Why data should be utilised to drive DEI policies 

Regular data analysis can set your organisation’s DEI efforts apart

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) aren’t merely HR buzzwords. They are vital to building an engaging, thriving, and innovative workforce. A diverse workforce brings different perspectives, ideas and experiences to the table, which can lead to better decision-making, increased innovation and a healthier bottom line. 

Creating an inclusive workplace is more than simply hiring and developing a diverse group of individuals. While still a critical element, fostering a culture of inclusion requires companies to actively work on creating an environment where employees feel valued, seen and heard. With many businesses unsure of where to begin, this has stalled the progression of DEI strategies, with a recent report finding that only 38% of businesses have allocated or plan to allocate a budget specifically for DEI plans.

One way businesses can advance their DEI strategy is by leveraging data. Data is an important tool to help organisations unlock new information that will allow them to jumpstart their DEI programmes, identify areas of low employee engagement and satisfaction, as well as measure the effectiveness of their initiatives. As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets done”. 

But how exactly should businesses utilise data to drive their DEI strategies?

An overview of where DEI policies fall short

Companies achieve diversity in the workplace when employees—of all levels, who come from different backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, genders, sexual orientations and religious beliefs—feel valued. When employees feel empowered to use their voices to share thoughts and ideas, more collaboration towards professional and company goals happens. 

However, there are common mistakes businesses continue to make when outlining their DEI initiatives. DEI isn’t merely changing a logo during Pride month or committing to DEI pledges externally without changing internal practices. A failure many businesses have fallen into is not understanding DEI is a cultural outcome, not a business check box. 

And the data supports this. When DEI policies fall short, this also has a negative impact on employee retention and hiring. A McKinsey survey found that 39% of individuals have turned down or decided not to pursue a job because of a perceived lack of inclusion at an organisation. It is clear then that nailing DEI policies is crucial for all businesses. 

Four ways data can elevate DEI initiatives

When it comes to DEI, data can be used in several ways and for different purposes, but most importantly, it will identify where initiatives need to be prioritised, where targets need to be set, and offer a way to measure the success of policies.

Below is a snapshot of some areas where data and measurement can support building strong DEI strategies. 

  1. Identify gaps in workforce representation and improve employee retention

It’s no secret that hiring is of great importance when creating diverse teams, but teams also need to understand where the gaps in representation are in a business when looking at their candidate pool. By collecting data on the ethnicity, age, gender and other characteristics of employees, companies can identify areas where they are underrepresented and make goals to improve. Recruitment is a key element to this. 

For example, if a company finds it has a low percentage of women in leadership roles, it can prioritise creating initiatives to develop and promote women into these roles. Companies can also identify where they need to improve their recruitment efforts so that they are able to attract a more diverse pool of talent. 

On the other side, data can help organisations analyse employee turnover and pinpoint factors contributing to turnover and take action to address these. If, for instance, a company discovers that employees from underrepresented groups are more likely to leave, it can then take steps to uncover the problems and properly address them. 

  • Measure employee engagement and satisfaction

In addition to understanding hiring and retention weaknesses, businesses need to be purposeful in the ways they create workplaces and cultures that allow their employees to feel supported and valued. By gathering feedback from employees regularly, organisations are able to uncover which groups of employees are more engaged compared to others. A significant difference in engagement scores could indicate biased mindsets.

If businesses notice this trend, they can ensure that future employee surveys ask questions targeting DEI concerns to understand better what might be hampering engagement. In these surveys, it’s also crucial businesses take into account the nuances of gender and identity. 

For example, when asking about a person’s gender identity, they need to ensure they are inclusive of everyone and go beyond the traditional ‘Man / Women’ options. SurveyMonkey’s latest State of Surveys research cast a spotlight on the fact that the majority (79%) of surveys in the UK now include over two gender options, with 30% offering four options and just under a fifth (18%) providing five or more options. 

  • Analyse pay equity

Pay equity is a crucial aspect of DEI. It’s vital that employees, regardless of their age, gender or ethnicity, are paid equally for their work. By analysing data on employee salaries, companies can identify bias in compensation and make the necessary organisational adjustments to address this issue. An output example might be revising salary bands and hiring practices. 

  • Monitor progress

Progression and overall organisational progress can also be measured and monitored through data. Once the right initiatives are put into action, companies can use these same metrics to track how they are doing and if they are making progress toward the goal of creating, maintaining, or improving DEI. This allows teams to tweak initiatives where necessary and have conversations with relevant employees if employee feedback is lower in certain areas than in others. 

Data is a powerful tool that can help inform and improve a company’s DEI strategy. By collecting and analysing data on employee demographics, engagement, satisfaction, pay equity and more, companies can identify areas where they need to improve and measure the effectiveness of their DEI initiatives. 

While data alone is not enough to create a culture of inclusion, it is, in fact, an essential component of a comprehensive DEI strategy.

Antoine Andrews is the Chief Diversity & Social Impact Officer at Momentive, the maker of SurveyMonkey.

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