In the workplace, inclusion means having an environment where all team members feel welcome and safe. Workplace inclusion is not just about having diversity in leadership and across the organization, but also about creating an environment where everyone can be the most open and true version of themselves without fear of exclusion. It’s about being fair when decision making comes into play, and creating a place where communication is open and honest. Inclusion at work means that all team members trust that they can share their thoughts and opinions, and it shows that people in the organization create a sense of belonging for all.
It’s no surprise then that organizations that value workplace inclusion see more success than those that don’t. According to research by the Josh Bersin Academy, the largest HR professional development network in the world, inclusive companies are 1.7 times more innovative and have 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee.
While an inclusive workplace is obviously essential for success, one of the biggest challenges with inclusion is measuring it. How do you measure a feeling? How do you measure the trust that employees have with their organization, and the sense of belonging they feel at work? Many companies have attempted to measure inclusion, including PMI, who is working with the Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland on a yearlong research partnership called Inclusive Future to study how inclusion currently is measured and how this should evolve to drive impact. In July 2021, PMI’s Chief Diversity Officer, Silke Muenster, sat down for a virtual chat alongside Josefine van Zanten, the Chief Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Officer at IMD, to talk about measuring and building inclusion in the workplace. “I’m a true believer that if you want to make inclusion and diversity a business imperative, you need to treat diversity and inclusion as a part of the business in the same way as other parts of the business as well,” says Muenster. “You have to define KPIs [key performance indicators], and you have to measure your progress constantly. What gets measured gets done.”
In order to attempt to measure inclusion, IMD’s cooperation with PMI is based on a three-phase process. The first phase, which is taking place currently, is looking at how inclusion is being measured today and asking the questions: What are some of the academic frameworks out there? What are some of the best practices out there? What is happening inside PMI? “We’re speaking to some people inside the organization for this part,” says van Zanten. “The first part really is a compilation of what is out there and why it’s not working.” The second phase, which takes place towards the end of November, asks the question “has the evolution in society in the last 18 months impacted the way we need to measure inclusion?” It will also try to discover what leaders need to do to create an inclusive environment in these turbulent times. “The last 18 months have affected just about everything we can think of, and there is no doubt in my mind, without even seeing the results ahead of time, that the way we measure and talk about inclusion will have been impacted by this very difficult time,” says van Zanten. The third and final phase will look at how to measure inclusion successfully to have a real impact on inclusive cultures and diversity. Van Zanten says the team will look at tools to translate the outcome of the research, and look at what defines an inclusive leader. “Currently, we’re spending a phenomenal amount of time doing research and collecting information, and the good part of this project is that the researcher and I stay in touch with our colleagues at PMI on a regular basis to exchange information and think together to challenge each other,” van Zanten says.
By the end of this yearlong partnership, Muenster says she hopes that PMI has a framework and a tool that they truly believe in to measure inclusion, and that they can use this tool to measure the inclusion index at PMI, which will help the company to put targets in place and increase the accountability of leaders. “I also think that having a measure for inclusion makes it more tangible for all employees,” she says, “because you’re not only measuring the representation of minority groups and women, but you’re talking about something that everybody understands has a benefit for them.” “Having an inclusive culture is really a tangible benefit for all employees. I’m 100% convinced this will yield better business results over time, and make people even more happy.”