Employee Listening: A Key Part of Your Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategy

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is becoming an increasingly critical component to business success, given its importance to employees and impact on key outcomes such as turnover. What remains elusive to many is how to gather employee feedback on DEI and what issues matter most.  

When building your DEI strategy, employee listening helps you start off on strong footing. Capturing employee feedback is essential to:

  • Understanding employee perceptions
  • Uncovering the true meaning behind your employee voice so you can validate what’s working and improve upon what’s not
  • Creating a sense of belonging and a foundation of respect by giving everyone a voice

When you use employee listening to gain perspective on what is happening at all levels of the organization, you can take strategic action aligned with your vision and goals.


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Quantum Workplace and The Kaleidoscope Group partner to provide our clients access to enhanced employee listening, performance feedback, workforce analytics, and deep subject matter expertise in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). 

Quantum Workplace’s employee success platform empowers organizations to understand and improve employee experience, inspire employee impact, and create a magnetic culture. The Kaleidoscope Group is a full-service DEI consulting firm with 30 years of proven experience guiding clients through organizational transformation through tangible DEI actions.


Is employee listening as simple as an engagement survey?

Most people think of employee listening as an engagement survey. And while engagement is important, employee listening encompasses much more. But it is hard for leaders to know where to focus their efforts without a strategic approach to employee feedback.

Developing an employee listening strategy is a more intentional process than simply plugging in the same engagement survey year after year. An effective strategy requires first identifying key issues your organization is facing, then developing relevant content and gathering feedback just in time to take action on that learning and effectively address the issues.

This is especially true for DEI, which is becoming a key component of employee listening. Nearly 80% of workers say that they want to work for a company that values DEI. And more than three out of four job seekers and employees report that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.

Recent research has also found toxic workplace culture to be a primary driver of employee attrition during the Great Resignation. What’s more, many key predictors of attrition are directly related to DEI: diverse representation, fair treatment, feeling welcomed and respected, and being included in key decisions.

An annual engagement survey won’t be able to capture all the nuances of these factors. That’s why incorporating DEI into your employee listening strategy is crucial.


What is the best way to gather employee feedback on DEI?

While a variety of tools can be used in DEI analytics, employee surveys are one of the most common employee listening strategies. 

For some organizations, mounting a sustainable approach to DEI—with meaningful activities and initiatives connected to broader goals—may feel like an impossibly complex endeavor. This challenge can be magnified by the fact that there is no universal DEI plan. Everyone is facing different challenges and has different strengths to leverage, so what works for one organization won’t necessarily work for another.

A robust survey that incorporates all elements that fuel DEI in the workplace is best for these situations. In these cases, leaders want a deeper, more thorough diagnosis of DEI issues at their organization to get measurable data that will help guide them in making long-term decisions with greater positive impact.


What is a DEI survey?

A DEI survey is an in-depth employee survey that helps organizations diagnose their strengths and weaknesses in areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Unlike general employee engagement surveys, DEI surveys focus only on areas related to DEI, which helps organizations to identify issues and opportunities with greater precision. This empowers leaders to develop effective strategies and implement meaningful solutions to achieve their DEI goals.


Difference Between DEI and Employee Engagement Surveys

Employee engagement surveys and DEI surveys have similarities, but they are distinct in purpose and application.

Engagement Surveys

While an engagement survey may include some questions related to diversity, equity, and inclusion—which certainly impact engagement—these surveys are designed to give you a true measure of employee engagement more broadly. This can include questions about:

  • Trust in leadership
  • Team dynamics
  • Manager effectiveness
  • Future outlook
  • Communication and resources
  • Career growth and development

An engagement survey might touch on a few DEI questions, but without a more extensive DEI survey, you can’t build a solid understanding of your DEI baseline.


DEI Surveys

DEI surveys are more narrow in scope. These surveys are specifically written to understand DEI experiences on a granular level. This helps leaders pinpoint how employees feel, what their experiences are, and how different initiatives (or lack thereof) may be impacting those perceptions.

Overall, engagement surveys and DEI surveys have minimal intersection in their purpose and questions. And where they do intersect, they generally approach topics from different angles.

That is why it is important to use these surveys in the right context with the right questions. Otherwise, you’ll collect irrelevant information that you cannot leverage.


What Are the Benefits of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Survey?

DEI surveys give you a stronger understanding of your employees’ opinions related to DEI commitment, goals, and initiatives than you can achieve from a broader engagement survey.

With a DEI survey, you can:

  • Identify your organization’s DEI strengths and opportunities
  • Look at data from different angles to understand differing perspectives
  • Uncover meaning behind employee perceptions
  • Take meaningful action that drives results
  • Effectively measure progress

DEI surveys go beyond a high-level engagement survey, which may only include a few general questions related to inclusion, to provide in-depth data on employee perceptions of DEI.

This empowers leaders to not only answer questions like “Why are people leaving the company?” with greater precision, but also develop strategies that successfully address those issues.

Without reliable DEI survey data to ground your efforts upfront, your DEI program is more likely to be rudderless and, therefore, largely ineffective.


What are the best questions to ask in a DEI survey?

Asking the right questions is critical to gathering useful and actionable employee feedback on DEI. Unfortunately, there is no one magical list of DEI questions every organization must ask. Relevant survey content depends much on what decisions need to be made regarding DEI.

For instance, are you trying to:

  • Take a quick temperature check to know if DEI might be a challenge?
  • Understand what DEI-related issues matter most to your employees, and how you are currently performing on these, to guide DEI strategy and action planning?
  • Measure ongoing progress against your DEI goals and initiatives?

Many employee engagement surveys include some items related to DEI, such as belonging. Or they may only include high-level, temperature check items such as “To what degree do you feel your company is inclusive of all employees?”

These are not necessarily bad survey items, but most often, they do not provide enough insight to provide actionable direction for an organization just starting its DEI journey to determine what types of DEI support and actions are needed.

Once an organization has the foundational understanding of what DEI issues matter most to their employees, and they have developed sustainable DEI plans and goals, they may desire to develop pulse surveys or a relevant DEI index to include in their engagement survey, to measure progress over time.



DEI is becoming increasingly more important to employees. It should be a key consideration in developing an employee listening strategy. And employee listening can support DEI strategy development, using data to drive actions with impact.

Ultimately, everyone is in a different place with DEI. No one has the same goals or set of supporting actions and initiatives. So it is important to measure what matters most to your organization, to better understand if it's having the intended impact.


Learn how you can use DEI surveys to drive your organization forward. Reach out to the Quantum Workplace team today.  



About the author

Mary founded and built The Kaleidoscope Group’s Assessment and Analytics practice. She has led the development of key DEI analytics solutions and guides clients to greater clarity on what matters most and how to use data-driven insight to ensure DEI efforts positively impact business strategy execution and organizational effectiveness.

Prior to joining The Kaleidoscope Group in 2016, Mary spent 13 years in consumer insights, working with primarily Fortune 500 companies to design and execute custom research solutions to guide product and marketing decisions. Mary earned a Master of Arts degree in arts administration from New York University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has pivoted more than once in her career, so has first-hand experience with the power of combining transferable skills with an adventurous spirit and boundless curiosity. 

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Published March 9, 2023 | Written By Mary Hunter