Developed by Richard D. Lennox, Ph.D., Patricia A. Herlihy, Ph.D. RN, and David A. Sharar, Ph.D.


Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a term used to describe policies and programs that promote the representation and participation of different groups of individuals, including people of different ages, races and ethnicities, abilities and disabilities, genders, religions, cultures and sexual orientations. This also covers people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, skills and expertise.

Diversity management first entered the workplace in the 1990s as organizations became more demographically diverse with individuals of different genders, races, ethnicities and identities all contributing to the transformation of work cultures. Such initiatives were successful. Employees of color who worked for organizations that made these efforts felt greater organizational commitment and reported higher rates of remaining at these organizations. However, by 2010, the optimism that had prevailed with various diversity efforts began to fade. For the last decade, these programs have struggled to address these concerns and to design and institute policies that effectively move the needle toward more inclusive workplaces.

What it is

WIS is an 8-item scale used to assess the degree to which individual persons/employees perceive they are included in the corporate culture. The WIS is also a single item directed at the extent to which persons/employees feel as if they belong to that culture.

Why it was developed

Organizations typically measure diversity through demographic data analysis. However, they have not had a valid way to measure inclusion, which is inherently a psychological construct. The WIS fills that void. Its creators specifically designed WIS to provide an easy to assess measure for organizations and DEI professionals to use when evaluating workplace climate and the success of diversity and equity initiatives.

There are pragmatic reasons for scales to be short, especially when deployed across a general workforce. Short scales greatly increase response rates, and high response rates are critical to the validity of evaluating organizational programs and initiatives. Measuring inclusion has the potential to tell us much about the state of an organization’s diversity climate as well as employees’ engagement and retention intentions. The main differences between the Workplace Inclusion Scale and other measures lie in its simplicity, length, and theoretical structure. Unlike other Inclusion tools, the WIS has been psychometrically validated and published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Its advantages

WIS is short (just eight items), simple, and easy to administer. It measures the employee’s experience of feeling as though they have a sense of belonging or being an important part of the organization.

Who should use it

Anyone interested in the issue of inclusion. This might include DEI Professionals, HR practitioners, EAP and organizational development consultants, or any form of corporate leader.


The recommended minimum number of completed surveys is 250 in order to achieve a statistically significant sample size. Smaller companies benefit by achieving 100 percent employee participation. There is no maximum number of participants although achieving a 50%+ response rate is strongly encouraged.

WIS is an online survey. Employers may also administer the survey using their own platform or embedding the WIS into an existing survey such as a wellness or well-being assessment.

What’s in it for employers

The WIS is an ideal way to empirically examine the effectiveness of DEI interventions as too many organizations rely on subjective impressions of DEI effectiveness.

The WIS gauges the degree of experienced felt workplace inclusion within a department or an organization. By looking at the average results score as compared to the possible total score and comparing it to theoretical averages, one can determine if there are gaps worth analyzing.

Another way to use the WIS is to study the effectiveness of a DEI program in improving equity and felt inclusion over time. One could use a pre-test post-test approach designed to assess inclusion at an initial point and then to later reassess the same employees after an initiative has been implemented and sufficient time has passed to be expected to capture behavioral and psychological differences.

How employees (and potential employees) benefit

If the WIS documents inequities in a department or organization, hopefully, it encourages leadership to explore them further. Leaders would ideally implement policies and programs to better help individuals and the larger group to feel more included and a sense of “belonging” to the mission of the organization.


Organizations and individuals wishing to use the WIS will enter into a signed licensing agreement with Chestnut Health Systems. Chestnut grants to each licensee a non-exclusive, non-transferable, limited license to use its proprietary Workplace Inclusion Scale (WIS) product. All rights, title and interest in and to the WIS product, including associated intellectual property rights, are and shall remain with Chestnut. Those who do license the WIS agree to disclose and provide to Chestnut only de-identified information from its use of the product. As a condition of using the WIS, the licensee agrees to provide all of its de-identified WIS result data to Chestnut. The licensee grants Chestnut an irrevocable right to use the de-identified data consistent with use as a limited data set, including without limitation to merge the de-identified data with de-identified data from other licensees for Chestnut’s research purposes. Chestnut may use or disclose any limited data set received from licensee through its use of the WIS only for the purpose of research, public health, or health care operations.

Getting started

Have questions? Understand it all and want to get started? Contact Pat Herlihy at