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5 ways to measure and prioritize DEI initiatives

Written by: Sophie Warwick.

Making the decision to invest in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is the easy part. The harder, and seemingly overwhelming part is how to build an effective plan to achieve those long-term goals. How do you turn “build a more inclusive workplace for women that promotes retention of top talent” into small, actionable items? Furthermore, how do I prioritize each program efficiently to ensure positive change is continually being made? If you want to make real change, you need to understand how to effectively evaluate your outputs.

These are my top 5 tips for measuring and prioritizing your DEI goals to ensure you’re on the right track to make real, and meaningful change.

1. Measure the efficacy of the individual policies, not just the long-term goals. More employers are recognizing the value of implementing specific targets to ensure they reach their DEI goals. However, what is often forgotten is an understanding of the efficacy of the individual policies and initiatives used to achieve those goals. For example, if I were launching a new marketing campaign for a product, I wouldn’t have my metrics for the campaign as “increase revenue this year.” That may be one result of a successful campaign, but it’s not an effective measurement of the campaign itself. At the same time my business may also be attending tradeshows, launching new products, or growing our service region, all of which are also contributing to an increase in revenue. Instead, it would be more meaningful to measure specific metrics of the product marketing, like interactions of the campaign.

DEI is no different. If you’re using the budget, time, and resources to launch this program, you need to know how well it’s working. For example, your long-term goal may be to increase representation of women at a senior level. A strategy you may be using to achieve that is introducing a minimum number of women be put forward for annual promotions. In this case, you'll want to track gender representation at a senior level year over year and you’ll want to measure efficacy of that specific program. I’d recommend also tracking metrics such as:

  • The number of successful promotions from the more equitable candidate pool. Is representation in the pool translating to successful promotions, or is additional bias disruption required at the assessment phase?

  • Retention of women who are entered into the candidate pool and who are successfully promoted. Is more support needed to retain women long-term once they achieve that promotion?

  • Gender representation of the candidate pool. Is this also growing with increases in women leaders?

2. Know your budget at the start. Cost is the most common metric considered when analyzing what policy changes are successfully launched. I would recommend allocating an annual budget for DEI and retention projects. Fostering an inclusive environment and implementing successful gender equity programs are typically achieved in many small steps over multiple years as opposed to one sweeping program launch. Companies are desperate to retain top talent and support their employees but can sometimes be immobilized by the total cost required for an overhaul.

Breaking the project into small, manageable changes over multiple years can make it much more digestible and attainable. Additionally, it can allow HR and DEI teams to work more effectively with their budgets rather than hitting roadblocks for each project. Not to mention, it’s much easier to manage a similar cost amortized over multiple years from a cashflow perspective.

3. Allocate the appropriate resources. Capacity for new projects is always challenging, and arguably now more than ever when rates of burnout are high. Who will be responsible for doing the work and how much time is required to complete the project? I recommend creating a tracking sheet that includes a total number of hours for each project, the assumed team member(s) to complete it, and the estimated time for delivery. This table can help create a workflow for each contributor to ensure the time required for DEI is built into their existing work responsibilities.

Too often DEI initiatives are added to the top of already busy schedules as additional work. This approach can increase the risk of burning out the employees you’re trying to retain. Consider either spreading the work over a longer period or between more team members.

4. Determine your lead time. Once you understand the resources required to launch the program you will also need to review any potential lead time to launch it. Asking important questions during this process will help strategize when an appropriate time would be to launch the program. Completing this process for multiple initiatives can help prioritize those items within a multi-year plan. Some questions you may ask in this process are:

  • Is feedback required internally to make the program most effective? For example, if this is a mentorship program, do employees want to be assigned mentors or find their own?

  • Is there a date of significance that would be appropriate to align the launch with? For example, you may want to launch on International Women’s Day if there isn’t already too much planned that day.

  • Is approval needed from senior leadership? Has this type of initiative been approved already in your original budget allocation or is an additional approval process required?

5. Determine your communications strategy. For larger changes, a communications strategy may be required to engage employees in the reasoning for this change. This ensure that employees are well informed on how any program changes function and can also include change management initiatives that may require open and honest conversations. For example, if you’re launching an affirmative action program that stipulates a minimum number of resumes from women, you may require communication on affirmative action, as it has a history of being a misunderstood, and therefore sometimes polarizing, program. Read our article 4 myths about affirmative action for more information.

In either case, clearly explain 1) why the decision was made, 2) how it contributes to long-term goals, 3) who’s championing it and how to contact them with questions, 4) when it will launch, and 5) include any details on how the new policy or program will work.


The Thoughtful Co advises on making real, measured change. We conduct a detailed review of your current practices and policies and leave you with a concise list of actionable items. We understand resource constraints, so we categorize our recommendations by: time & cost to implement, planning required for launch, and change management. You can start with the simple ones while still feeling confident with your plan for future years. If you’d like to learn more about our Gender Equity & Retention Services to help you retain top talent, specifically women, email us today at


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