22 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Survey Questions to Help You Get off the Mark

The global workforce is always changing. HR needs to be at the top of its game to make everyone feel welcome and get their feedback. It can be a daunting task to design a comprehensive DEI survey. In this blog, we provide you with a set of survey questions and themes that will ease you into the task.

Impact of DEI 

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (referred to jointly as DEI) are three words that have greater importance than the sum of their parts. It captures the culture of any organization in managing a diverse workforce that feels included and has equal opportunities to succeed.

It doesn’t just refer to the rules in the book, but to the ethos of the organization in its approach to dealing with a multifaceted workforce. People are different. But the desire to contribute is universal. How you handle them is a testament to your organization’s willingness and capability, and hence the battle for DEI.

The top quartile of companies with greater ethnic and gender diversity are likely to outperform their competitors by 25%, according to a McKinsey report. So, there is value in being diverse economically. But even from a social perspective, generation Z members are beginning to enter the workforce in droves, and they are the most diverse generation in North America’s history.

How to Approach DEI 

It begins with diversity. But diversity on its own does not translate into success if not paired with equity and inclusion.

By studying 93 banks, it was found that diversity alone did not statistically correlate to success, but that there was an important moderator (or explanatory factor) between the two, which could be best described as inclusion.

In other words, with diversity, the job is half done. Inclusion and Equity form the remaining part of the job. Inclusion ensures that everybody feels welcomed, appreciated, and involved in the workplace. Equity ensures that the right support is granted for advancement, so inclusion can be nurtured for success. The outcome of the three is ideally, a sense of belonging.

If all that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is! Many moving parts have to work in tandem to create a successful DEI program in an organization. When writing on diversity and inclusion efforts that work, Harvard Business Review lists Collect, Count and Compare as number one. More on that in the next section.

The DEI Survey  

No matter where you are in your roadmap for developing a DEI program, the DEI survey will be a lynchpin that influences the program’s direction.

If you are just beginning to put a program together, you will need to account for the diversity that exists already. You will need to benchmark the current status of diversity within your organization.

If you are looking to shake up the program, you will need to know the existing opinions of it from different employee groups. You will need to measure current opinions and engagement levels.

If you are looking to merely run an existing program, then the quality of the existing measurement tool will be crucial, as it regularly informs company policies and initiatives to uphold the standards of the program.

As you can see from the above three scenarios, all roads lead to the DEI survey.

There is no DEI without people. To both account for the different kinds of people in your company, and to hear about their sentiments on different subjects, you will need to survey them.

How does one begin to approach the DEI survey then? We can write on it. But better yet, we can show it to you. In the following sections, we go over the different themes that are usually found in a DEI survey, and provide a sample of the typical questions or survey items for each.

Demographic Dimensions

A DEI survey is very unique, in that the sample is almost as important as the methodology and analysis. This is because you want all diverse groups in an organization to participate. After all, you want to measure sentiment from all. You do not want the survey to be yet another annual bureaucratic exercise that is done for the sake of completion.

You want to ask the following questions for each dimension to capture the diversity of your workforce.

Each dimension is followed by a survey question.

Race

Question: What racial/ethnic groups do you belong to? Select all that apply.

Gender Identity

Question: How do you describe your gender identity? Select all that apply. (Gender identity describes a person’s internal sense of gender, whether as a man, a woman, or something beyond the gender binary.)

Sexual Orientation

Question: How do you like to describe your sexual identity or sexual orientation? Select all that apply. (This describes a person’s physical, romantic, or emotional attraction to other people in the world.)

Disability Status 

Question: Do you identify as a person with a disability or are you a person with accessibility needs? Select all that apply.

While all demographic dimensions are important, pay particular attention to disability status. It may influence survey completion. Alternate forms of completion should be made accessible to anyone unable to take the survey online or on paper.

While race, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability status are great openers to measuring the demographic diversity of employees, it is by no means an exhaustive set of dimensions. To see 9 more of such demographic differentiators, please refer to this guide on employee diversity, equity, and inclusion surveys.

