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A Step towards Measuring the 'I' in DEI

Lorie Valle-Yanez, head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, MassMutual

Lorie Valle-Yanez, head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, MassMutual

Some say that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is a movement. I call it table stakes and welcome today’s thrust of energy and focus on building diverse, equitable and inclusive companies and communities.

In our experience, the ability to measure progress is paramount to making a difference, and perhaps the most challenging element to measure is the “I” in DEI, or ‘inclusion.’ Being well over a decade into our DEI journey at Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), we are just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to measuring inclusion. 

At the core of our measurement approach for inclusion in the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), an academically validated instrument that measures cultural competence. The IDI rates an individual’s ability to understand his or her orientations toward cultural differences and commonalities and navigate cross-cultural challenges. It measures where you think you are compared to where you actually are.

We have used the IDI as our collective metric of inclusion since 2015, recognizing that culturally competent leaders have the self-awareness and skills to create inclusive cultures where everyone thrives. As part of the IDI process, leaders are provided with 1-1 coaching as well as a personalized development plan which includes ideas about how to close the gap between belief and behavior – or in IDI terms, how to move along the spectrum towards greater cultural competence. Our goal is to move our leaders to the highest levels – acceptance and adaptation.

The IDI measures and recognizes individuals according to their beliefs and behaviors across five stages of competency:

1. Denial: Recognizes more observable cultural differences (eg: food, traditions) but may not notice deeper cultural differences (eg: conflict resolution styles); may avoid or withdraw from cultural differences.
2. Polarization: Views cultural differences judgmentally, in terms of us vs. them.
3. Minimalization: Highlights cultural commonality and universal values and principles.
4. Acceptance: Recognizes and appreciates patterns of cultural difference and commonality in one’s own and other cultures.
5. Adaptation: Capable of shifting cultural perspective and changing behavior in culturally appropriate and authentic ways.

We’re committed to continuing to move leaders to acceptance or adaptation on the IDI continuum, and in conjunction with initiatives designed to challenge our unconscious biases and foster inclusion, we’ve seen significant improvements. In 2015, we invested in building culturally competent and inclusive leaders through education centered on allyship with the goal of helping leaders– particularly white men and women – understand the impact of bias and systemic privilege while underscoring their role as allies in the journey. And in 2017, we made increasing workforce diversity a measure of performance, creating accountability among every person and at every level.

Today, we are proud to report that 50 percent of MassMutual’s senior leaders and 41 percent of all other leaders across MassMutual score at the highest level on the IDI, compared to only 15 percent of individuals in the general population. Furthermore, we have seen sustained increases in cultural competence in nearly every organization across the company.

We certainly have more work to do to continue to develop the cultural competence to achieve greater inclusivity – and we are up for the challenge. Measurable tools that track progress toward inclusion while creating shared accountability for change will be critical to collectively moving us – and others – toward a more inclusive and equitable society for all.

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