Sara Johnson

Dr. Sara Johnson is a Senior Research Fellow at HERO where she provides research thought leadership and identifies funding opportunities for new studies through grants and industry partnerships. In addition, she is also Co-President & CEO of Pro-Change Behavior Systems, Inc., a behavior change consulting firm and solution provider that empowers people to experience life-changing breakthroughs in health and well-being. She is also the Chair of the Art and Science of Health Promotion Conference, and Co-Editor of Knowing Well, Being Well. In 2019, Dr. Johnson received the Health Enhancement Research Organization’s Mark Dundon Research Award and was named one of the 50 on Fire by Rhode Island Inno. She was named the Health Care Services Woman to Watch by Providence Business News in 2018, and in 2015, she was selected as a Top 10 Health Promotion Professional by the Wellness Council of America.

The U.S., and in turn, today’s workforce is rapidly diversifying.1,2 As PolicyLink’s Race and the Work of the Future Report recently stated, “The work of the future is the work of equity: just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. And the time is now.”2 Multiple resources3–7 have emerged to guide employers in their journey to creating truly inclusive cultures and organizations in which all employees can thrive. And perhaps in part because inclusive organizations promote flourishing, they often have improved employee retention8,9 and improved business outcomes (e.g., innovation).9 In fact, experts have argued that equity is a business imperative and that efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) should be interwoven into every level of the organization.5  

 To respond to the urgent need for organizations to optimize their health and well-being initiatives to ensure that they are promoting DEI, the HERO Health and Well-being Best Practices Scorecard in Collaboration with Mercer© (HERO Scorecard) now includes a new score in this domain. The HERO Scorecard is a free online survey that was designed as an educational and benchmarking tool to help employers identify and assess their use of practices that support more effective health and well-being initiatives. This commentary will provide an overview of the new DEI Best Practice Score and examine the distribution of scores among organizations who have responded to Version 5 of the HERO Scorecard since its release in 2021. 

 DEI Best Practice Score Development  

Version 5 of the HERO Scorecard was updated in 2021 to include recent emerging best practices in health and well-being initiatives in each of the six domains that the Scorecard measures (i.e., strategic planning, organizational and cultural support, programs, program integration, participation strategies, and measurement and evaluation). To create the DEI Best Practice Score, a team of 6 individuals from HERO and Mercer exhaustively reviewed the Scorecard items to identify all workforce health and well-being practices listed throughout the HERO Scorecard that related to DEI. After extensive discussion, the final proposed practices were assigned tentative scores (out of a possible 100 points).  Four independent subject matter experts then reviewed the proposed items and scores. Their feedback was combined and informed further revisions to the items included and final point allocations. A list of all the practices included in the DEI Best Practice Score can be found in the HERO Scorecard user’s guide. Table 1 provides a breakdown of the number of practices and points by section for the DEI Best Practice Score. Sample items include: “DEI is a measurable objective included in the strategic plan” and “Health and well-being is integrated with DEI efforts”.  

 Table 1. DEI Best Practice Score Items & Points by Scorecard Section    

Scorecard Section   Number of practices  Points Contributed to DEI Best Practice Score 
Strategic planning  5  19.5 
Organizational & Cultural Support  36  44.5 
Programs  8  14 
Program Integration  4  9 
Participation Strategies  5  7 
Measurement & Evaluation  4  6 
Total  43  100 

 Any organization who completes the Scorecard will now receive their DEI Best Practice Score in addition to their total score.  

 DEI Best Practice Scores  

Among the 210 organizations that completed the HERO Scorecard Version 5 through September 30, 2022, DEI Best Practice Scores were retroactively calculated. Organizations were categorized by size into small (<500; n=69), medium (500 to <5,000; n=83), and large (5,000+; n=54) organizations to examine variations in DEI Best Practice Scores. Differences by industry type were assessed between financial (n=25), hospitals/healthcare clinics (n=21), technical/professional services (n=27), government (n=29), and high tech (n=44) organizations. When sufficient data become available (i.e., 20 unique Scorecard completers in a specific industry), benchmarking data for other industry types will be available.  Finally, a comparison of DEI scores by geographic location was assessed by categorizing organizations into Western (n=72), Midwestern (n=52), Northeastern (n=38), and Southern (n=46) regions.   

The mean DEI best practice score for all respondents was 37 points. When comparing the DEI Best Practice Score by organization size, large organizations received higher scores (mean = 51 points) than small organizations (mean = 24 points) or medium organizations (mean = 37 points).    

Organization size  n  mean 
All respondents  210  37±22 
Small (<500 employees)  69  24±19 
Mid-size (500 to <5000 employees)  83  37±19 
Large (5000 + employees)  54  51 ±20 


Table 2. DEI Best Practice Score by Organization Size 

Large variations in DEI Best Practice Scores were observed among different industry types, with a range of a mean score of 27 for government to 50 for financial services companies (see Table 3).   

Table 3. DEI Best Practice Score by Industry Type 

  n  Mean 
Financial Services  25  50±21 
Hospitals/Healthcare clinics  21  45±25 
Technical/professional services  27  39±20 
Government  29  27±14 
High Tech  44  43±23 


The comparison by U.S. geographic regions revealed minimal differences in DEI Best Practice Score by region. On average, organizations in the Northeastern and Southern region scored the highest with 39 points, followed by organizations in the Midwest and West with mean scores of 36 and 34 points, respectively.  

Overall, these findings highlight numerous opportunities for improvement in the implementation and evaluation of health and well-being initiatives to address DEI. Organizations are invited to complete the Scorecard once annually. The DEI Best Practice Score –in conjunction with other newly released Best Practice Scores on social determinants of health and mental health – enable organizations to uncover those opportunities to improve and to measure their progress over time. As we learned at the outset of this Commentary, the time is now! 


  1. Frey WH. The Nation Is Diversifying Even Faster than Predicted, According to New Census Data. Brookings Institute; 2020. 
  2. Langston A, Scoggins J, Walsh M. Race and The Work of the Future: Advancing Workforce Equity in the U.S. PolicyLink & USC Dornsife Equity Research Institute; 2020. Accessed November 26, 2022. 
  3. Washington EF. The Necessary Journey: Making Real Progress on Equity and Inclusion. Harvard Business School Press; 2022. 
  4. Roberts LM, Mayo AJ, Thomas DA, eds. Race, Work, and Leadership: New Perspectives on the Black Experience. Harvard Business Review Press; 2019. 
  5. Deloitte. The Eqity Imperative: Actions to Drive Systemic Change. Accessed November 27, 2022. 
  6. American Heart Association CEO Roundtable. Driving Health Equity in the Workplace. American Heart Association; 2021. Accessed March 14, 2022. 
  7. Hills G, Iyer L, McAfee M, Kirschenbaum J, Whittaker M. CEO Blueprint for Racial Equity. PolicyLink; 2020. Accessed November 27, 2022. 
  8. Brown K. To Retain Employees, Focus on Inclusion — Not Just Diversity. Harv Bus Rev. Published online December 4, 2018. Accessed November 27, 2022. 
  9. Bush M. Why Is Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace Important? Published April 13, 2021. Accessed November 27, 2022.


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