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Measuring Diversity and Inclusion in Your Business with Network Analysis

Improving the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) starts with improving understanding of DE&I within your organization. One way to gauge your understanding of your organization’s DE&I climate is by being able to accurately answer questions relevant to the DE&I effort. This can be done by measuring diversity and inclusion in your business with network analysis. Figuring out questions that start with “what?” Is probably the easiest. For example, some common what questions might include:

  • What does my organization’s diversity look like?
  • What important employee outcomes (e.g., retention, promotions) show differences across demographic groups?
  • What attitudes (e.g. satisfaction, fairness, relationship with manager) are the most important for your organization’s DE&I climate?

Measuring Diversity and Inclusion in Your Business

These questions can be answered by launching a DE&I climate survey – which is an excellent first step to finding a baseline for DE&I goal setting and taking a pulse of employee attitudes related to DE&I. However, many questions that start with where, how, and why are more difficult to answer, especially with only HR data.

  • Where is the diversity within my organization’s work teams and communities?
  • How do interactions between coworkers contribute to inclusivity?
  • Why are there disproportionate rates of internal promotions across demographic groups?

Another type of data, called network data, involves information about relationships and/or interactions between employees. Network data includes two primary data points: nodes (i.e. employees) and edges/links (i.e. relationships between employees). Read more about network data and graph databases here. These relationships can be gathered from email communications or through asking questions on a survey such as “list the top 5 people you collaborate with.” Network data is much better suited for providing insights and answers to the where, how, and why of DE&I.

Where is the Diversity Within My Organization’s Work Teams and Communities?

The diversity of an organization as a whole can be misleading. Sometimes diversity can be siloed into specific work teams or informal communities. While an organization may seem diverse at the surface level, a lack of inclusivity can result in clusters of individuals of similar demographic characteristics. Fortunately, network analysis provides ways of identifying these clusters through a process called community detection. Community detection attempts to find groups that have more relationships among other members in the group than to members outside the group. Once the communities of an organization’s interaction network are identified, diversity can be examined within each of them as if they are individual organizations.

How do Interactions Between Coworkers Contribute to Inclusivity?

The frequency and intensity of interactions between employees can provide insights into how inclusivity (or a lack thereof) is unfolding within an organization. While there are many ways measuring diversity and inclusion are possible, one simple approach using network data is to compare the proportion of minority groups in an organization to the proportion of relationships in the network that include a minority group member. When the interactions to, or from, a minority member make up a smaller proportion of the total organization’s interactions than would be expected by the proportion of minority group membership, there may be a lack of inclusivity.

Why are There Disproportionate Rates of Internal Promotions Across Demographic Groups?

Network data can also provide insights to why we see certain associations in DE&I data. Consider an organization with fewer minority group members receiving promotions that what should be expected based on promotions. Network analysis can reveal patterns between employees and managers and whether these patterns can explain differences in rates of promotions across demographic characteristics. For example, a network analysis can examine whether promotions are more likely when employees have strong and/or frequent interactions with managers in higher positions and whether these interactions are more (or less) likely when there are similar demographic characteristics between the employee and the manager.

Network analysis is quickly becoming a necessity as data becomes more and more connected. DE&I data is no different, especially with how central interactions, communication, and collaboration is for the overall climate of inclusion in an organization. Gaining an understanding of the where, how, and why of DE&I through network analysis is the key for turning DE&I insights into action.

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Contributions by Sam Wilgus

Tags: Diversity + Inclusion