We were recently joined by two fantastic DEI specialists – Rochana Ebini Jackson, CEO of Divrsity and Dr. Adrienne Milner, Director of Research and Insight at Utopia – for a webinar looking at the importance of measuring, tracking and reporting on data to inform your DEI strategies and initiatives.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a growing area of focus and is fast becoming a top priority for many organisations, and for good reason, creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace is shown to lead to better business outcomes, including increased innovation, creativity and profitability.
A recent report by Workday showed that 35% of organisations are planning to increase their investment in DEI in the next financial year, and whilst this is great news, the report also showed there is more to do regarding tracking data to measure progress with 60% of respondents saying that tracking progress was challenging and required new systems and software to fully support DEI strategies.
During our webinar we posed several questions to our panellists to get their opinions on how important data is in successfully measuring and tracking DEI strategies. The first question we asked was:
What is the value of DEI and why is placing data at the hear of your DEI approach more important now than ever before?
Rochana kicked off by getting our audience to imagine what the value would be of having no diversity of thought, or variety of skills, what is the value of having employees that are actively excluded and made to feel unwelcome.
“Diversity really means variety, making intentional decisions to hire a variety of different people from various backgrounds, experiences and perspectives – this will breed creativity and innovation, which is surely the gold standard of any organisation wanting to stay one step ahead of their competitors.”
“You can give two people the opportunity to enter a building but if one is disabled and the other is able bodied and its stairs only and there is no disabled access, then these two people are not set up for the same success because they are coming from two different starting points.”
Organisations need to make sure they are inclusive and acknowledging people from all different types of background, experiences and identities, not just ticking a box but making sure that they are fully integrated within the company as decision makers, strategy setters, executive leaders.
Rochana went on to say “inclusive companies have been shown to be twice more likely to be innovation leaders and as we said, innovation is how you’re going to maintain market capture, increase your revenue, not to mention three out of four job seekers will actively look at diversity when deciding whether or not to accept a job offer, so companies need to be centering diversity, equity and inclusion just to survive – and that’s not just talking about it but actually actioning it.
“There’s a reason why the world’s most valuable resources is no longer oil – it’s data. Data allows you to measure it. You can establish that baseline, you can find your benchmarks, you can set your goals.”
DEI has an impact on your bottom line. Companies that are inclusive are shown to be twice more likely to be innovation leaders and 3 out of 4 job seekers will actively look at diversity when deciding whether or not to apply for a job offer – so companies need to take this on board and action DEI initiatives into their organisation, even if it is small steps to start with.
Adrienne followed on to look a bit more closely at how DEI can impact the bottom line of an organisation. She suggested that cultural change and policy change go hand in hand. If you make cultural changes you need to back it up with changes in your policies to really maximise your return on investment.
“Investing in cultural change and focusing on DEI initiatives can have a positive impact on employee engagement, their motivation and performance as well as increasing an organisation’s reputation amongst others.”
“Equally it can decrease problems within an organisation such as employee turnover, legal issues and toxic environments.”
Adrienne gave an example of a cultural change policy when she joined Utopia.
“When I first arrived they asked what calendar do you want to work off of? I said: ‘What do you mean?’ They said: ‘Well you’re American so if you want to take off Thanksgiving and you want to work on a bank holiday that’s fine, or I happen to be Jewish so if you want to take off Rosh Hashanah but work over Christmas that’s fine.’ I’d never even been presented that sort of inclusivity policy so once you’re presented with that, you’re even more likely to be engaged and motivated.”
Adrienne went on to talk about benchmarking where your organisational kpi’s and people metrics are measured to understand and maximise your return on DEI investment. To do this you need to understand:
- What is and isn’t working
- How DEI efforts are being received
- If policies are appropriate, properly implemented and effective.
We then moved on to discuss:
‘What mistakes are you witnessing organisations often make and what should they avoid?’
Adrienne highlighted 3 mistakes companies often make:
- People think DEI should be about equal opportunities regardless of X characteristics. This isn’t correct, it is about placing an emphasis on diversity and realizing it’s not only the right thing to do but it’s the right thing to help your business.
