Employee Surveys, Online Survey, Survey Examples, Survey Questions

What is DEI and How Do You Create a DEI Survey?

Today’s workforce is evolving, and now, diversity is more important than ever. Generation Z has begun making their mark in the workplace, and they are the most diverse generation in history. But embracing diversity also makes economic sense; a recent McKinsey report reveals that companies with greater diversity are likely to outperform their competitors by 25%! 

So, how do companies make sure they’re cultivating a diverse workforce, offering fair advancement opportunities to all, and being inclusive to unique identities? One way is through a DEI survey.

What is DEI? (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion)

DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. These three ideals capture the culture of organizations that manage a diverse workforce and strive to provide the opportunity for everyone to succeed and participate regardless of background. Here’s the breakdown of each part.

  • Diversity is the “checkbox” part of the equation. It simply means that the organization has a wide variety of diverse individuals working for them. This may include diversity based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, education, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, and so on.
  • Equity shows that the organization offers opportunity for everyone and is fair in its treatment of each individual. Unlike equality, which insists everyone is treated the same, equity recognizes differences and the fact that advantages and barriers exist; it acknowledges that different people have different needs. 
  • Inclusion means that diverse people can be themselves at work and still feel valued and respected. For example, an LGBT individual is made to feel comfortable displaying a family photo; prayer times for certain religions are respected; ethnic dress for certain holidays is encouraged, etc.

While many companies tout their diverse hiring practices, studies suggest that many business leaders are unable or unwilling to recognize that diversity challenges continue to exist in their organizations. A global, multi-year, cross-industry Diversity & Inclusion Benchmarking Survey commissioned by PwC shows that in North America, companies are slow and rank low when it comes to DEI.

  • 79% of leadership engagement on DEI remains at the basic or emerging level 
  • Only 26% of organizations have DEI goals for leaders 
  • Only 17% have a C-suite level diversity role in place 
  • nearly 30% still have no DEI leader 

To understand how your company is doing when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion, the best thing to do is to conduct a DEI survey. 

Creating a DEI Survey

To create an effective DEI survey, you must go beyond basic demographic data. It’s imperative to look at the lived employee experience. In other words, finding out whatʼs happening inside your organization and understanding how included employees feel and their experience of fairness in the workplace. The DEI survey can help organizations looking to:

  • Benchmark the current status of diversity within the organization
  • Develop a DEI program and inform the program’s direction
  • Continue to monitor the quality of an existing DEI program
  • Make changes to an existing program by measuring current opinions and engagement levels.

To create a DEI survey that captures employee attention and gets engagement, there are a number of factors to consider.

1. Create Inclusive Demographic Questions

When creating a DEI survey, you don’t want to alienate employees right out of the gate by asking demographic questions that they may find insensitive. A few examples of what we mean:

  • When asking about race or ethnic groups, it’s not always black and white (pun intended). Many people identify with multiple races or ethnicities, so rather than make them select one category, allow them to “Select all that apply.”
  • When asking about sexual orientation (straight, gay, bisexual), do not include “gender identity.” Transgender and non-binary are not considered “orientations,” but rather how someone identifies, and should be in the “gender” category.
  • Don’t assume a disabled person considers themselves disabled. Instead, carefully word your question similar to this: “Do you identify as a person with a disability or are you a person with accessibility needs?”

For more on demographic survey questions, check out our blog 15 Demographic Survey Questions and How To Ask Them.

2. Making the DEI Survey Anonymous

Because of the sensitive nature of DEI surveys, it’s important to make them anonymous to improve response rates. Of course, some employees may still be skeptical, thinking that their identity could be discovered due to their IP address, email address, etc. So, use a secure survey platform that uses encryption to protect respondent identities. Highlight this when you launch the survey to make everyone feel comfortable. You can also conduct confidential surveys, in which a third-party received the results (this enables follow-up with respondents, but not through your own company). Read more about anonymous and confidential surveys in our blog How To Get Anonymous Feedback Using Online Surveys.

3. Make Questions Non-Required (and Use Skip Logic)

Some feedback is better than no feedback, right? Some employees may be willing to answer the bulk of your questions but may shy away from certain highly sensitive questions. So, don’t make every question a requirement; allow them to skip questions they’re not comfortable with. Use a survey platform with “skip logic” that will take a respondent to the next appropriate question once they’ve skipped a particular question.

4. Be Forthcoming With Intent

A DEI survey involves some very personal questions, so it’s important to be specific about your corporate DEI objectives. Be sure to share how employee input will help inform your DEI strategy (or change the existing one), remind everyone that the survey is anonymous, and promise to share results. “Transparency is key when creating and communicating surveys,” said Rachel Pierce-Burnside, a founding partner at Diversified, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in diversity, equity, and inclusion. “HR teams should clearly present what the survey is for, why it is important, how the results will be used, and how the findings will be presented prior to asking employees to complete them. Communicating clearly will assist with engagement, interest, and trust.”

