Updated: May 27, 2020
“What gets measured gets done,” the well-loved and well-worn cliché has lost its meaning, as clichés tend to do. W. Edwards Deming, the American engineer and statistician coined the phrase when he was consulting governments from the US to post-war Japan on data modeling. In a world where data is king, “what gets measured gets done,” has served as a justification for data as a solution rather than a tool. Data is nothing more than information. Information helps us to understand and solve problems, but data itself is not a solution.
The data we need should be informed by the nature of the problem we’re solving. Quantitative data collection makes sense when you’re measuring sales to grow your business or gauging markets to consider where to expand, but how do you measure the experiences of people? Businesses everywhere are falling into a trap if they think they can use “business solutions” to “tackle diversity and inclusion.”
How do you measure the immeasurable? Is the progress of a company on diversity and inclusion to be measured by people or are people to be measured by the progress of a company? How do we measure “diversity and inclusion” as so many businesses are striving to do? I ask these questions not to propose that it’s impossible, but rather that we can’t think of D&I as a problem to be solved, but rather as an end goal.
The way I see it, companies will be more diverse, with employees representing varied genders, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexualities and abilities when these communities feel equally included. A company that creates a truly inclusive environment through its hiring practices, company culture, and review and promotion processes will theoretically be a more diverse one. How does a company create such an environment? It starts with understanding the individual experiences of diverse employees. This may be as simple as “How do you feel when you arrive at work each day? Do you feel included at your workplace?”
The answers to these questions are not measurable, but they do provide valuable data, they provide information. Asking these questions isn’t easy because more likely than not, in a company that feels it has a “diversity and inclusion problem,” the answers will be hard to hear.
Whilst working as a property agent in London, I observed how the industry lacked diversity, from entry level roles through to senior leadership positions and particularly in many central London locations. I was the only Black man in most of the rooms I walked into and that meant feeling a sense of inclusion was always difficult for me. There were very few people I had met that had the vision or goal to change that.
Companies that are truly committed to the end goal of diversity and inclusion need to do the work of asking “how do you feel to work here?” It may not seem like hard data. But when we can change a negative response to a positive one through a commitment to creating inclusive workplaces, that’s something to measure.
Frank Starling is Founder and MD of Variety Pack