President and founder of IEC Enterprises, Inc. – a multicultural human resources consulting firm located in Atlanta, Georgia.
Bill has supported the diversity needs of scores of Fortune 500 corporations, government agencies and universities since 1988. He specializes in providing broad-based diversity consulting and conducting work environment assessment studies (i.e., cultural audits) designed to identify barriers to organizational success. His current focus is using his 30 years of DEI experience to provide executive coaching and to leverage his Kellogg School of Management Corporate Governance training in appointments to Board of Directors positions with Public and Private Sector organizations.
A prolific writer, Bill has over fifty (50) publications in journals that include the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) Journal, Urban League Diversity Works Magazine, Journal of Staffing and Recruiting, Bureau of National Affairs, Cultural Diversity at Work, Black Issues in Higher Education, Recruiting Trends and The Black Collegian. His book, Minority Recruiting… Building the Strategies and Relationships for Effective Diversity Recruiting, was published in 1996 and remains a reference source for creating diversity recruiting programs.
Mr. Shackelford’s community service leadership includes serving as President of the Greater Atlanta Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development (now ATD) in 1997 and serving a three-year term on an ASTD National Board of Directors Committee.
William (Bill) Shackelford
President, IEC Enterprises
1945 Manhattan Pkwy, Suite A
Decatur, GA 30035 USA
Father, Grandfather, Former Civil Rights Activist, Cultural Diversity Trainer, Concerned Citizen
Amidst all of the challenges the workplace has experienced this year, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has emerged as one of the most pressing issues. Although it has long been recognized as an issue, the events of this year have catapulted it to the top of the list for many organizations. The 2020 PwC Global Diversity & Inclusion Survey had an all-time high of 76% of the respondents indicate that DEI “…is a priority or value” of their organization”.
From Priority to Strategy
Even in organizations that have embraced DEI they often struggle with implementing effective DEI strategies. In the same PwC survey, one-third of the respondents still see DEI as a barrier to individual and organizational success.
I have devoted the last 30 years of my consulting career to helping public and private sector organizations implement transformational DEI programs. I’ve seen organizations succeed greatly and others fail spectacularly. The difference often came down to the ability of the DEI program to provide decision-makers comprehensive, trusted and current data. It is data (not training) that lays the foundation for DEI success. The most common source for the data is the employee survey. However, all surveys are not equal.
How Do DEI Surveys Help Organizations?
The employee survey is a process that takes the "temperature" or "pulse" of the organization. Surveys are used to develop an understanding of employee attitudes and perceptions about the organization. Also, they are useful tools for gauging employee reactions to recent changes in the organization or its business.
Tips for Launching Your DEI Survey
With our nation experiencing a renewed awareness and sensitivity to DEI issues, every organization should be thinking about updating the date they are using to define the current state of DEI in their organization. Here are some tips to keep in mind if administering an employee survey will be a part of your plan to profile your culture.
1. Weigh the pros and cons of doing the survey in-house.
Some of the most spectacular failures we have witnessed have been when organizations attempted to develop and launch their own DEI survey using one of the free or inexpensive survey tools. They see this approach as a way to save money while still generating the data they need. However, they fail to realize that creating surveys, especially DEI surveys, is far from simple. It’s actually rooted in science, with a whole field of PhD’s researching and studying how to create questions and surveys that provide accurate, reliable and non-misleading answers. Having general survey experience is just not a strong enough foundation for DEI survey development … for several reasons.
You need an in-depth understanding of DEI issues. Because DEI is so encompassing, researchers have worked hard to identify categories of issues to explore to best assess DEI in organizations. When organizations “guess” about what they think should be on their survey, they often miss issues that are having a greater impact on employee satisfaction than those included on their survey.
How you ask the questions is just as important as what you ask. A multiple choice question that asks, “Are you getting clear information from your manager and is it helpful?”, may sound like a good question. However, how do you respond to the question if the information you get from your manager is clear but not helpful? You won’t know your employees were confused by the question until after the data is collected and, then, it’s too late.
