Making Progress on Diversity and Inclusion Means Getting the Data Right

Collecting and using data in the right way and employing the right tools can help business leaders make progress toward their biggest D&I challenges.

Pam Jeffords - PwC's Workforce of the Future Diversity & Inclusion Leader (Image: PwC)

Pam Jeffords – PwC’s Workforce of the Future Diversity & Inclusion Leader (Image: PwC)

A global manufacturing company knew they needed to make progress on their diversity and inclusion goals. But they didn’t know where to focus their efforts. Should it be on reducing attrition for people of color? Promotion rates for women? Hiring people with different abilities? Improving the engagement rates for a certain department?

Thanks to predictive analytics, they found their answer – and their focus. By analyzing their own workforce data, we were able to help the company identify what would have the biggest impact on future representation, prioritize actions and create a multi-year roadmap to reach their goals.

Emerging technology and new tools have the ability to gather and analyze data that can provide organizations with real insights into their D&I efforts. They can help business and HR leaders measure their progress, assess the impact of their diversity goals, and gain insight into what’s working (and what’s not).

Diversity & Inclusion PwC

Inclusion And Diversity

While the global business case for diversity and inclusion has been established for years, when it comes to individual companies understanding if their efforts are working, few can actually answer. PwC’s Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarking study found that only 5% of companies have mature D&I programs that involve a continuous data-driven process or a multi-year D&I roadmap built on insights.

Here’s your opportunity

In general, businesses and organizations struggle with workforce data as a whole. Almost all industries find it difficult to make headway with data and analytics—not just diversity data. But when it comes to using diversity data effectively, the numbers are notably stark.

Many companies collect very limited data related to representation. According to our Benchmark study, only about half (51%) of organizations track general employee demographics, such as gender. And far fewer (19-20%) use their data to measure discrepancies, such as looking for gaps in compensation, performance or promotions.

What’s more, the demographics that organizations track are often limited to binary gender, race, and ethnicity, as defined by the EEOC or other government reporting agencies. Some also ask other “standard” demographic questions.

But limiting the type of data collected also limits the ways you can use it. Inclusively collecting demographic data is vital to having a fuller, and more accurate and authentic understanding of who is represented. This allows an organization to uncover deeper cultural discrepancies that might otherwise go unnoticed. For example, if leaders only use binary descriptors in their day-to-day language and communications, their efforts to create an inclusive environment might not succeed.

Develop trust to gain insight

In order to collect a broader range of data, employees must self-identify. And for that data to be accurate, employees have to trust their leaders enough to be willing to share that information. Companies need to spend time building trust with their workforce around how any self-identification data will be used, such as cognitive disabilities, sexual orientation, and gender identification.

Employees have to trust that the information they share will be kept confidential, to the greatest extent possible, and that it will not be used against them. This is particularly important in a global context given the high risks for certain populations in some regions of the world, such as members of the LGBTQ+ community and members of religious minority groups.

Self-identification on engagement surveys is one of the only ways employers can get a sense of the experiences of certain groups. Building trust around the purpose and positive intent for capturing the data should be a high priority for leaders. Employees deserve to know why a company is collecting their information and what the company will use it for. And leaders must effectively communicate the purpose and importance of collecting data and be held accountable for how it’s used to further D&I goals.

Use analysis to create better experiences

Collecting the right data is a vital foundation, but the real key to making progress is how you use that information. Analysis can help you better understand your people’s experience, eliminate potential biases in selection, assignments and assessments, and identify trends. It can also help you personalize experiences for your people through skill-mapping, career navigation, listening, well-being tools and more.

One way many leading organizations are using analytics to improve diversity efforts is in recruiting. Often, bias in recruiting can emerge before a hiring manager has a chance to interact with a candidate, as research has shown that gendered terms in job descriptions can affect who even applies to a position. Companies are counteracting this by using technology to identify potential bias in descriptions and substituting more gender-neutral terms. They are also using tools to conduct blind screening to eliminate potential sources of bias like gender, social backgrounds, names of educational institutions or ethnicity.

Go beyond retroactive analytics

Today, many organizations use diversity data retroactively. For example, they might review a team’s performance over the previous year to see who was given certain advancement opportunities, spot a gap, and then seek to rectify that problem going forward.

But with real-time and predictive analytics, leaders can spot gaps immediately and take steps right away. For instance, companies can create real-time reporting on the demographics of project staffing enabling business leaders to quickly identify any gaps in the assignment of favorable projects to uncover potential bias or blind spots.

With predictive analytics, leaders can get a better sense of whether their D&I efforts are successful and determine where to focus going forward. It can often take years to know if D&I initiatives are successful, but predictive analytics can project out the demographics of the workforce in five or ten years, help evaluate the success of certain programs and identify those that are not working.

Don’t forget the human touch

Embracing technology doesn’t mean doing away with the human touch. In fact, we will only unlock technology’s fullest potential when it’s used with a people-centered approach and a culture of understanding.

For example, workforce analytics could be used to look beyond individual attributes and provide insights on relationships within the organization. The power of one’s internal network is critical to their ability to progress within an organization. It stands to reason that someone from a historically underrepresented group might not have as large of an internal network as someone from the majority group. Leveraging relational analytics, or organizational network analysis, business leaders can use those insights to identify groups of employees that may not organically or informally be getting exposure to the right opportunities and create a formal program to address that gap.

Progressive technologies have created a tremendous opportunity for leaders to make real progress on their D&I goals—but only if they’re using it to its full potential. By tapping into the insights from your own workforce data, business leaders can create a better, more inclusive experience for every employee, now and in the future.

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Pam Jeffords
Pam Jeffords has over 25 years of experience advising companies and organizations on how to break the status quo and drive progress with their diversity, inclusion, and engagement goals.

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