1. Get clear on the goals behind your diversity survey
Before you create your survey, you need to understand why you are putting effort into this project. Understanding your goals can help you craft the best questions and processes for running your survey and securing a high participation rate.
There are several reasons you might want to host a diversity survey. Here are a few goals you could consider:
- To get a clear picture of what diversity looks like across your company and in specific departments;
- To understand how your employees feel about diversity and inclusion;
- To see any room for improvement, your organization has on the inclusion of diverse groups;
- To get insight into where to allocate funds for employee resource groups or initiatives.
Once you’ve set 1–3 objectives for your survey, it’s time to go through the development process.
2. Think through the development of your survey
There are a couple of crucial things to consider when crafting your company’s diversity survey:
- Length: How long do you want your survey to be? Ideally, employees will be able to give you the answers you need within 5–10 minutes. To pull that off, you need to keep questions concise and actionable.
- Anonymity: You want employees to feel comfortable taking your survey. Diversity can be a touchy subject for people of all backgrounds. Take some time to consider how you will make the survey anonymous. With a tool like Leapsome, you can easily run anonymous surveys and set anonymity thresholds to further protect survey participants.
- Inclusive language and instructions: You should strive to use inclusive language/instructions at all times, but this is even more crucial when building a survey that’s supposed to encourage people of all backgrounds to participate. Make sure that your language feels open and inclusive of people from different backgrounds.
3. Choose thoughtful, interesting questions that can be repeatable
Once you’ve thought through a structure for your survey, it’s time to create a list of thoughtful, interesting questions. The best survey questions are repeatable. You shouldn’t build a diversity survey so specific that you can’t repeat the same questionnaire annually. Use open-ended questions to gather more detailed, timely information.
Your first diversity survey should serve as a baseline for your team. Then, each year you host a diversity survey, you can begin to layer, compare, and contrast to get a fuller picture of diversity at your company.
Here are some survey questions you might ask employees:
- [Company] does an excellent job of fostering a diverse and inclusive environment.
- People from all backgrounds have equal opportunities to succeed at [company].
- I feel like I belong at my company.
- I know where to go if I need to report inappropriate jokes about race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disabilities, and I feel comfortable doing so.
- I would recommend [company] to a friend or colleague who belonged to an underrepresented group.
- [Company] does a good job planning and hosting diversity-related initiatives and training.
- I feel like my personal beliefs and traditions are respected at [company].
When crafting survey questions, think about the answer choices you want to get from respondents. Some of these questions might be best as a 0–10 scale (with optional comments for more context). By adding sliding scales, you can get more color into what employees think.
Don’t be afraid to ask a few demographic questions if they don’t break anonymity — and to keep anonymity top of mind, you need to have enough people in that group to ask the question.
We suggest splitting your organization’s demographic survey (where you can learn more about the makeup of your organization) from your diversity survey. When you attach demographic data to your diversity survey, you can unintentionally create a situation that jeopardizes anonymity.
For example, if there is a small number of respondents from a particular race and you ask employees to identify theirs, it might be easy to triangulate who said what inside of that underrepresented group. Will people ops leaders try to do this? Probably not, but it could lower survey completion rates.
4. Pick a deadline and send reminders
As you send the survey, pick a deadline on when you’d like responses. Ideally, you want to give employees enough time to take the survey without rushing answers or letting it fall to the bottom of their to-do list. A typical survey deadline you’d likely see is 1–2 weeks from the initial outreach. Most of your responses will come in during the first few days.
You should send a reminder email (which can be automated with a survey tool) and share a reminder in the company’s Slack or all-hands meeting. Employees are busy, and they sometimes need to be reminded once or twice to check your survey off their to-do list.
Follow-up best practices for your company’s diversity survey
Analyze the information
You did it! You got information from your colleagues, but that’s only half the battle. The next step you have to take is analyzing the information. Take some time to analyze the data you got and make sure to highlight any important data or topics that need to be further explored or changed.
Don’t look at the surface information. Dig deeper to see any trends you can spot. For example, if you asked a demographic question, run the same analysis with a filter for those questions. You might find data for select groups that you don’t see in the cumulative data.
Last, follow up with an anonymous conversation (which a survey platform will allow you to do) if any part of the data feels unclear to you. It’s better to take a few minutes to clarify than miss an essential part of the results.
Take immediate action on glaring diversity issues
When analyzing survey results, you might have spotted an issue or two that needs immediate attention or action. Don’t be afraid to take some time to understand those results and take action where you need to. Connecting with other organization leaders to address major concerns is an immediate action you can take to show the worth of this survey process.
Catharine Montgomery is a leader in the strategic execution of communications services that blend the world’s differences in experiences and perspectives to achieve equality. She shared a bit about her own experience and learnings from running DEI surveys:
“After reviewing the data, I came away with concrete, actionable suggestions and solutions. I wasn’t sure exactly what learnings we would garner from the survey, but I knew I had to listen and find solutions to those learnings.
We specifically learned the importance of building open, honest two-way communication; being included in decision making; and fairness in promotions, raises, and pay equity.”
Share the information you collect with employees
Employees and company leaders love to see the results of surveys they take. Summarize any key points in a brief report or presentation. If you asked for demographic data, make sure that managers and employees have access to the specific data that impact them most. Challenges might be very different across the organization, and a more granular view could help.
When you close the feedback loop and share results with employees, they will be much more likely to fill out your next survey.
Make recommendations for any diversity changes that need to happen
The last follow-up best practice for diversity surveys is to make your final recommendations on what needs to happen next. Set these goals and make sure they align with where your organization wants to be in the future.
Here are some recommendations you might give based on the results you see in the survey:
- Invest US$X into employee resource groups to support underrepresented groups;
- Improve the hiring process to factor in diversity and inclusion using guided rubrics or removing details (including photos) from job applications;
- Celebrate X diverse holidays per year;
- Give employees the option to take holidays on days that matter to them instead of, for instance, religious holidays that they aren’t aligned with their beliefs;
- Build a paid, diverse committee of employees to provide advice and work with leadership to improve workplace diversity;
- Diversify company leadership by X% over the next X years;
- Create a plan to host a recurring diversity survey to spot trends, follow up on initiatives, and build a more inclusive workplace.
— Would you like to learn more about how you can use surveys to boost employee engagement and build a better workplace? Learn how to run an employee engagement survey and access our free pack with 72 questions for engagement surveys. 😉