5 Ways to Make Diversity in the Workplace a Reality
Organisations are continuing to struggle to meet their diversity goals. Here are five ways to improve DEI within your business.
Global diversity and inclusion leader Susan Fourie believes the key is examining the entire process holistically. “Organizations need to become much more conscious about DEI and filter their commitment through their people processes. That starts with examining the data, and understanding the story the data is telling you.”
DEIB success begins with paying attention to the data. Almost every organization sets targets around increasing senior leadership diversity. But how many have looked at their data to investigate the true cause? Is it a sourcing issue (not hiring diverse people), a growth issue (not promoting and developing diverse talent), an attrition issue (too many diverse people leaving), or all three? “Best intentions and best-guess assumptions don’t reliably fuel change.” Mike Everitt, Senior Solutions Consultant at Visier says.
Guesses and hunches don’t translate into sustainable results. Data-fueled insights lead to the actions which close representation gaps and give everyone an equal opportunity to thrive. The burning question must be: How we can do better?
We asked people, diversity, and business leaders at the recent Inclusion21 event for their thoughts. They said they were using people analytics to improve diversity in the workplace across five crucial areas:
Recruitment And Onboarding – 32.3%
Career Pathing – 28.0%
Remuneration, Reward And Recognition – 17.2%
Training And Development – 14.0%
Health And Wellbeing – 8.6%
Let’s dive deeper into what their responses mean and how you can take action on each.
1. Build a fair, inclusive recruitment process
Recruitment is an obvious place to start improving DEI. According to Visier, nearly a third of customers cite recruitment as their main interest in improving DEI. As Ian Cook, Visier VP of People Analytics, puts it, “recruitment is vital to ensure you’re increasing diversity in your pipeline. Otherwise it becomes extremely hard to change the current state of your company.”
Consciously examine your end-to-end recruitment processes, from the language in your job adverts and Glassdoor profile to your interviewing and assessment processes. Search for patterns regularly. If you find discrepancies, have honest conversations to understand why those discrepancies might be happening and how to drive change.
Susan shares why these honest, authentic conversations are crucial: “I remember, a male leader was asked why he had no women in his direct leadership team. And he said, ‘I can’t find them.’ People challenged him: Why can’t you find them? Where have you looked? What have you done? And he was so honest, he said ‘I’m so sorry. I’ve woken up late. I don’t have an excuse for that.’ That’s the kind of conversation that makes a difference.”
2. Create paths to leadership for diverse talent
The next step is to create pathways for diverse candidates to succeed. “For more than a decade, our recruitment has been around 50/50. But we have a much lower number of women reaching the top levels,” says Stephen Pfister, CEO of KPMG Switzerland. “We know we need to develop our own female talent internally.” Many organizations want to invest more in developing and retaining their diverse talent.
A recent Visier survey found 28% of respondents were creating paths for diverse talent to progress. “Career pathing helps retain diverse people,” Ian says, “by making sure opportunities to learn and grow are equally distributed.”
People analytics provide the mechanism to both investigate and solve DEI bottlenecks. (That’s why Visier customers have enjoyed an improved female leadership ratio to males by 11.5% and 70% improved retention of female leaders.)
Susan shares an example of how people analytics can guide practical action. In a previous role, they saw junior women declining promotions even from manager to senior manager. “Women often lack senior female role models to encourage progression. Or where there are senior women, they’ve often had to fight tooth and nail and make personal sacrifices that make leadership unappealing. Those insights guided us to create an additional executive layer between senior managers and directors.” Offering this stepping stone had a big impact on the number of women in senior roles, which in turn gave more women the confidence to step-up. This will create more role models for tomorrow.
3. Address systematic pay inequality
The new Visier InsightsTM Report: Gender Pay Equity Progress Hangs in the Balance shows that–although the gender pay gap has narrowed in recent years–the pandemic risks damaging pay equity progress and increasing workplace inequality.
Pay inequality has wide-reaching implications. It can hurt recruitment, retention, and reputation. Yet, surprisingly, only 17% of respondents at Inclusion21 identified this as their major focus for analytics-driven DEI change. Especially given,“the increasing levels of regulation and reporting in this area and the huge reputational risks of getting this wrong” according to Ian.
Running a pay equity analysis is a fantastic example of how people analytics creates fairer outcomes. Culture Amp’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Steven Huang, says his company has a robust four-step process they follow every merit cycle, to identify and address systematic inequality. Like Susan, Steven emphasizes that the presentation of data and facts must be accompanied by healthy discussion; the emotional consequence of equity is equally as important as the numbers.
A pay equity analysis is not a one-and-done thing. Remuneration needs constant monitoring. Reviewing equity once every several years is no longer acceptable given constant changes in people, the market, the location of roles, and the opportunities for flexible work. Ian says, “Organizations must be constantly assessing changes and building practices which catch and realign inequity as quickly as possible. The data is readily available so you must have consistent, continuous review practices in place if you’re committed to DEI.”
4. Increase the impact of training and development programs
Surprisingly, training and development fell behind career pathing as a priority, with only 14% of the vote. Yet, career pathing and training are entwined. Proven career paths propel more diverse talent into leadership roles. But you also need to have fact-based conversations about learning and development needs—and a nuanced understanding of the unique challenges different employee groups might face—to successfully navigate those paths.
KPMG’s approach to building diversity re-integrates people, usually women, who have been away from the workforce for a few years, according to Stephen. Success hinges on understanding their learning needs and building effective programs to help these women prepare and feel confident in a fast-paced workplace.
People analytics can highlight specifically which skills and experience needed in specific roles. For example, which skills do female managers need to build in order to thrive in leadership roles? Once you’ve uncovered these, you can then design programs, measure impact, and refine.
But it’s not just training that’s important, it’s informal networking. According to Susan, “the whole development piece is crucial. Among men, you still see automatic networking and sponsorship happening that doesn’t with women. Formal mentoring programs for women can be an excellent way to address that.”
This type of conscious advancement is an important element of Visier’s “Open Mind, Open Book, Open Heart” DEI framework, to move beyond good intentions and address representation gaps systematically.
5. Address diverse groups’ unique health and wellbeing needs
The last action is addressing diverse groups’ unique health and well-being needs. Diverse groups were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Burnout itself is often inequitable. Minor inequalities can escalate into disproportionate attrition among diverse groups if left unattended.
Building a healthy and inclusive culture means discovering and accommodating diverse groups’ needs, and consciously identifying and resolving unconsciously detrimental behaviors. This requires both qualitative and quantitative data.
Exit interviews provide valuable clues to better understand leavers’ motivations and identify opportunities to create a more inclusive, equitable working environment. Any data-driven diversity program should look at how your diversity ratio changes over time, to understand how well you’re retaining diverse groups.
With predictive analytics, you can move beyond measuring who’s left to predicting who’s at-risk of leaving to keep diverse talent in-house. (For example, global technology company Sabre used analysis of this sort to reduce regrettable attrition from 9% to 7.5%.)
A journey of one thousand miles starts with data
The lag in DEI progress begins with companies not harnessing their data effectively. In fact, only 35% of Chief Diversity Officers can measure diversity data. Two major factors block DEI progress. The first is an incredible lack of understanding of the many different factors. The second is a tendency to think diversity is someone else’s responsibility. Susan says, “There’s a critical education piece with people analytics: to show what the real picture is, strengthen the diversity conversation, build awareness, and scale buy-in.” Achieving diversity takes time and a systematic, structured approach to change driven by data.