- Assuming DEI is for minoritized persons, but straight white men benefit from DEI initiatives, for example they may be a parent, or it might be their age… DEI is beneficial to everyone not just minoritized groups.
- Examining policies and processes – get feedback from all departments to review if you are marginalising a group of people unnecessarily.
Rochana followed on to make the point that “DEI departments need to be a vein running through an organisation, not siloed off in a separate bubble, DEI efforts need to be decentralised. On top of this, if organisations don’t have an internal workforce which is reflective of the diversity of people who are going to be potential customers, then business decisions being made at the top are only going to serve the type of person who’s making that business decision.
If you’re only having one type of perspective or very similar perspective then output is going to start to become homogeneous, and those organizations are not going to be able to attract or retain any of that dynamic talent and then the cycle continues.
Equality and inclusion in a workplace is credited with increased revenue, greater returns to shareholders, deeper investor confidence (if your business is backed by investors), so it is a win-win, not just from an employee satisfaction and feelings perspective but you’re going to see positive impact on your bottom line.”
We went on to ask ‘What are the best practices in DEI & Data from leading companies that results in real business outcomes?
Adrienne discussed how leading companies in the DEI space are consistently gaining insights and looking at real issues rather than perceived issues within their workforce. This involved looking at qualitative and quantitative data, not just reacting from a senior leader saying, ‘we don’t have enough of X type of people in our organisation’.
Posing questions to your senior leaders and comparing the same questions to your employees can often throw up some interesting results and identify areas that as a senior leader you may think are going well but as an employee you may see it very differently.
Organisations need to really think about the unique needs of their business, understanding how to implement change and then testing those needs over time to see if they have had an impact.
Gathering DEI data and building trust with your employees to get the data in the first place can help you track and measure changes and ultimately help you see how much that change is affecting your business’ progress and performance. Data can also help demonstrate the return on investment and the benefit to the business’ bottom line.
Lastly, we asked ‘What can organisations do to start on their DEI and data journey?’
Adrienne started by saying most organisations need to bring in a third-party company that are the experts in understanding and manipulating the data. That may be a quantitative survey or qualitative focus groups to gather really in-depth findings.
Organisations are often surprised how bias can show up in their policies. For example, having a parental leave policy that has been written by people that are parents but have not recognised that less than a fourth of their organisation are not parents and therefore this policy is inaccessible to their staff.
A third party can audit your people and policies and start identifying policies that you may not have considered that can help improve your DEI initiatives, so no matter where you are in your journey there are changes that you can make.
Rochana added: start by collecting the DEI data. Where are you at currently? You may be creating some great policies but if all your decision makers are from a similar background and experience then you may only be seeing the world through one lens.
Collect the data to understand your baseline and how to turn that data into actionable impact. Zone in on key areas – what is important to your organisation right now. Start by creating small changes, a new offering, different support.
Rochana gave the example, of reviewing your interview policy – look at who your interviewers are… if they are a single type of person (white straight male for example) it may make a difference to change it up, add in a diverse range of interviewers to make sure that your interviewers are as diverse as the talent you hope to attract within your organisation.
What do you see happening in DEI over the next year?
It is great that companies are moving from just a tick box exercise of completing compliance regulation to wanting to make a change within their organisation which is encouraging. However, we have seen cutbacks within DEI departments, Twitter have cut their DEI team of 30 people down to 2 for example. With the current climate companies are having to focus on revenue and unfortunately DEI strategy often falls from the top of the priority list, what knock on impact will this have?
Rochana followed on to say: ‘I am hopeful that with further tech developments we can take DEI initiatives into new spaces that we haven’t explored yet. DEI needs to be considered at every decision level across an organisation, not just in HR and we’ll start reaping the benefits of that through an inclusive and representative industry.
Adrienne added that leading through change -whether that is Brexit, the pandemic, redundancies there is always going to be change. Organisations need to lead by example to equip their staff whilst being honest about changes. The second area is to look at trends within the UK and EU, making changes to your organisation to be more inclusive and diverse will help you survive in a world that is becoming more diverse and this will only get stronger over the next 5 years, you need to bulletproof yourself now.
To watch the full recording of our webinar, click here
To speak to us about how you can track and measure your DEI data then please contact us.