For too long, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) strategies often involved one-off initiatives or broad plans that rarely triggered deeper reflection or strategy. Perhaps hiring managers attended career fairs at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), or Pride Month received top billing in the in-house newsletter. Or maybe employee resources groups (ERGs) were formed, but were never given the resources they needed to make meaningful change at the organization.
Throwing occasional actions after a systemic problem that’s kept many from advancing in their careers, however, is far from enough. And today, as workers increasingly demand diverse workplaces and research demonstrates the clear benefits to productivity and profits, organizations are increasingly investing more in their DEIB efforts. According to a 2021 survey by workplace training solutions provider Traliant and research firm WBR Insights, nearly 80% of organizations surveyed planned to spend more on DEIB in 2022.
But, as with any other corporate initiative, from expanding into new markets to bolstering company culture, it’s difficult to get executive buy-in and make the strategic decisions required to move forward without the data to back it up. And, for DEIB in particular, collecting and analyzing the right data can make all the difference, according to an article in Harvard Business Review — helping with everything from benchmarking performance to flagging areas for improvement and holding leaders accountable.
People analytics enables organizations to move away from one-off DEIB programs and into more robust, meaningful, and long-term efforts by giving HR teams and leaders the data they need to analyze the impact of initiatives and measure the return on investment.
“You [can] throw a ton of money at a campus recruiting program at [HBCUs], and you can boast about it and tweet about it. But for a lot of people who are underrepresented, it feels hollow,” said Erin Dertouzos, Vice President of People Strategy at technology company strongDM. “Having data actually allows us to measure whether or not something is successful — [and] measure if it’s having the intended impact.”
How DEIB and Analytics Are Connected
Trust is vital in the workplace, and employee motivation and engagement can skyrocket when workers trust that their employers are following through on commitments. According to a Deloitte survey, employee engagement rises 20% when workers trust that their employers are making good on their promises. What’s more, the probability that they’ll quit plummets by 87%.
As companies accelerate DEIB program funding, the right data can demonstrate that their efforts aren’t simply feel-good strategies only meant to make the firm look good. With People analytics, organizations can track progress on DIEB initiatives, determine their success, and communicate the impact of these efforts to their employees in order to cultivate trust and explain why DEIB matters.
“You can have the best programming, hire the best speaker [and] the best leadership development person, but if you [don’t have] great communication [around it]...it’s going to falter,” said Ashley T Brundage, a leadership consultant and President and CEO of Empowering Differences, which provides leadership-based training for organizations and diverse talent.
Employee engagement rises 20% when workers trust that their employers are making good on their promises.
Not only does data help communicate the purpose of DEIB, People analytics also allows Human Resources leaders and DEIB teams to access a variety of insights that might not be obvious on static spreadsheets.
“You need the data to see patterns,” said Ilina Ewen, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Samet Corporation, a North Carolina-based construction company that’s been working to boost the number of women it employs amid the male-dominated industry.
The right tools let talent management and DEIB professionals filter information by any number of data points — such as underrepresented group, title, or tenure, for example. With this information, employers can scrutinize information like how often LGBTQ+ professionals are hired, women are promoted, and longer-term workers are given career development opportunities.
And these tools can bring People data to life through dynamic visualization. Instead of in static columns and rows, data are displayed on dashboards with charts and graphs that make it easier for teams to uncover and understand trends in attrition, patterns in employee engagement, managers who are lagging behind their peers in DEIB efforts, and more.
DEIB Metrics That Matter
HR tech can churn out any number of data points. When it comes to DEIB, however, three metrics offer a good starting point to uncover conscious or unconscious biases and insights about the employee experience and work environment.
1. Diversity Makeup of Your Workforce
An accounting of the different identities and backgrounds represented within a workforce might seem like basic information for any organization, but for many, it’s data they may not be fully analyzing or even aware of. Every organization needs to start with this essential calculation, said Brundage.
The diversity makeup of your workforce includes a breakdown of who is represented among your employees, categorizing team members based on their gender, age, race and ethnicity, and sexual orientation, for example. These numbers provide a starting point so organizations can define new DEIB goals that will have the most impact, and monitor how effectively they are progressing.
For example, if workforce metrics demonstrate that while your organization employs a large number of women, few rise beyond the role of manager, your DEIB goals might focus on cultivating more female leaders. Or, you may be celebrating a sharp uptick in the number of people of color hired to work for your company, until you realize they are mostly relegated to lower-priority departments. In response, your DEIB goals might aim to develop programs to help people of color at your firm move into higher-visibility positions.
2. Equity of Your Performance Programs
Once you have the basic numbers, you can delve deeper into the data to determine whether your performance programs and processes are equitable across every demographic. After all, companies can start hiring more people of color for junior-level positions, but if they haven’t developed a corporate culture where all people feel welcomed and are able to grow, then they’ll ultimately lose those new hires and DEIB efforts will fail, cautioned Dertouzos.
