How to run a diversity survey for your company

TL;DR: Diversity surveys are a type of employee engagement survey. These surveys are an excellent way to get a pulse on how your company is doing when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion at work. It can be challenging to have these conversations with colleagues, so surveys help you get a high-level understanding of changes you can make. Besides, you’ll also gain insights into how to improve.

What is a diversity survey? What is the purpose of a diversity survey, and what should be included?

Did you know that only 55% of employees would agree that their workplace has policies that encourage diversity and inclusion? And that companies in the top quartile for diversity are 35% more likely to deliver better financial returns? These stats show that diversity isn’t just fun on paper. It creates tangible benefits for employers.

As generations become more diverse and the world finally begins to listen to underrepresented communities, we must take the time to understand and address issues related to diversity at work. Younger generations, in particular, want to see that your company can support them. And you must provide a diverse working environment to attract the best millennial and Gen-Z talent.

“If organizations don’t focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, they will be left behind. Hiring the best talent and keeping them engaged takes understanding how to relate to them and implementing those ideas.”

— Catharine Montgomery, social causes communications leader

Keep reading this people ops playbook to discover exactly how to run diversity surveys (or DEI surveys), analyze your data, and take action to support a more diverse workforce.

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Wann Sie dieses Playbook verwenden sollten

When to use
this playbook

This playbook aims to inspire and educate people ops/HR professionals and company leaders who would like to understand how they can best support diversity and inclusion within their organization.

You can use this playbook at various stages of your organization’s growth, but it’s important to start your company’s diversity surveying as early as possible. If this data is collected early in your company’s history, you will have more historical data to work with as you focus on hiring more people from diverse backgrounds.

If you aren’t a people ops professional or company leader, this playbook can help you advocate for more insight into diversity within your company. Use this playbook to lay out the steps the organization needs to take to understand diversity and inclusion across your workplace.

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Was Sie für dieses Playbook benötigen

What you’ll need for
this playbook


Diversity topics can be touchy for your employees, so you might have to dig deeper. Use it as a jumping-off point for more conversations.

A receptive culture

Building actionable plans will be challenging if your company can’t listen to the feedback it receives.

It’s difficult for employees from underrepresented groups to speak up if they fear they won’t be heard or their thoughts will be misconstrued. They have likely experienced much discrimination in their lives, and it can be hard to trust employers from the dominant culture.

It’s also not easy for leaders and employees to hear they may have been bad allies. Your company’s diversity survey will likely uncover harsh truths, and you need the right culture to act on criticism. Remember that feedback is meant to better your organization.

Hinweise & Tipps
  • Use various question types to keep employees engaged as they fill out their answers to your organization’s diversity survey. If you need to ask similar questions, consider grouping them into a matrix to make the process easier.
  • Data visualization is critical when delivering survey results. Make sure you take some time to visualize the results and follow the five-second rule: We only have about five seconds to convince someone that our visualizations are worthy of their time. Make sure that your charts pass the test. You can use employee engagement survey software to easily collect and visualize data.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions about survey results if you can’t get enough employees to take part. Surveys work best when we can get a majority of employees on board. You can’t make generalizations with only a few employees taking the survey. Encourage participation and follow up with your recommendations for the organization to vote on if you don’t get the participation you’d like.
  • Take inspiration from other organizations. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other companies in your community or industry to see how they approach diversity at work. We can always learn new things! For that, you might  want to join the People Over Perks Slack community, where other people ops professionals share all kinds of insights, including how they approach diversity.

How to run this People Ops Playbook:

Wie Sie dieses People Ops Playbook durchführen:

1. Get clear on the goals behind your diversity survey

Before you create your survey, you need to understand why you are putting effort into this project. Understanding your goals can help you craft the best questions and processes for running your survey and securing a high participation rate.

There are several reasons you might want to host a diversity survey. Here are a few goals you could consider:

  • To get a clear picture of what diversity looks like across your company and in specific departments;
  • To understand how your employees feel about diversity and inclusion;
  • To see any room for improvement, your organization has on the inclusion of diverse groups;
  • To get insight into where to allocate funds for employee resource groups or initiatives.

Once you’ve set 1–3 objectives for your survey, it’s time to go through the development process.

