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How to Set and Achieve Diversity Goals with Confidence

With the Black Lives Matter movement in the spotlight, many big name brands are pledging to increase the representation of minorities within their organizations. 

LinkedIn, for example, recently announced a commitment to “double the number of Black and Latino leaders, managers, and senior individual contributors on its U.S. team over the next five years.” Estée Lauder and Adidas are just two of the many companies listed in this New York Times article that have quantified their goals for addressing racial equity. 

This recent wave of public promises is a positive sign that organizations are indeed taking social injustice issues seriously. But every industry and every organization is different–what might work for LinkedIn or Estée Lauder might not work for other businesses. Unrealistic D&I goals will cripple real progress, cause the public to question whether the company’s commitment is genuine, and generate a lack of trust among employees.

Organizations that choose to publish goals are certainly holding themselves to a higher standard. But setting goals without quantifiable data to support them will almost always backfire–it’s why the Rooney Rule is a great method to take advantage of. If your organization is facing D&I pressures–whether they are coming from a rise in turnover, retention problems, employee engagement, or customers and consumers–take these three steps to guide your goals and objectives:

Step  #1: Determine how D&I will move the business forward

Your CEO has likely heard the generic business case for D&I before. But the key is to immerse D&I into your organization’s DNA. When D&I is a root component of your business strategy, and employees understand that it is good for the people and the business, your organization will be in a better position to drive and maintain support at all levels.

This means looking at–and in some cases adapting–your business strategy to incorporate a D&I focus. For example, the business case might be to ensure that customer-facing roles mirror the communities they serve. This also begs the question: are these customer-facing positions generally lower level, high-turnover positions? 

If so, then think about broadening your focus to more levels in the organization. For example, in retail, this would include strategies to hire and retain diverse people in more senior positions who have decision-making power over the types of products the organization sells and how they should be marketed. Mirroring the demographics of your customer base increases career opportunities for diverse professionals, while helping the business in terms of accessing a broader market.

The case for diversity applies not just to consumer-driven companies but B2B organizations as well. Many companies, for example, ask about diversity efforts as part of their RFP process because they want to work with responsible businesses. Leaders want to understand whether a potential supplier has made meaningful investments in diversity initiatives–and whether this investment is on track to generating results. Having shared values around D&I creates a positive domino effect for everyone.

Step #2: Determine your D&I strategy

Now that you have articulated your organization’s unique business case and where you want to go, you need to determine what your D&I strategy is. Or rather close the gap between vision and reality, whether it involves managing your recruiting pipeline differently or investing in employee training and development. Another strategy might involve delivering more support to Employee Resource Groups (ERG) to empower them with a broader voice, improve business processes, or tap into their insights for marketing and advertising efforts. 

A key component of building the right solution(s), however, is defining the right problem(s) and opportunities upfront. Your strategy for improving gender equity, for example, will be different if there is a lack of female candidates in your pipeline vs. if you are hiring enough women but have trouble retaining them. 

If you haven’t already done so, do some investigative analysis to test and validate or deny various hypotheses around major gaps. You should also be looking at–not just overall numbers–but specifics related to roles, geographies, and departments. Your overall metrics may actually be good, but when you dig deeper you may find pockets and root causes of problems where diversity levels are lacking/volatile. 

Now you have the data to initiate appropriate strategies that will, indeed, close the gaps and move your D&I strategies forward.  

Screenshot of Pipeline Diversity of Applicants Active in Period based on Interview Process
Analysis of candidate pipeline diversity and trends to watch out for.

Step 3: Measure success

Now it’s time to establish the D&I goals that you want to achieve over a set period of time. These are the physical numbers to demonstrate that the organization is progressing. For example, if a goal is to mirror the customer population in the local market, you need to look at the external data, which becomes your baseline. Then compare that to your hiring data, and your employee representation numbers to know whether you are at, significantly below, or above the baseline. 

Without this step, organizations can risk setting themselves up for failure with overly-optimistic goals. For example, with a falling representation of black STEM graduates in the talent market, it’s clear that increasing African American representation in tech roles is going to take a coordinated, sustained effort that could extend beyond your company to include joining forces with multiple stakeholder organizations.

Consider starting with internally sharing select data to give employees visibility and test the effectiveness of improvement strategies. Once you can demonstrate steady improvement and increase their belief in your intentions, then you are in a better position to take your reporting public. Lastly, regular monitoring and reporting is necessary to track the effectiveness of the strategy over time.

D&I goals you can stand behind

Using people analytics to identify where you are today is a critical input to establishing your future goals and ensuring that they are realistic and achievable. Continuous use of people analytics to quantifiably track results will create credibility in your reporting efforts. 

The right analytics platform automates all the number crunching for you so you can quickly track your numbers and tackle questions with purposeful actions (check out this recent blog post announcing new data on women and the glass ceiling for more specifics). You will be better equipped to stand behind the goals and open up meaningful internal and external discussions–conversations that will put your organization on a continuous path to success.

Author Photo
Quinn Slaughter |
Quinn is a People Analytics Consultant at Visier. She spent over 20 years as an HR practitioner, serving global markets and recognized subject matter expertise in Workforce Planning, Talent Acquisition, Diversity and Inclusion, Engagement, HR systems, analytics and reporting. Her favorite things to do in her spare time include cooking, reading and various arts and crafts. She also loves music and spending time with her family.