Free surveys may not provide the real data you need. The free and inexpensive survey tools will provide results for all survey respondents. However, if you cannot analyze the data by demographic groups (race, gender, generation, job function, location, etc.), conclusions drawn from the data about the level of employee satisfaction may, at best, be misleading; and, in the worst case, may fail to identify dissatisfaction within the very demographic groups you are most concerned about. For example, if 80% of your leaders are male and 80% of your employees are male, you may have a very high positive response to the question, “Are you satisfied with the representation of your group in management?”. If you are not able to break this data down by gender you may miss the fact that women may not be nearly as satisfied as men.
Developing your own survey can delay DEI action. The average organization will take 6-12 months to: research, design, develop and launch their in-house-developed survey; collect and analyze the resulting data; and report the findings. While you are waiting on the data, critical actions by the DEI program will be on hold. This is precious time lost and may result in your losing the momentum and commitment you worked hard to build.
The good news is that technology advances have brought the cost of doing advanced analytics with your survey data down to a point where most any organization can afford it. You would be amazed at the variety of reporting options available to you today for what you probably paid a few years ago for a very basic survey.
2. Be clear about your data needs.
The goal of any DEI survey is to provide insights into the culture of the organization and how different employees perceive the culture. The clearer you are about your data needs, the better the survey will be able to serve your immediate and long-term needs. Think about it this way, a year from now you cannot benchmark a question you should have asked but did not. Here are a few requirements you should consider.
Determine in which demographic groups you expect to find divergent opinions about your organizational culture. Is it gender, race, generations, location, tenure, job function or all of the above and more? To properly explore these differences, your survey process will need to be able to segregate and report survey data for each of these groups.
Ask yourself the question, “What organizational policies, procedures or cultural norms do you suspect employees will have concerns?” will that include concerns about leadership, management style, equity, fairness, upward mobility, teamwork, communication or other issues? If so, then, each of these issues must be explored on the survey you use. Also, the survey should include other standard/typical DEI issues identified by research (which is why advice from DEI experts is so important).
Consider whether the survey data will be integrated with other data. Will your survey be a stand-alone instrument and provide all of the data needed to guide the DEI change process? Or, will it be one of several data sources (e.g. combined with focus groups, individual interviews, a review of policies/procedures)? If the survey data is to be integrated with other data, you need to use a survey tool that will make that integration easy.
Decide whether you want to provide each manager with survey results. The more advanced survey tools will allow each manager to receive survey results for their workgroup and compare them to the results for all employees. In addition, it will allow your organization to compare the results between workgroups to more clearly pinpoint areas where change/training is needed.
3. Do your homework/research before launching.
If you plan to use an external survey provider, make sure you do a broad search. There are so many seemingly new survey providers in the marketplace today that a search conducted a few years ago would not have found. Actually, many of these seemingly new companies have been in the survey business for a while. New advances in survey technology have greatly reduced the cost of providing advanced survey analytics. This has allowed these companies to provide cost-effective survey solutions that can compete with better known but less feature-rich platforms.
4. Develop a clear understanding of the features needed from your survey provider.
One of the most impactful decisions you will have to make is matching the features of your survey provider to your survey needs. Important features to consider include:
Ease of Use– Can the survey be managed by your in-house team with limited support from your survey provider?
Cost/employee– What is the basic cost/person to administer the survey and report the results; and does that basic price include all of your required and desired features?
Standard Survey– Do the questions on the provider’s survey adequately assess the DEI issues identified as important in your organization and has the survey been reliability tested?
Customization– Can the language of the provider’s survey be easily customized to fit the language of your organization and can you add open-ended questions?
Time (from contract signing to launch)– How much time will it take to develop (or customize) the survey, code the survey for distribution and test the survey before launch?
Reporting Capabilities– Will the survey platform make it easy for you to provide your leaders and employees reports that inspire them to action? Specifically, reports that are:
o Easy to understand
o Visually appealing
o Built on standard templates
o Multi-level (e.g. Executive Summary, Organization-wide, Work Group Specific)
o Available by demographic group (by Race, Gender, Division, Location, etc.)
o Customizable (i.e. can be branded)
o Downloadable by your team
o Easily integrated into other production software
Multiple administration– Does the survey provider have the built-in capability to provide pulse surveys and comparative analysis of multiple administrations of the survey (e.g. pre/post surveying)?