“It’s not just about who we’re hiring,” Dertouzos added. Retention efforts are just as critical, she said. Companies must create an environment where employees of all backgrounds feel comfortable and have the same opportunities for career advancement. Without that inclusive and equitable corporate culture, those junior-level hires from underrepresented groups will leave.
Construction company Samet recently completed its annual review process, which provides an opportunity to look at who is getting promoted from within, what demographics they represent, how long it takes employees to earn that new assignment, and how much they’re getting paid, Ewen said. Data can also flag stakeholders who are slow to meet DEIB goals — a manager who doesn’t elevate women, for example, or recommend people of color for career advancement opportunities.
“We look at that data, and it does inform how we move forward,” Ewen said. “No company can find all the inequities and fix [them] with a magic wand. But when you have the data, you can act on it and do what needs to be done to get everyone level.”
3. Sentiment on Inclusion and Belonging
While data can track workforce representation and promotion, those numbers don’t tell the full story about whether employees truly have a sense of belonging and feel respected and supported at work. Unfortunately, few employees will speak up and directly say the workforce is inhospitable for them; more likely, they’ll just leave. Engagement and DEIB surveys, however, can offer workers an anonymized way to share their thoughts. With these results, organizations can better understand whether the actual corporate culture is what leaders intend it to be.
Equity and inclusion surveys can cover topics such as the diversity climate, fit and belonging, psychological safety, and fairness. Questions might include:
- Is the company committed to diversity?
- Do you feel that your opinions count?
- Does the company embrace people who are different?
- Do people of all backgrounds have an equal chance to excel?
Surveys can also measure whether employees believe DEIB efforts are effective. Questions might gauge whether workers feel comfortable joining an ERG or taking part in DEIB events, for instance.
At strongDM, Derzoutos conducted the company’s first engagement survey in March, which included a DEIB section. And after a workforce reduction in June, she conducted a wellness survey to ensure workers still felt safe and could talk about what they need.
The wellness survey included questions such as whether their manager was checking in on them and if they are able to disconnect fully from work to take care of personal matters. It also included DEIB-related topics, helping leaders understand if the company’s benefits packages and wellness programs were meeting their workforce’s diverse needs.
“[People] are coming from different perspectives…The wellness survey allowed my team to understand if we are meeting [our employees’ needs],” said Derzoutos. “Sometimes People teams [can be] ignorant of how things land when they roll out new initiatives. [There can be] unintended consequences [that leave] people feeling othered.”
After all, she continued, “part of DEIB is understanding that folks have different needs.” And ensuring your benefits match the shifting requirements of your workforce is an important way to retain them.
Keeping It Human
Of course, numbers don’t tell the full story. In addition to letting employees rate in a survey how they feel about an organization’s diversity climate or whether they feel like they belong, Brundage recommended allowing for freeform fields where workers can share their own thoughts and feelings. Those fields can be hard to manage, she acknowledged. “But it provides [the] opportunity to get real feedback [beyond a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer on a survey],” she said.
Only looking at workplace representation numbers can also lead to tokenization — hiring from an underrepresented group simply to check a box on a diversity goal. Luckily, People analytics can help avoid tokenization by providing deeper insights than merely who is represented in your workforce.
Are your DEIB initiatives hitting the mark? Find out with our Diversity and Inclusion Survey Template.
“Data alone doesn’t give you the answer,” Ewen said. “But it is that data that gave our leadership the springboard they needed to say, ‘Let’s focus on hiring more women,’ because we saw that as an opportunity and need.”
Finally, once you’ve collected the data, you have to do something with it, Brundage said. “The absolute worst thing is not doing anything or saying anything from the data,” she stressed. “Every time you do something, you need to tie it to [why it’s important for employees to share feedback and what the organization is doing as a result].”
Launching DEIB initiatives and collecting the associated data can raise questions in a workforce — worries that people will get called out or blamed. Transparency, vulnerability, and the right messaging are critical, Ewen said.
“Just say [to your employees], ‘We’re starting this journey. We’re collecting this data. And we’re doing it with no judgment,’” advised Ewen. “‘We just want to know [where] we stand, and we want to be better. There’s no blame. There's nothing political about this…We have a workforce that we want to be healthy, happy, and productive, [and] we want to create a place where people can be those things.’”
And, Ewen pointed out, DEIB matters for everyone. Companies with successful diversity initiatives have happier workers and more profitable companies. And the workforce expects it — a Glassdoor survey found that 76% of employees and job seekers say a diverse workforce is important as they evaluate companies and job offers.
DEIB efforts help everybody — from people from marginalized groups who have been denied opportunities in the past to organizations overall. And robust People analytics are one more tool to help HR leaders make a difference in this critical area.
“The work will never be done,” Derzoutos said. “All we can do is try to create an environment where people will do the best work of their careers. And if we can help one person feel more welcomed, more productive, [and] more engaged, then we've had an impact on someone's life in a meaningful way.”