2. Think through the development of your survey

There are a couple of crucial things to consider when crafting your company’s diversity survey:

  • Length: How long do you want your survey to be? Ideally, employees will be able to give you the answers you need within 5–10 minutes. To pull that off, you need to keep questions concise and actionable.
  • Anonymity: You want employees to feel comfortable taking your survey. Diversity can be a touchy subject for people of all backgrounds. Take some time to consider how you will make the survey anonymous. With a tool like Leapsome, you can easily run anonymous surveys and set anonymity thresholds to further protect survey participants.
  • Inclusive language and instructions: You should strive to use inclusive language/instructions at all times, but this is even more crucial when building a survey that’s supposed to encourage people of all backgrounds to participate. Make sure that your language feels open and inclusive of people from different backgrounds.

3. Choose thoughtful, interesting questions that can be repeatable

Once you’ve thought through a structure for your survey, it’s time to create a list of thoughtful, interesting questions. The best survey questions are repeatable. You shouldn’t build a diversity survey so specific that you can’t repeat the same questionnaire annually. Use open-ended questions to gather more detailed, timely information.

Your first diversity survey should serve as a baseline for your team. Then, each year you host a diversity survey, you can begin to layer, compare, and contrast to get a fuller picture of diversity at your company.

Here are some survey questions you might ask employees:

  • [Company] does an excellent job of fostering a diverse and inclusive environment.
  • People from all backgrounds have equal opportunities to succeed at [company].
  • I feel like I belong at my company.
  • I know where to go if I need to report inappropriate jokes about race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disabilities, and I feel comfortable doing so.
  • I would recommend [company] to a friend or colleague who belonged to an underrepresented group.
  • [Company] does a good job planning and hosting diversity-related initiatives and training.
  • I feel like my personal beliefs and traditions are respected at [company].

When crafting survey questions, think about the answer choices you want to get from respondents. Some of these questions might be best as a 0–10 scale (with optional comments for more context). By adding sliding scales, you can get more color into what employees think.

Don’t be afraid to ask a few demographic questions if they don’t break anonymity — and to keep anonymity top of mind, you need to have enough people in that group to ask the question.

We suggest splitting your organization’s demographic survey (where you can learn more about the makeup of your organization) from your diversity survey. When you attach demographic data to your diversity survey, you can unintentionally create a situation that jeopardizes anonymity.

For example, if there is a small number of respondents from a particular race and you ask employees to identify theirs, it might be easy to triangulate who said what inside of that underrepresented group. Will people ops leaders try to do this? Probably not, but it could lower survey completion rates.

4. Pick a deadline and send reminders

As you send the survey, pick a deadline on when you’d like responses. Ideally, you want to give employees enough time to take the survey without rushing answers or letting it fall to the bottom of their to-do list. A typical survey deadline you’d likely see is 1–2 weeks from the initial outreach. Most of your responses will come in during the first few days.

You should send a reminder email (which can be automated with a survey tool) and share a reminder in the company’s Slack or all-hands meeting. Employees are busy, and they sometimes need to be reminded once or twice to check your survey off their to-do list.

Follow-up best practices for your company’s diversity survey

Analyze the information

You did it! You got information from your colleagues, but that’s only half the battle. The next step you have to take is analyzing the information. Take some time to analyze the data you got and make sure to highlight any important data or topics that need to be further explored or changed.

Don’t look at the surface information. Dig deeper to see any trends you can spot. For example, if you asked a demographic question, run the same analysis with a filter for those questions. You might find data for select groups that you don’t see in the cumulative data.

Last, follow up with an anonymous conversation (which a survey platform will allow you to do) if any part of the data feels unclear to you. It’s better to take a few minutes to clarify than miss an essential part of the results.

Take immediate action on glaring diversity issues

When analyzing survey results, you might have spotted an issue or two that needs immediate attention or action. Don’t be afraid to take some time to understand those results and take action where you need to. Connecting with other organization leaders to address major concerns is an immediate action you can take to show the worth of this survey process.

Catharine Montgomery is a leader in the strategic execution of communications services that blend the world’s differences in experiences and perspectives to achieve equality. She shared a bit about her own experience and learnings from running DEI surveys:

“After reviewing the data, I came away with concrete, actionable suggestions and solutions. I wasn’t sure exactly what learnings we would garner from the survey, but I knew I had to listen and find solutions to those learnings.