5. Use Expert Resources

Prior to embarking on a DEI survey, it may behoove you to meet with a diversity consultant to be sure you’re going about things the right way. “Diversity officers don’t necessarily come out of any diversity discipline; they often have backgrounds in HR or management,” says Christopher Metzler, director of the Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Studies program at Cornell University. “Consultants can essentially coach in-house diversity professionals through unique projects or unfamiliar situations.” Read more about diversity consultants on SHRM.

6. Compare Results by Region, Department, and Manager

If you’re a large company, it’s possible that some regions, departments, or managers are doing a much better job with DEI than others. So, be sure to compare results by region, department, and manager. In doing so, you’ll gain an understanding of if thereʼs a certain part of the organization where DEI sentiment is very low to unearth and understand troubled areas of the organization. If you uncover an area where DEI awareness is very high, you may look further into it to see what they are doing differently in order to bring their practices to the company at large.

7. Share Your Findings

Too often, employees feel their responses go into a vacuum, never to be heard from again. To increase participation, it’s important to promise to share results and then follow through on that. You may have someone from Human Resources or a CEO present survey results during an all-company meeting, walking employees through the findings and adding context (if you’ve hired a diversity consultant, allowing them to present is another great option). These presentations should include an overview of participation rates, survey scores, organizational strengths, opportunities for growth, key findings, and historical or benchmark comparisons. You should end the meeting by reviewing your detailed action plan, showing employees exactly what your business will be doing to address any issues raised by the survey.

8. Make Change

Change starts from the top down, so once your survey closes and you’ve shared the results, begin to actively make change. A diversity consultant can help in this regard, or, you may create an in-house diversity council who can identify challenges, find solutions, and present them to the C-suite. 

DEI Survey Questions To Ask

Curious what questions to ask on a DEI survey? We’ve put together a list of 10 questions to consider including. You’ll also want to add any others you feel are necessary based on your specific company and situation. 

I feel my company:

  1. Values the differences of individuals and empowers them to make decisions
  2. Understands that diversity is critical to our future success 
  3. Welcomes a diverse group of talent (e.g. ethnicity, gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation, education, religion, etc) 
  4. Provides opportunities for me to grow and advance in my career at my company regardless of my background 
  5. Takes steps to make the workplace and services inclusive, safe, and welcoming 
  6. Allows me to bring my “whole self” to work including all parts of my background
  7. Takes appropriate action in response to incidents of harassment or discrimination
  8. Enables me to voice my opinion, even when it differs from the group opinion
  9. Employs diverse leaders that I can relate to
  10. Offers promotions and raises fairly regardless of background

You’ll also want to include an open-ended question asking how the company could improve diversity, equity, and inclusion.


Today, a diverse workforce not only makes sense on a social level but on an economic one. Unfortunately, not every organization has taken steps to improve DEI, which is detrimental. On the topic of diversity and inclusion, Harvard Business Review writes, “Leaders have long recognized that a diverse workforce of women, people of color, and LGBT individuals confer a competitive edge in terms of selling products or services to diverse end-users. Yet a stark gap persists between recognizing the leadership behaviors that unlock this capability and actually practicing them.” 

To understand how your organization stacks up when it comes to DEI, it’s important to conduct DEI surveys. “Surveys provide tangible data that can support what the needs, feelings, and ideas of team members truly are,” says Pierce-Burnside of Diversified. “Instead of relying on HR teams to create programs, policies, and initiatives from their own perspectives, executives can lean on survey results to present true evidence for where the organization should start and how.” 

If you’re ready to create your DEI survey, get started now with SurveyLegend. Our surveys are beautifully rendered, secure, and mobile responsive. Plus, it’s free to sign up!

Do you value diversity in the workplace? Have you ever conducted a DEI survey? Were the results surprising? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does DEI stand for?

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

What is meant by “diversity, equity, and inclusion”?

Diversity is how wide a variety an organization has employed, equity is how fairly each individual is treated, and inclusion is how comfortable people are coming to work as themselves without judgment.

What is a diversity consultant?

Diversity consultants are hired by organizations to coach in-house diversity professionals through unique projects or unfamiliar situations.

What is a DEI survey?

A diversity, equity, and inclusion survey aims to collect demographic data and analyze the lived employee experience (how included employees feel and their experience of fairness in the workplace).

About the Author
Born entrepreneur, passionate leader, motivator, great love for UI & UX design, strong believer in "less is more”. Big advocate of bootstrapping. BS in Logistics Service Management. I don't create company environments, I create family and team environments.