Other Features– Does the survey provider have the capability to address other features you have identified as required and desired (e.g. data security, data retention/storage, turnkey service, providing other DEI services)?
5 . Pilot one or more survey tools.
In your search for the perfect survey provider you will find that each provider takes a slightly different approach to supporting the survey needs of their clients. Having developed a clear understanding of your survey needs, you will be able to quickly narrow your search to a few promising prospects. To narrow it even further you should conduct a quick pilot of your finalist.
Most survey providers will offer you a free trial of their survey platform. Typically, they will give you 30 days to test out their platform using sample data from your organization. These free trials can be extremely helpful in providing you a clear vision of the data you will be able to collect from each of the piloted platforms and the types of reports you will be able to produce.
6. Don’t over think it.
What you don’t want to do is spend an inordinate amount of time selecting your survey vendor. If you take too long, you will negate one of the key advantages of using an outside vendor … the ability to quickly launch the survey. Set aside a fixed period of time (1-2 months) during which your team will research, pilot and select your vendor. You want to make a good, informed choice but, making a perfect choice will be difficult regardless of how much time you spend in the selection process.
In 1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated I was a college student in Atlanta Georgia and immediately thrusted into the middle of the movement that would change the nation. We had great leaders in the Black community in Atlanta – and in the nation – who helped us understand, process and react to the events around us. In 1992 riots broke out in America after the acquittal of the four police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King. My three kids were all teenagers at the time, and we talked with them to help them understand, process and react to the events around them.. Read more
One of the biggest challenges in diversity recruiting today is not building commitment but, turning commitment (and action) into results. Despite decades of focus – first on minority recruiting and them broadening the focus to diversity recruiting – too many organizations still struggle with building effective diversity recruiting efforts.
I think I know what the problem is and how it can be effectively addressed. Read more
I had a dream earlier this morning about the KKK. I was walking with some of my grandkids and with a teenage version of my brother TJ (who passed last year at age 54). We were walking in an area that looked like the street leading to my old office building. A flatbed truck drove passed us.
On the back of the truck sat about a dozen KKK members. I knew from past experience what was about to happen next. Read more
In April 1999 eight African American employees of the Coca-Cola Company filed suit on behalf of themselves and 2200 similarly situated colleagues alleging discrimination in pay, performance evaluations and promotions. Coca-Cola denied the allegations but settled the case in late 2000 for $192.5M. It is unthinkable that a global company like Coke -- a marketing company whose success depends on understanding cultural differences to capture world markets -- could be guilty of discrimination against its minority employees. Or is it? Read more
I truly believe most major employers in the United States are serious in their concerns about reducing (or even eliminating) bias and/or discrimination in their organizations. Most have non-discrimination policies, have conducted diversity training and have even (on occasions) reprimanded employees and/or managers who failed to follow established policies.
Despite the good intentions, there is ample evidence that bias has not been completely eradicated in corporate America. Consider this excerpt from the EEOC 2008 report. Read more
We all know the story. First the housing market collapsed; which impacted the financial markets; which impacted the stock market. This current economic crisis has impacted every sector of the U.S. economy (both public and private). During tough economic times, organizations are forced to focus on their “core business”. Projects (like diversity) that reside in their support area may be delayed or cut – often with trepidation about the potential impact delay will have on efforts to build an inclusive culture. Several of my clients have expressed concerns about having to delay their diversity initiatives with the refrain “What choice do I have?” What I have been doing is giving them choices for “doing diversity” in these tough economic times. Read more
There is no shortage of organizations (public or private sector) that have developed for themselves a compelling case for diversity recruiting ¼ a case that goes beyond it being “the right thing to do” to one that is anchored in the business case.
Luke Visconti, partner and co-founder of DiversityInc. stated the business case well when he said, “How well a company manages its hiring, recruitment and retention practices directly affects its competitive edge and may well be the deciding factor in its very survival.”
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