Are You Looking at Your Employee Survey Data Through Rose-Colored Glasses?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are critical components for any successful organization. The business case for diversity is clear and has been for years now; research has shown that diverse teams are more innovative, make better decisions, and achieve better financial results than homogenous ones. But to know how well your organization is doing at DEI, you need to find some way to measure your performance. One-way organizations can do this is by conducting employee engagement surveys, which is an excellent way to learn how your employees rate your firm’s DEI efforts.

However, care should be taken when analyzing all that data you have on your hands once that survey closes. Oftentimes organizations only analyze this data in aggregate, throwing all the respondents into one pool and reporting out metrics on what the whole employee base thinks. Seems simple enough, right? Why wouldn’t you want everyone in one pool?

While pooling all responses into a single large group may be the simplest approach, you lose a great deal of nuance in the information you get back, and ultimately, you’ll be doing a disservice to your diverse employees. Why is this? Consider the basic demographic reality of the United States, with white people comprising most of the population. Consequently, it’s quite likely that the workforce in your own organization is predominantly white itself. This means that any employee engagement survey you conduct will have a majority-White response group, and quite likely by a significant margin.

What does that all mean for your survey results? When you look at your survey data in aggregate, the responses of your diverse employees are likely being lost in a sea of white responses. This masks the opinion of employees who are more likely to be marginalized or dissatisfied at your organization, because your white respondents are far likelier to rate your organization positively.

To avoid overlooking marginalized employees in engagement surveys, organizations must take a targeted approach to data analysis. Rather than relying only on aggregate data, organizations should disaggregate the data by race, ethnicity, gender, and other demographics. This approach will allow organizations to identify trends and areas for improvement that may be unique to different groups. It’s not the easiest or most straightforward approach, but it’s ultimately the most informative, and makes sure that your diverse employees are still being heard. This, in turn, will lead to better business outcomes and a more equitable and just workplace.

Shouldn’t that be something we all want?

Lynn Freshour is a Research Director and reigning data nerd at GVC, an inclusion business strategy firm, as well as at Insight Squad, a DEI data analytics firm. To learn more, visit

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