How Humi uses self-ID surveys to improve company culture (and how you can, too!)

Mar 24, 2023
min read

Surveys are a common tool in the workplace, often used to gain valuable insight into employee satisfaction and engagement – or for more enriching social things, such as what to order for a team lunch (Mexican or Chinese?). But how can we use them to dive deep into the demographics of our workforce? That’s where self-identification surveys come in. 

Self-identification surveys, or self-ID surveys for short, are a way for organizations to better understand their company, its culture, and what it means to be inclusive. In this blog, we sat down with Tasha, our Employee Experience Specialist, and Erin, our People Business Partner, to look at the what, why, and how of self-ID surveys, so you can use them to improve the culture of your own company. 

Let’s dive in! 

What’s a self-ID survey?

A self-ID survey is an anonymous way for employees to tell their employer about several aspects of their identity, such as gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and visible minority identity. By asking these questions, employers can gather important data about company demographics and culture. They can also use the data to look at how well they're achieving their diversity and inclusion goals – and improve them where necessary.

Why does my company need self-ID surveys?

If supporting your employees and building an inclusive culture are top of mind for you (as they should be!), then a self-ID survey is just what you need. They’re a great way to understand the makeup of your company and to recognize where there are gaps in your equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), as well as how to close those gaps.

Understanding workforce demographics

How many employees are under the age of 35? Or how many identify as a person of colour? Self-ID surveys help you to understand the demographics of your workforce, which can help to inform EDI, benefits plans, and more. They help you make fewer assumptions and get more insight into who actually works for your company, taking the guesswork out of a lot of decision-making.

Build company culture 

By conducting a self-ID survey, you’re able to gain insight into the different experiences and perspectives of your employees, which helps to build an understanding of your company culture. This can ultimately help in increasing employee morale and engagement – if your employees know and understand the culture of the company they work for, they’re more likely to be satisfied with their job.

Inform decisions for EDI strategy

As touched on earlier, understanding the demographics of your workforce can help to inform decisions made for your business’ EDI strategy. The results of your self-ID survey can help to create more actionable plans; for example, employees that are part of an underrepresented category in the workplace can be provided with additional resources and support in their professional development. They’re also a great way to gain more data/HR analytical points for your company to create programming (e.g. mentorship programs).

Improved recruitment, retention, and HR practices

Self-ID surveys can play a crucial role in improving recruitment, retention, and overall HR practices in a company. By giving employees a voice within the company, you’re able to gather insight into your employees’ experiences and needs. This information can be used to identify and prioritize the areas of the company that need improvement, which can ultimately lead to better employee satisfaction, employee engagement, improved morale, higher retention rates, and of course, a more inclusive workplace. And by promoting a diverse and inclusive workforce, you can attract more candidates in your recruitment efforts.  

How to conduct a self-ID survey (and make it matter!)

Here are our five steps to conducting a successful self-ID survey at your company.

1. Determine the purpose and scope of the survey. 

Before creating a self-ID survey, it's important to determine the specific goals and objectives. Decide on what you want to get out of it; the information you’re most interested in collecting, and the gaps in your current data that could be closed with the survey. 

2. Develop the survey questions.

Develop questions that are clear, concise, and relevant to the purpose of the survey. Self-ID surveys typically ask about aspects of employees’ personal background, such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, disability status, and sexual orientation.

(If you’re finding it difficult to develop the survey, it might be a good idea to turn to an external company, such as Entelechy Consulting, to help you out, and to ensure you’re set up for success in the years to come!)

3. Decide on a format and distribution plan for the survey. 

Most self-ID surveys are done in an online, multiple-choice format to make it easy for workers to complete, and to ensure anonymity – keeping the self-ID survey anonymous is extremely important, as it encourages employees to be honest and open with their responses. 

Make sure to communicate the plan for the self-ID survey with your team, including its purpose and the deadline for completion; your employees need to understand why you’ve set up the survey and why it’s important that they participate. Be sure to also include an estimated amount of time needed to complete the survey based on the number of questions, so your employees are able to set aside enough time. 

Lastly, create a target participation rate (e.g. 80% participation) and set a timeline for when you’d like to have the survey reach this rate; this ensures you’re collecting results in a timely manner. (It helps to book asynchronous time in your team’s calendars to serve as reminders!)

4. Collect, analyze, and act on the data.

Once the survey has been completed, collect and analyze the data. You can use the survey results to identify areas for improvement and implement strategies to create a better workplace for your employees. For example, if the data shows that there’s a growing number of young parents in your company (i.e. through age and identified as a parent), it might make sense to consider your company’s maternity/paternity/parental benefits. 

5. Provide a follow-up.

Your work isn’t done after the survey is completed! This last step is arguably the most important: keep your team informed about the insights and actions being taken based on the survey results. Consider using a data visualization tool to help interpret the results that can be shared with the wider company. You might even want to create a presentation that breaks down the results. It’s a good idea to provide an in-depth analysis as well as a condensed copy of the results to employees; this gives them the chance to digest the information in a way that makes sense to them. 

Be sure to include explanations and insights into what they’re looking at with the data, and provide plans for how you’ll address any imbalances moving forward. 

Self-ID surveys at Humi

Back in 2021, our Manager of Experience and Culture, Sneha, launched the first self-ID survey at Humi. Back then, they were used as a starting point to gain data that we didn’t have at the time. We went to an external company, Entelechy Consulting, to help us conduct and analyze the data. 

Humi is now in its third year of conducting self-ID surveys, and we’re conducting them fully internally. In 2023, it’ll be useful to compare our results from this year’s survey to the previous two years. We’ll be able to look at where we’ve improved, what areas need work, and what still needs to be done. Namely, EDI has been at the forefront for Humi – we’re using self-ID surveys to build out and drive our EDI strategies and decisions. 

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