Diverse staff will share personal data to improve DEI strategies

Employees from minority groups were more likely to participate in data sharing

Employees, including those from minority groups, aren’t against personal data sharing providing communication on purpose, such as improving workplace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are clear.

Yet, according to new research, poor communication and lack of action from leadership are preventing businesses from gathering employee data to improve their DEI strategies.

The ‘Time to Act: Seven principles for effective DEI data gathering’ report reveals enthusiasm among British and Irish workers to contribute to DEI programmes by providing personal information. Yet, it found that employers with unproven workplace DEI are less likely to gain this data.

Disclosure and good workplace DEI

The study found that most respondents were willing to disclose data about their demographic characteristics, with 68% of respondents being “likely” or “very likely” to participate.

Willingness to disclose data grew in firms with proven efforts from leadership to improve diversity and inclusion. In contrast, firms with a poor DEI record aren’t as trusted by employees and gain less access to employee data, contributing to ineffective programmes.

In the survey, only 42% of employees that believe their organisation has made no progress on DEI initiatives are “likely” or “very likely” to participate in data sharing. This is around 20% less than the staff at firms where there has been some progress on DEI.

Minority groups

Employees from minority groups (75%) were more likely to participate in this process than 66% who do not identify with a minority group.

Out of all minority groups, gender minorities were most likely to share data at 45%. Only 33% of racial and ethnic minorities and those with a cognitive/mental or physical disability say they are “very likely” to participate in efforts to collect data, in contrast to the 44% of employees that identified as LGBTQ+.

Interestingly, people who identify with no minority group are the least likely to express their willingness to share data, showing that underrepresented workplace groups are more willing to share data providing that commitment to DEI has been proven by leadership.

This also shows that employee data collection can be instrumental in devising improved DEI initiatives that serve underrepresented groups, providing that businesses are genuine and transparent.

Common barriers to employee data disclosure

Out of those less likely to provide their employers with personal data, many had concerns over data use. One-third cited a lack of clarity about how the data will be used and why. Over a quarter said they worried about “the anonymity of the data collected” and “how the data will be stored and protected.”

Another barrier to effective data collection is the disconnect between the information employers ask and what employees think is needed to develop better DEI strategies.

The study found that commonly requested data by employers is age, nationality, and sex, but employees think data on race and ethnicity and physical disability or impairment is better for improving organisational DEI.

For businesses wanting to build greater trust with staff regarding data collection to improve their workplace DEI, here are seven tips from diversity experts who contributed to the research.

  1. Provide clear explanations of how data will be used: such as explaining the need to promote fairness and inclusivity for all.
  2. Update policies and processes to foster an inclusive workplace: this includes ensuring that anti-discriminatory policies are strengthened and reporting mechanisms are simplified.
  3. Frame data collection as part of a company-wide transformation: this should involve everyone, from leadership to non-managerial employees.
  4. Focus on reaching those whose disclosure rates would otherwise be lower: this means ensuring marginalised groups, particularly of racial minorities and people with disabilities, are listened to in order to gain their trust.
  5. Ask for a wide range of data and make sure to ask the “right” questions: this should cover the wide range of characteristics that employees can identify with.
  6. Focus on the specificity of identity: this means maintaining sensitivity when categorising characteristics and analysing data
  7. Make it easy for employees to update data at all points of their careers: technology and procedure should make inputting, and updating, personal details easy.

John Petter, CEO of Zellis, said: “The Economist’s research must be read as good news. It provides the clearest evidence yet of the opportunity to capture the benefits of a more diverse, inclusive workforce.

“No one is suggesting the work to build trust and a culture of inclusion is easy. But even for those who are unsure about where to begin, it’s time to put to bed the myth that colleagues are unwilling to offer the data you need to make changes.”

You can access the research in full here.

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