Using Survey Data to Drive Inclusion and Leader Accountability
Dell Technologies is a leading global end-to-end technology provider with over 130,000 employees. We have a comprehensive portfolio of IT hardware, software and services solutions spanning both traditional infrastructure and emerging, multi-cloud technologies. But beyond being a technology provider, our overarching purpose is to drive human progress. In 2019, we put forth our vision for how we will drive this commitment through 2030 and beyond, using our reach, technology, and people to create a positive, lasting impact on humankind and the planet. We established our focus on advancing sustainability, transforming lives, cultivating inclusion, and upholding ethics and privacy. We provide goals across each of these areas, which we will use to build our social impact strategy over the next decade. Regarding inclusion, we set ourselves two goals: By 2030, (1) 50% of our global workforce and 40% of our global people leaders will identify as women and (2) 25% of our U.S. workforce and 15% of our U.S. people leaders will identify as Black/African American or Hispanic/Latino.
This case study represents one of the submissions for i4cp's 2023 Next Practice Awards, winners will be honored at the i4cp 2023 Next Practices Now Conference. You can also view other Next Practice Award case studies.
In 2020, the United States experienced a racial reckoning, driven by a series of discriminatory and traumatizing events that occurred such as the horrific murder of George Floyd. These unsettling events made salient the many social injustices in our world and highlighted to organizations the importance of strengthening diversity and inclusion efforts. Results of an i4cp survey showed that in the wake of George Floyd’s death, at least 70% of organizations planned to take action to address racial inequities.
Further, the tech industry historically has a lack of diversity, with many groups being severely underrepresented in the workforce. According to 2019 estimates from the U.S. EEOC, just 7.4% of tech employees in were Black (compared to 14.4% in overall private industry), 8% were Latinx (compared to 14% in overall private industry), and 36% were women (compared to 48% in overall private industry). Further, 68% of respondents to Wiley’s 2019 survey of early career tech workers said they felt uncomfortable in their role as a result of their gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background or neurodevelopmental condition. At Dell Technologies, we aimed to further amplify diversity and inclusion as part of our daily principles and hold our workforce and key stakeholders accountable for living out inclusive practices as we work towards our 2030 goals. We also aimed to capture employee sentiment about how we were doing in reaching goals.
Solution – Scope & Innovation
At Dell Technologies, fostering diversity and inclusion among the workforce has been part of the business imperative for many years. We named our first diversity officer in 2000 and communicated our Cultivating Inclusion goals externally in 2019. Still, we knew there was more work to be done. Therefore, we acted on our commitment to inclusion in two ways: first, by elevating its presence in our Culture Code (i.e., Dell’s EVP) and second, by incorporating an Inclusion Index into our annual engagement survey (Tell Dell), which is a key listening tool we use to drive action across the organization. Although we have always asked questions about diversity and inclusion, we knew we could better enable cross-level accountability by creating a formal section for inclusion in our survey and resulting leader reports. This would ultimately ensure every team member had a voice and every leader was held accountable for having conversations about building a more inclusive team culture.
First, our HR team led enhancements to Dell’s Culture Code, taking care to ground this work in three research phases: external benchmarking, analyses of external trends, and internal validation. In phase one, research from McKinsey and Company was referenced, which included six inclusion indicators that assess effectiveness at shaping inclusive experiences and 14 inclusion levers which assess actions and behaviors. In phase two, we examined other companies’ value statements and studied empirical articles to further our understanding of the inclusion construct. In phase three, we led focus groups across the company to ensure words, language, and phrases resonated with our employees. As part of the updates to our Culture Code, we added a “Who We Are” statement and updated our five Values and seven Leadership Principles to include inclusive behaviors. These new inclusive behaviors became the foundation for our Tell Dell Inclusion Index.
The initial questions in our Tell Dell Inclusion Index stemmed from three sources. First, questions from previous years that were used to measure the impact of diversity and inclusion on the business were revisited; second, questions were pulled from benchmarking available through the Information Technology Survey Group; and third, internal Industrial and Organizational (I-O) psychologists drafted new questions based on the inclusive behaviors mentioned above. As part of the design process, I-O psychologists ensured each survey question mapped onto one of our inclusive behaviors. All questions were then thoroughly reviewed with key stakeholders across the globe, including our Culture, Diversity & Inclusion team.
Prior to being launched as part of the annual survey, the Tell Dell Inclusion Index was piloted during our November 2020 Pulse Survey that was sent to approximately 50% of the company. In addition to testing 16 inclusion questions, the Pulse Survey sought to gather context that could aid in refining the questions. For example, follow-up comment prompts accompanied several questions to gain a better understanding of team member experiences in relation to inclusion.
Following the Pulse Survey, a series of psychometric analyses were conducted (i.e., analyses to assess item variability, construct validity, criterion validity, and content validity) to determine which questions were best to retain in the final Index. Following these analyses, the questions were refined to create the 2021 Tell Dell Inclusion Index, which was translated into 27 languages.
Additional questions were also added to the 2021 survey to better understand team member involvement in our Employee Resources Groups, participation in mentoring and sponsorship, and perceptions about our leaders’ commitment to diversity and inclusion. After the 2021 survey, the Tell Dell team continued to collect feedback and iterate on the Inclusion Index; these continuous enhancements led to a refined 9-question 2022 Inclusion Index.
Results & Impact
Our 2021 Inclusion Index allowed us to gather insights to show inclusion not only drives employee experience but also productivity. For example, our question about being successful as your authentic self was the top driver of employee engagement, and those who felt they did not have to change who they are to fit in at work had a 170% increase in overall engagement. We also saw that almost all of those favorable on all Inclusion Index questions said the productivity of their team had increased or remained the same since transitioning to work remotely. Having this data available was instrumental for demonstrating the impact of inclusion on key metrics that are important to our business and provided concrete examples to leaders about the benefits of fostering an inclusive environment.
This past year, we examined changes in Inclusion Index scores from 2021 to 2022. At the question level, almost all of repeated questions showed score improvements, with three questions showing an increase of 5% points or greater. Improvements in scores were also seen across all demographic groups. At an overall Index level, we saw a 4% increase in the percentage of team members who answered all questions favorably. Further, our question related to authentic self not only continued to be a top driver of engagement but also was a top driver of intent to stay at our company.
Lastly, we’ve also seen a tangible impact on our leaders. From 2021 to 2022, there was an almost 10-point jump in leaders being at or above our internal standard for excellent performance on our Inclusion Index. We see this as a direct example of leaders spending time working with their teams over the last year to foster a more inclusive environment. To further drive accountability, leaders who scored below an internal threshold in 2021 engaged in supportive consultations with our HR team and had targeted conversations about how to meaningfully take action to improve.
In looking at these leaders’ scores a year later, the vast majority of our leaders saw an improvement in their Inclusion Index scores, with an average increase of 21 percentage points. Without this addition of the Inclusion Index, these leaders may have missed opportunities to provide the best experience for their team.
Updates to our Culture Code and Tell Dell Inclusion Indexes help us drive our social impact strategy forward. Efforts are underway to further emphasize our Culture Code throughout the hiring process to aid in identifying candidates that can add to our culture and bring unique perspectives. The Tell Dell team will continue to refine our inclusion questions in the coming years. Plans are currently being outlined for more research studies, including conducting focus groups to uncover additional topics to add to our Index as well as identifying benchmarking to track our progress both internally and externally. We also intend to further expand our support materials to empower leaders to act on their survey results. We are excited to continue building on our momentum as we work to advance human progress for all.