Again, some of these other dimensions covered in the guide may be crucial for understanding completion rates, such as language proficiency or level of literacy. So, it’s important that you are aware of them to cover the entire extent of your employee population, but also to drive participation in the first place where challenges may exist!

There is also the all-important geographic dimension which applies more to global companies with corporate offices in multiple regions of the world. But it can also apply to a large country like the USA or Canada, where there might be disparate experiences from different parts of the country.

Once you have a pulse on who your employees are, it’s time to understand how they feel.

22 DEI Questions - Wheelchair

Measure Sentiments

Measuring sentiment involves exploring the three major themes of the DEI survey, which are its namesakes. Diversity, Inclusion and Equity. Each theme typically uses a 5-point rating scale for each of its statements, also known as survey items.

The rating system is a tried and tested method used by researchers. The 5 point scale in particular is effective where respondents make an effort to distinguish between the options presented to them.

For each theme, the rating question is followed by three statements or survey items.  There are many more statements that can be added to the index of each theme to truly capture the sentiments for that theme. We have selected three examples.

Diversity

Question: On a scale from 1 to 5, where is 1 is Strongly Disagree and 5 is Strongly Agree, how would you rate the following statements?

Statement: “Name of your Organization” values diversity.

Statement: Leadership understands that diversity is critical to our future success.

Statement: “Name of your Organization” invests time and energy into building diverse teams.

Inclusion 

Question: On a scale from 1 to 5, where is 1 is Strongly Disagree and 5 is Strongly Agree, how would you rate the following statements?

Statement: I feel my unique background and identity (i.e. my differences) are valued at “Name of your Organization”.

Statement: I feel a sense of belonging at “Name of your Organization”.

Statement: I feel respected by my colleagues.

Equity 

Question: On a scale from 1 to 5, where is 1 is Strongly Disagree and 5 is Strongly Agree, how would you rate the following statements?

Statement: The process for career advancement/promotion is transparent to all employees.

Statement: People from all backgrounds and with a range of identities have equitable opportunities to advance their careers at “Name of your Organization”.

Statement: I feel supported in my career growth at “Name of your Organization”.

Once done with measuring Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity, you can compare each index to see where more efforts are needed. You can see what percentage of employees had a positive, neutral or negative response.

Furthermore, you can drill down for each theme, and see the actual variations of responses for each statement or survey item.

Also, as you’ve done the solid work of collecting data on the demographic dimensions, you can compare your DEI responses across all such fields. This way, you know what needs to be done, and for whom.

By layering the data this way, you remove any biases. In the truest sense, you practice what you preach in the DEI program, that is, you are considerate of the voices of all groups who represent your organization.

Are There More Themes? 

Yes. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are must-haves, but there are other issues that are serious enough to merit their own questions or survey items (statements). There is no definite pool to choose such themes from, it’s about what is relevant from studies and the experiences of employees.

Keep scrolling to see two more such themes, followed by either survey items (statements) or questions.

Racial Justice

Question: On a scale from 1 to 5, where is 1 is Strongly Disagree and 5 is Strongly Agree, how would you rate the following statements?

Statement: I believe “Name of your Organization” is a safe and supportive workplace for BIPOC individuals (Black, Indigenous, & People of Colour).

Statement: I feel comfortable talking about issues of racism on my team.

Statement: I know where to find resources to learn more about these issues.

Harassment and Discrimination

Question: Have you experienced any unwelcome comment(s) or conduct at “Name of your Organization” that you felt was offensive, embarrassing, or hurtful (e.g., inappropriate jokes, slurs, rumors, hurtful gossip, isolating behaviors)? Select all that apply.

Question: Have you experienced any discrimination (i.e., unfair, negative, or adverse treatment) at “Name of your Organization” based on one or more aspects of your background or identity (e.g., gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.)?

When coming up with any theme and their respective question sets or survey items, it is important to know how it aligns with your DEI goals. It starts with writing a DEI statement, which is popular these days with higher learning institutions. For companies, the diversity statement is more often used. Fewer organizations have actual Diversity and Inclusion offices, such as this one by Kellogg’s.

