This article was based on episode 177 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get a complimentary 30-minute consult to help you strategize rolling out a DEI survey when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.
Although DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) often feels like a soft side of business, approaching DEI in a reactive, haphazard manner is not the best way to build a healthy workplace. Instead, managers can approach DEI just like any other business goal: using a data driven strategy, tracking progress, managing accountability, and resourcing it appropriately.
I was referred to the new DEI survey software and communication tool, Pluto, as I was researching for a client project. When I experienced their approach to data gathering, I was blown away. I’ve never experienced a survey like this. It’s not the typical, check off if you’re a man or woman, or rate how comfortable you feel on a scale of one to ten. Instead, it’s like you’re writing a story about your life. Its narrative form makes you feel like you’re playing Mad Libs (if you don’t know what Mad Libs is, stop what you’re doing and look it up right now).
After working with the Pluto team to roll out their software for a client, I asked Erica Lee, cofounder and COO of Pluto to share with me her take on gathering DEI data. Because the right data can transform everyone's life at work. So let’s dive in to learn how to use DEI surveys to help your team feel truly seen and heard.
THE BEST DEI SURVEYS REVEAL MORE ABOUT WHO WE ARE
DEI surveys show us most importantly how people perceive their experiences at work. While they can provide additional demographic insights beyond what’s captured in most HR hiring processes, a robust DEI survey is about more than gender, sexual orientation, economic status, and race. Powerful DEI surveys like Pluto can reveal deeper trends about where people are coming from, how certain groups feel compared to others at work, and diagnostics to explain reasons for the gaps. Have you noticed a trend that women of color are leaving your company in disproportionate numbers? For those who are still there, what is their sense of belonging at work? Do they feel that they have adequate access to leadership, performance reviews, opportunities for promotion, and fair pay?
The best surveys give those who are filling them out the opportunity to reflect on their experiences and their identities. A colleague may have never before taken the time to really consider if they are being given enough opportunities for leadership. Sitting down to reflect gives them that opportunity.
THE MORE OPTIONS, THE MORE YOU CAN TELL YOUR STORY
Pluto lets participants tell their story through a narrative structure. There will be a question regarding, say, caregiving obligations, with a drop down menu to choose from. While I expected to see “children” as an option, I was surprised to see the range of options, including “disabled adults”. This is just one example of how we narrowly understand various aspects of diversity. While most surveys provide limited options and “other”, Pluto offers an abundance of options for how you identify that allow people to fully tell the story of who they are while making them feel fully seen and heard.
PEOPLE NEED TO TRUST THE SURVEY
When offering such vulnerable information, people need to feel that their privacy is protected. They want to know that by sharing their identity and experience, it won’t expose them or cause repercussions. This can be challenging with a small team or organization where there may be only one woman or person of color. While Pluto can work with small teams and mask revealing information, it works best with at least 50 employees. If you love the idea of understanding more about your employee’s perceptions and sense of wellbeing, but don’t think Pluto will work for you right now, Erica advises to try out a pre-built DEI survey that protects privacy. Whatever you do, make sure not to hold data in an insecure space, like an Excel spreadsheet where you can see the individual responses!
In addition, it can help to explain how the survey data will be used and who will have access to it. Participants are more likely to share honestly if they believe they will benefit from the survey, that it's not just about providing information to their superiors. The earlier you begin, the sooner you’ll be able to assess your progress later on.
DEI IS FOR EVERYONE
DEI issues can easily get siloed to a specific individual or team. But the truth is that DEI affects all parts of the office. Understanding your people is something all managers should be on board with. You need insight into who is unsatisfied, hasn’t had adequate access to leadership, or believes they deserve a promotion. Your staff needs to feel fully seen, and how they identify and feel might surprise you. Feedback from your employees, who you might not even realize are too afraid to come forward, is crucial to developing better leadership. One of the best ways to do that is by collecting information and feedback through approachable DEI surveys like Pluto. When we know who our employees are and what they need, we know what to prioritize. It’s the best way to move forward as a satisfied and connected team.
KEEP UP WITH ERICA
Get a complimentary 30-minute consult to help you strategize rolling out a DEI survey when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.
This article was based on episode 177 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.