Blog Post

Four Ways to Drive Accountability for DEI in Your Organization

By Stefanie McNamara
March 7, 2022

The key to sustaining the progress that many leaders and organizations have made in recent years is having a framework for measuring and evaluating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Organizations are pressing for sustainable change by demanding transparency and accountability. In August of 2021, Nasdaq’s Board Diversity Rule went into effect, requiring companies listed on their US exchange to:

  • Publicly disclose board-level diversity statistics using a standardized template and
  • Have—or explain why they do not have—at least two diverse directors.

This is a great step in holding organizations accountable, and we at Seramount know that transparency is essential to achieve significant change. Without it, there can be no accountability.

In order to truly embed DEI into an organization’s culture, companies need meaningful metrics as well as the willingness and courage to use the data to hold themselves and their leaders accountable for their diversity goals and results. DEI change isn’t something that can fall solely on the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) and their team. “Policies, processes, and behavior changes across the entire organization are important, but systemic changes are still needed to see the type of progress that we all hope for,” says Bridgette Scales, Senior Director of Diversity Best Practices.

Going from a DEI-driven model to a DEI-enabled model is key. In a recent blog post, Subha Barry, Seramount’s president, wrote:

“Instead of having a CDO’s team serve as a central function that ‘owns’ DEI for the entire company, the work of creating and leading a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and culturally competent workforce is spread across business and talent leaders throughout the organization. Where CDOs typically would be solely held accountable for DEI metrics, with a DEI-enabled model, business and talent leaders would be held accountable as well. This model enables CDOs to serve as a guide for business and talent leaders in integrating DEI into their strategies and plans and to provide advisory support in integrating and embedding DEI into managerial workflows, routines, and decision-making.”

It takes a bold leader to put these wheels in motion. Through intentional commitment and approach, leaders are able to instill within their organizations high levels of trust, which trickles down to create a culture of inclusion and belonging.

Here are four ways to hold your leaders, and yourself, accountable:

1. Establish a list of DEI priorities and how to best measure results

For many companies, setting meaningful goals will require a shift from preventive measures, such as diversity and bias training, to more proactive goals, such as increasing diversity at senior levels or increasing the number of candidates from underrepresented groups that are included in succession plans.

  • Assess where diversity and equity gaps in your organization exist, define your DEI goals, and establish metrics that matter, including representation rates of women and people of color.
  • Establish a timeline with key milestones to track progress along the way, and be specific about what you want to achieve, i.e., set goals and track progress only in those areas you are willing to change.
  • Make sure the commitment and resources are in place to achieve the goals you set.
  • Clearly communicate how the organization will track these goals over time and how senior managers will be held accountable for them.
  • Share your KPIs and the pace of progress with key stakeholders via internal or external platforms.

2. Take a programmed approach

Once a leader makes a public, personal commitment to diversity and inclusion business results, the alignment of the external and internal strategies is most critical. It would be damaging and inauthentic for a leader to externally present a commitment to DEI that is not backed by personal and organizational actions. Actions to address lagging indicators (representation, retention rates, etc.) can deliver short-term results, but analyzing trends by utilizing year-over-year results will give indication of sustainability.

To make fair and inclusive decisions, company leaders need comprehensive, accurate, and bias-free information about the employees in their workforce. Data can provide an important indicator of progress and become a catalyst for change. But simply collecting data is not enough; the information must also be analyzed for patterns and trends. Counting diversity numbers but not analyzing the data or comparing to peer organizations leaves leaders without important information on where their problems are or how to fix them.

3. Provide a data-driven way to assess your program’s impact

What gets measured gets done. Use data-driven insights to inform decisions and measure success, leveraging assessments such as the Seramount Inclusion Index. The Index is a critical tool in creating change as organizations look to address systemic issues, such as lack of diverse representation at executive levels and gaps in the talent processes. Because Inclusion Index companies are leaders and innovators in the DEI space, the Index provides an effective benchmark for assessing diverse representation in specific industry sectors.

In 2021, Seramount launched its first-ever Global Inclusion Index, which assesses global corporate efforts at hiring and promoting women, measures hiring and promoting of other underrepresented groups on a country-specific basis, creates inclusive cultures, and holds country leaders and managers accountable for results. Consider applying here for Seramount’s 2022 Global Inclusion Index (submission deadline is June 15, 2022).

4. Involve managers in setting diversity goals

Leaders will need to behave and show up differently to make lasting changes.

Learning and development programs serve as great tools to tap into when measuring the cultural competencies and emotional intelligence of leaders (the ability to know how and when to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically), and creating accountability—with meaningful rewards—across the organization will help ensure progress. For many leaders, this will require overcoming mid-level manager resistance to engaging those same managers in the DEI process and getting them involved in identifying gaps. Accountability at this level is key: managers should be held responsible for their part in achieving DEI goals.

This pivotal moment in history is an opportunity for leaders to decide what legacy they want to leave and determine what their company represents. It’s time to define your story before it’s defined for you.

Contact us to learn about our DEI Research Partnership and which solution is best for your organization’s DEI needs.

About the Author

Stefanie McNamara
Director, Marketing Communications