Speed Read

  • An inclusion and diversity census helps employers tailor people programs and infrastructure requirements to the needs of staff, as well as identify if the workforce profile aligns with the company customer profile
  • Demographic information usually sought in a census includes gender, age group, ethnic/cultural identity, disability, language spoken, caring responsibilities, and if an employee considers themselves to be part of the LGBTI community
  • A census also gives a window into the level of belonging and engagement felt by employees. Questions usually go beyond demography and identity to include perceptions about their experience of the organisational culture

Many companies find it useful to conduct an inclusion and diversity census to understand the demographic profile of employees, and level of inclusion experienced in the workplace. Census results are a valuable input to your diversity and inclusion strategies, and considered leading practice by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).

Key Benefits Of Conducting A Census

Inclusion and diversity census’s are valuable for a range of different reasons. For one, it helps employers tailor their people programs and infrastructure requirements to meet the needs of staff. A census can help determine if accessibility requirements and religious needs of employees, for example, are met through office facilities or not. Understanding the preferred flexibility arrangements of team members plays a role in office and organisational design (think issues such as hot desking or agile working teams).

Secondly, a diversity census helps to identify if your workforce profile aligns with the company customer profile. Many companies set out to represent the local communities in which they operate, so knowing the demographic make-up of the workforce is an obvious starting point.

Thirdly, an inclusion and diversity census can give a window into the level of belonging and engagement felt by groups of employees. Questions usually go beyond demography and identity to include perceptions about their experience of the culture. This can also help show whether underrepresented groups have differing experiences within the workplace.

As an employer, if you’re committed to creating a workplace culture that respects, values and utilises the contributions of people from different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, a census helps you understand and anticipate current and future workforce needs.

Census Guidelines

When designing your inclusion and diversity census, there’s a few guidelines to help ensure it’s shaped sensitively and taken seriously. Stating the census is optional, while also stating that you strongly encourage all employees to participate, is one. It’s critical that answers are confidential and anonymous, and data is aggregated for the purposes stated (for example, better understanding and anticipation of employee needs).

It’s important that the survey is designed so that it can be accessed by everyone, including employees, for example, who use assistive technology. And while it might be obvious, it’s important to include the name of a contact person if an employee has any questions while completing the census. Leaving room for qualitative comments at the end of the census also gives an opportunity for employees to share additional feedback. To maximise participation, some employers choose to donate a dollar amount for every completed response to a charity that aligns with the company’s corporate social responsibility objectives.

Sample Questions To Include In Your Census

Below are some qualitative questions that often included in an inclusion and diversity census. Employees are usually asked to rate their level of agreement with the following statements, with one being strongly disagree and five being strongly agree.

  • The people in my team treat each other with respect
  • I would describe the area I work in as genuinely inclusive
  • Our team leverages our different perspectives and backgrounds for new ideas
  • I feel comfortable to request flexible work arrangements if desired
  • I am aware that unconscious biases (relating to gender, age, cultural background) can impact decisions, and I take steps to challenge bias
  • I feel I have equal opportunities for development and career progression in the organisation
  • My immediate manager actively seeks out different perspectives from team members
  • My immediate manager values differences among employees. (Differences is defined here as a difference in age, gender, family responsibilities, marital status, race, religious belief, cultural background, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic background, physical and intellectual ability, indigenous background)
  • My immediate manager values diversity of thinking approaches in the workplace
  • Our senior leaders are committed to achieving a diverse and inclusive workplace
  • Senior managers challenge inappropriate behaviour

As well as these questions, it’s also helpful to include room for employees to share general open text comments about the level of inclusion experienced and the company’s support for diversity.

WGEA Citation Criterion

The following questions are from the WGEA’s 2018-2019 citation criterion for the Employer of Choice for Gender Equality, and are also recommended additions:

  • My immediate supervisor/manager genuinely supports equality between men and women
  • I have the flexibility I need to manage my work and caring responsibilities
  • In my organisation sex-based harassment is not tolerated

Other Considerations

Demographic information usually sought in an inclusion and diversity census includes gender, age group, gender of the person you report to, ethnic/cultural identity, disability and what adjustments to the workplace are required, language spoken, caring responsibilities, and if an employee considers themselves to be part of the LGBTI community. Some employers are also adding information from 360 leader assessments on thinking and style preferences to promote diversity in team make up and avoid executive “echo chambers”.

A good response rate, or participation rate for a diversity survey, is generally in the 65-85 percent range, depending on your organisation’s size. Communicating with employees prior to the survey’s release about the importance of the census can also increase engagement with the process.

With the above combination of demographic information and qualitative responses, you’ll have a robust base-line to measure progress towards becoming a more diverse and inclusive employer of choice.