techniques to demonstrate C-suite level analysis capability.

It is regrettable, yet understandable, that diversity interventions and initiatives are attacked as “having little or no value for the money invested.” Many of the diversity measurement processes used by some practitioners can barely pass a true Level 1: Reaction, Satisfaction and Planned Actions evaluation instrument test. A majority of the instrumentation found qualifies only as a basic “smile” sheet at best. This doesn’t mean that credible, research-based diversity training and initiative evaluation does not take place in our industry, only that many practitioners have not consistently utilized solid, DROI-based measurement sciences to document their impact on the organization as evidenced from the feedback in a wide-array of diversity practitioner surveys conducted over the years.

The link between people and profits is clear. Utilizing human capital assets is the primary vehicle to drive organizational performance and results. Thus, in a global economy and diverse world, developing a diversity-competent employee base using a learning culture is vital for long-term national and global success. Performance and profits are closely linked and require a comprehensive diversity analytics and measurement strategy to utilize human capital assets effectively. Skill development is one of several activities that must be undertaken to achieve an organization’s strategic business objectives. The only way to determine that skill development and diversity training are having the desired effect is to use formal training evaluation and measurement processes as well as ROI-based cost-benefit analysis methods. The results of these activities can confirm the positive effects of diversity training and development and identify improvements to make it better. Diversity training measurement and evaluation strategies can contribute to maximizing an organization’s overall return on investment (ROI or return on mission (ROM), a crucial skill for anyone sitting in the C-suite.

So, to gain a seat at the table, you need to do more than speak the language of business. You should play to your unique strength – an in-depth understanding of diversity ROI and how it can successfully drive organizational performance. With continued efforts to learn, refine and apply what’s already known about enhancing diversity and inclusion practices with ROI metrics, you can bring a unique and powerful perspective to the top management team that can make a measurable difference in the organization’s performance!