In its 2019 report Workplace Diversity, Inclusion and Intersectionality, Culture Amp found that more and more companies were including D&I questions in their engagement surveys and that small wins were aiding positive change. But there is still a data gap that needs to be filled.
Culture Amp has since launched a free D&I starter kit to encourage companies to improve the way they collect employee feedback. Senior People Scientist Jess Brook and Nick Matthews, General Manager and Vice President EMEA explain why collecting the right data is essential to improving D&I.
How important is D&I to the work that you do?
We’ve long held the opinion that this is a crucial initiative. We have seen the value of diversity in organisations and that, ultimately, it’s both a moral and commercial imperative.
Culture Amp has been working in this space since 2015 when we partnered with a US company called Paradigm to build the gold standard diversity and inclusion survey to help businesses collect the right kind of data to make progress in that field.
You’ve launched a free D&I starter kit; how does it work?
Yes, because we believe deeply in being able to make progress in this space, and the power of using data to help companies do that. We saw this as one, easy, and quick path to putting people analytics into the hands of those who are in a position to do something about it.
It’s pretty simple. The diversity and inclusion ‘freemium’ is essentially what customers would get in our paid platform. It has pretty much all the same functionality, with some of the customisation reeled back to make it easier for us to deliver it for free.
Companies can collect a lot of data with the ‘action potential’; a philosophy of collecting data on both representation and employee experiences and marrying them together to understand your organisation through an intersectional lens. You can then map out and look at the things you’re able to take action on, supported by some ideas and inspirations.
They get access to the tool, and a suite of online educational material, instead of a person holding their hand through the process. It also offers online training and support that helps individuals interpret and use their results in an efficient way.
Who is typically taking this up? HR or the D&I practitioner?
That’s a good question. D&I still lives in HR most of the time. Many organisations are splitting it from HR because they don’t want it to be associated with HR. Equally, a lot of companies are folding D&I into everyday practices. They don’t want it to be a standalone thing that happens in a vacuum. They want to use this data and information to weave as a thread through everything that they do. You then have managers, marketing professionals and people who are involved in every aspect of the employee or customer experience, involved.
Who is responsible for and has the budget to make the change?
It varies across organisations. Often it depends on the D&I pioneers in organisations, where they come from and how influential they are. That’s one of the things that we focus a lot on in our supporting materials – the how-to aspects of building momentum within an organisation. For example, “how do you gain buy-in? How do you help people to know what to do? How do you help them be accountable for certain things?”
Sometimes it might be someone taking this on as extra work or volunteering, and they’re just creating a lot of noise about it in their business – those grassroots pioneers who basically attract people to their cause. Then you have people at the other end of the spectrum who are trying to tick a box, or the board is after particular metrics.
Are there different approaches geographically as well?
There is a perception that it’s harder to do in some countries; especially those with a legacy or hangovers from things that happened in previous decades. The US is probably the most progressive in terms of its attitude to collecting this kind of data. Australia and Europe are probably a little bit further behind. But of course, there will be challenges that come with running a diversity and inclusion survey across geographies and regions because the terminology and the language are different.
Does that also apply to the requirements?
We’ve done a lot of work around this because, in trying to offer a free product to people to be able to use, we wanted that to be globally relevant.
But obviously, we ran into some challenges. For example, what you call specific demographics in Germany versus the US is very different. Pretty much everywhere, people can ask about demographics, but some countries assume it’s illegal when it’s not.
There’s more to do around change management and using effective communication to explain cultural nuances. Most importantly, it is knowing how you will use the data and being explicit in the ‘how’ and ‘why’ to stakeholders. There’s a higher standard of transparency in sharing that in Europe than there is in the US.
Did anything surprise you about the findings of your report?
Yes, the number of companies that were weaving inclusion initiatives into everyday activities. In the report, we give the example of decision-making. While decision-making is not a D&I-only thing, companies were actively making it a focus area, and adding an inclusive lens to initiatives. Our data also revealed that this was becoming more and more part of everyday business, which was quite heartening.
Could you explain more about the intersectional lens and why it’s important?
One of the other things that we talk about in the report is that there’s still a data deficit. For example, we’re seeing more companies in the US collect data around race, sexual orientation and disability. That information is not being collected as much in Europe and Australia. But, where companies are collecting that data, we’re able to aggregate it through an intersectional lens and report the experience of women, men and by race and other demographics. It makes so much sense, and yet no one talks about it.
Do you gather data on pay?
We’d love to, but it relies on companies sharing their financial data with us. What we tend to see is companies doing their own internal analysis where they’re linking outcomes for particular groups and their pay and progression. But that is still one area, particularly in the UK, which is very under-researched. I think it’s only 3% of companies would even look at their data in a way that allows them to track pay and progression by anything other than gender.
Is social mobility included in your surveys?
Not as standard. We do have demographics in there that ask about parents’ education levels etc. We often find that socio-economic data is one of those more sensitive things that people usually take out of their demographic lists. All our surveys are completely customisable, so it is up to them. We provide them with the best starting point.
Are the surveys anonymous?
We can’t identify people. It’s the difference between confidentiality and anonymity. Our standard diversity and inclusion survey, including the freemium, is entirely anonymous; you cannot identify anyone. The confidential version is the same. But, to be able to do that demographic analysis, you need to be able to ‘identify’ a person by giving them a unique number within the software, not their name. This enables you to dive deeper into specific demographics and get the best value from the analytics.
What trends are you seeing coming out of the surveys?
People are focusing on things that aren’t necessarily specifically inclusions, such as improving the employee experience across a range of different demographics. That’s one of the trends that came out of that data. We have what we called ‘inspirations’ in the platform, which are the blueprints for action. They’re ideas for small actions, or small wins, which is another aspect of the report.
Essentially, we’re seeing teams who are using these ‘inspirations’ focused on what is very much within their control. So, we’re going to set up an effortless way for everyone in the team, regardless of background, to be able to have conversations with people who are two levels above them. That gives them more of an opportunity to build a network within their organisation. Those small wins and small actions that can be devolved are one of the trends. It’s less about what the diversity council, what the ERGs are doing and more about what individual teams are doing in their everyday line of work.
What’s next for Culture Amp?
We intend to continue our focus on diversity and inclusion and not just through thought leadership but through taking action and making an impact. We want to make it more mainstream on the platform and in how we interact with the community, our customers and prospects. A big focus for us is, while there’s that huge shift in HR happening, people now realise that it’s HR’s role to enable front-line managers because they are the heartbeat of organisations.
Secondly, we’re trying to be more predictive. Industry, 10, 20 years ago, was always retrospective. So, how can we get ahead of the constant change? We try and help companies prepare and think about not just fixing the past but preparing for the future.
Thirdly, is to keep amplifying – one of our company values is to amplify the community and thought leaders in this space. We’ve just launched our podcast, and we’ll have community chapters around the world, helping people to coalesce around those topics; to find support and inspiration.