The impact of DEI policies and practices can be felt during different phases of an employee’s tenure at a company including hiring, recruitment, training, career development, etc.

It can also be felt in the different working relationships within the company, such as between an immediate supervisor and director, between colleagues in the same team, and between different departments in an organization.

A lot will ride on picking the right questions. Thus, we felt it was an important enough issue to share with you and provide actual DEI questions in circulation for current projects.

But by all means, do your due intelligence and pick more survey items to round up each theme. Or for non-rating questions as seen in the Harassment and Discrimination theme, pick more questions that you feel will strengthen the measuring efficiency of the theme.

22 DEI Questions - Boardroom

Open-ended Feedback

All the questions and items thus far have captured quantitative information, containing predetermined answer choices. The ranking scales have predetermined statements to voice an opinion, and are close-ended in nature.

It’s also important to make room in the survey for open-ended feedback. Richer details, feelings, and notions can be captured when the audience is given a chance to express themselves. Beyond picking an answer or ranking a statement, it allows them the opportunity to cover an aspect of their work experience that was perhaps missed.

Refer to the following question as an example for open-ended feedback.

Question: What is “Name of your Organization” doing well in terms of building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization? Please write your thoughts in the text box below.

Engagement 

Engagement is a different beast and deserved a section for itself. Why is that? It’s because when doing such surveys, you also have to take into account the fatigue and cynicism that may exist currently on such efforts. Diversity advocate and CEO of Awaken, Michelle Kim, lists it as the number 1 trend in the world of DEI.

There are surveys dedicated to just employee engagement, and leaders have a role to play in ensuring greater engagement from their workforce. Similarly, managers also need to work on their 1:1 relationships to elicit greater engagement.

But if you truly want to understand engagement, you may want to include it as a part of your DEI survey. It will reveal any underlying reason which could be positively or negatively affecting employee engagement throughout your whole organization.

Refer to the following question and three survey items below.

Question: How people feel about diversity, inclusion and equity inside the workplace can have an impact on employee engagement and organizational performance. On a scale from 1 to 5, where is 1 is Strongly Disagree and 5 is Strongly Agree, how would you rate these following statements?

Statement: I would recommend this organization as a great place to work.

Statement: My organization inspires me to give my very best at work.

Statement: I intend to be working at this organization a year from now.

Need for the Survey

In a cross-industry analysis performed by PwC, it was found out that over two-thirds of organizations state diversity to be a priority area, but only 26% of them had diversity and inclusion goals for leaders. There is also a disconnect between employees and business leaders when it comes to awareness of programs to build a more inclusive culture and the communication of messages around diversity and inclusion.

In short, not enough change is being mandated top-down. Even when efforts are being made, awareness and communication are falling through the cracks. By adopting a bottom-up survey approach, you are purposefully building awareness a driving communication. By collecting feedback, you are putting yourself in a better position to make the necessary changes while getting the leadership team involved.

Given DEI’s importance not just to HR, but to all stakeholders in an organization, it is important to conduct a baseline assessment of where things lie when it comes to being diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Hopefully, the questions and survey items presented in this article have been helpful to you. For more guidance, you can check out this template.

 

References

https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/services/people-organisation/global-diversity-and-inclusion-survey.html

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters

https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/consumer-business/welcome-to-gen-z.pdf

https://www.kelloggcompany.com/en_US/about-diversity.html

https://worktango.com/a-guide-to-employee-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-surveys/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/paologaudiano/2020/07/13/how-inclusion-improves-diversity-and-company-performance/?sh=5d750e256a65

https://hbr.org/2020/05/diversity-and-inclusion-efforts-that-really-work

https://uxpajournal.org/response-interpolation-and-scale-sensitivity-evidence-against-5-point-scales/

https://medium.com/awaken-blog/top-10-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-trends-and-recommendations-2020-and-beyond-65c170725e4f

https://worktango.com/2020/12/11/how-leadership-influences-employee-engagement-where-do-surveys-fit-in/

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