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Ideas and insights for today’s people-centered leaders.

It’s well-established that more diverse companies outperform their peers–but despite robust evidence, progress has been disappointing

As global diversity and inclusion leader, Susan Fourie, puts it, “Organisations 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.”

Mike Everitt, Visier Senior Solutions Consultant, adds, “Almost every organisation is setting targets around increasing senior leadership diversity. But how many have looked at their data to investigate whether it’s 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.”

The truth is, in organisations’ quest to close representation gaps and give everyone equal opportunity to thrive, best intentions aren’t translating into sustainable results. The burning question must be–how can we 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 

Nearly a third of people we asked identified recruitment as their biggest focus for improving DEI using people analytics. And in many ways, recruitment is the obvious place to start. 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.” 

Susan talks about the need to “consciously examine” your end-to-end recruitment processes, from the language in your job adverts and Glassdoor profile to your interviewing and assessment processes. She advises you search for patterns regularly and check for discrepancies, then 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 

“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.” 

KPMG is not the only organization looking to invest more energy into developing and retaining their diverse talent. 28% of our respondents said they’re also focussed on 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 are valuable because they’re the mechanism to investigate and then 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, from one of her previous roles: “We were seeing junior women very often declining even moving 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, giving more women the confidence to step-up today and creating 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. 

Given the wide-reaching implications of pay inequality–hurting recruitment, retention, and reputation–it’s a little surprising that only 17% of respondents at Inclusion21 identified this as their major focus for analytics-driven DEI change. Especially given, as Ian points out, “the increasing levels of regulation and reporting in this area and the huge reputational risks of getting this wrong.”

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, talks about the robust four-step process they follow every merit cycle, to identify and address systematic inequality. Like Susan, Steven emphasises 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.” 

“This must be a continuous process,” Ian says. “Renumeration 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. Organisations 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 

It’s interesting to see training and development so far behind career pathing as a priority, with only 14% of the vote, because they’re necessarily entwined. To propel more diverse talent into leadership roles you need proven career paths, yes. But you also need to have fact-based conversations about their learning and development needs–and a nuanced understanding of the unique challenges different employee groups might face–to successfully navigate those paths. 

Stephen talks about KPMG’s approach to building diversity by re-integrating people, usually women, who have been away from the workforce for a few years. Success hinges on understanding their learning needs and building effective programs to help them prepare and feel confident because the pace of work moves so quickly. 

Using people analytics, you can start to understand specifically which skills and experience you need, say, female managers to build in order to thrive in leadership roles, then design programs, measure impact, and refine. 

But it’s not just training that’s important. Susan points out, “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

That 9% of our respondents identified health and wellbeing as their major DEI focus is testament to how diverse groups have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and how burnout itself is often inequitable. Left to spiral, these inequalities can escalate into disproportionate attrition among diverse groups.  

Building a healthy and inclusive culture means discovering and accommodating diverse groups’ needs, and consciously identifying and resolving unconsciously detrimental behaviours. This requires both qualitative and quantitative data. 

Stephen talks about the value of exit interviews to better understand leavers’ motivations and identify opportunities to create a more inclusive, equitable working environment. Equally, 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 truth is, we’re still lagging far behind on DEI progress–and the problem starts with the fact many companies still aren’t harnessing their data effectively. In fact, only 35% of Chief Diversity Officers can measure diversity data

As Susan puts it, “There are two major stumbling blocks to DEI progress. One, there’s an incredible lack of understanding of the many different factors. And two, there’s a tendency to think diversity is someone else’s responsibility. 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.” 

There’s no silver bullet for diversity. Change takes time, and a systematic, structured approach to change–driven by data. 
Download our new report, Racial/Ethnic Career Gap Reveals Magnitude of Equity Challenge, to explore ways to start narrowing the gap and accelerating action.

About the Authors:

Elliott King: As Senior Business Development Manager for Visier, Elliott’s responsibilities include making sure best practice and thought leadership is shared with the EMEA market as well as helping customers get started on their People Analytics journey at Visier. As well as this, Elliott is a keen motorsport and performance car enthusiast and can often be found at the local race track.

Robert Sullivan: Robert is a B2B Sales Professional with 15 years experience of selling into the HR function.  Excited to be working in the people analytics space, as we are now seeing first hand, the importance that people data and insight can play in making the workplace a happier, healthier and more engaging environment for employees.  Born an bred in South East London, and still live there today.

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