We specifically learned the importance of building open, honest two-way communication; being included in decision making; and fairness in promotions, raises, and pay equity.”

Share the information you collect with employees

Employees and company leaders love to see the results of surveys they take. Summarize any key points in a brief report or presentation. If you asked for demographic data, make sure that managers and employees have access to the specific data that impact them most. Challenges might be very different across the organization, and a more granular view could help.

When you close the feedback loop and share results with employees, they will be much more likely to fill out your next survey.

Make recommendations for any diversity changes that need to happen

The last follow-up best practice for diversity surveys is to make your final recommendations on what needs to happen next. Set these goals and make sure they align with where your organization wants to be in the future.

Here are some recommendations you might give based on the results you see in the survey:

  • Invest US$X into employee resource groups to support underrepresented groups;
  • Improve the hiring process to factor in diversity and inclusion using guided rubrics or removing details (including photos) from job applications;
  • Celebrate X diverse holidays per year;
  • Give employees the option to take holidays on days that matter to them instead of, for instance, religious holidays that they aren’t aligned with their beliefs;
  • Build a paid, diverse committee of employees to provide advice and work with leadership to improve workplace diversity;
  • Diversify company leadership by X% over the next X years;
  • Create a plan to host a recurring diversity survey to spot trends, follow up on initiatives, and build a more inclusive workplace.

⭐️ Would you like to learn more about how you can create an engagement action plan and use surveys to boost employee engagement and build a better workplace? Learn how to run an employee engagement survey and access our free pack with 72 employee engagement survey questions. 😉

Leverage the power of analytics to improve diversity, equity & inclusion at your company

Leapsome is the only platform that closes the loop between performance management, employee engagement, and learning. 

Running a diversity survey in your company is an essential step to becoming a more inclusive environment. Watch this video to learn about the easy set-up process of survey questionnaires within Leapsome.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is diversity?

Diversity is a term coined to describe the state of being varied. Diversity comes in all shapes and sizes. You could be talking about gender identity, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, language, and so much more. When employees from different backgrounds come to one place to work, it creates an environment unlike any other. Diverse groups can consider a wide range of information and ideas, and that’s what makes diversity awesome.

What does DEI mean?

DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. It can be easy to mix these terms up or try to use them interchangeably. Each part of DEI is important to create an environment where underrepresented groups can thrive at your company. People ops/HR professionals use the term to describe all the activities that help organizations create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture at work.

  • Diversity: Diversity addresses all the ways that we can differ from one another. Companies trying to understand diversity at work may try to increase the diversity at the table. Diversity is a great starting point, but you need equity and inclusion to make it stick.
  • Equity: Equity acknowledges that we all come from different backgrounds. Some groups might need more resources to level the playing field and ensure that they can participate fully in work. Equity helps break down barriers so that people from all backgrounds can succeed at work.
  • Inclusion: The concept of inclusion shows that getting more underrepresented employees doesn’t solve the problem over night. Some of your employees may struggle to feel included or they may feel tokenized. Inclusion encourages companies to take a look at how people from underrepresented groups are treated or supported in the workplace.

There are other variations of this term like JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) or just D&I (Diversity and Inclusion). All of these acronyms hope to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, even if they have different ways of saying it.

What’s the impact of DEI, and how to approach DEI in a survey?

Great DEI can positively impact an organization. Diverse company cultures are more productive, innovative, and creative. Approaching DEI in a survey can seem tricky, but getting high-level numbers can help you understand where to drill in and spend 1:1 time or energy. Use your survey to understand the big picture and notice any immediate need for improvements. After that, work on the smaller work experiences that need more subtle enhancements. Before you know it, you’ll be creating a culture your team loves.

What should be included in a diversity survey?

Diversity surveys can be wide-ranging depending on your survey goals and where your organization is. At the least, include questions about how leaders and employees handle diversity at work and get to know what employees think of your current diversity programs. Be sure to leave some open-ended space for notes, feedback, questions, and concerns.

Should diversity surveys be anonymous?

Having an anonymous diversity survey is crucial. As your organization grows, you might not have a massive number of people in any minority group. By asking about further details like race, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc., you could create a situation where people’s answers are easily spotted. If employees feel like their privacy isn’t being considered, you might run into a low response rate, or staff members might give you answers that don’t get to the root of workplace issues.

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