So what should you base your DEI strategy on? Your best intentions? Nope. Your best assumptions? Definitely not. Gut instincts? Not even close. The best DEI data? Well, not even that is enough. Because a detailed map of the territory still doesn’t get you to where you ultimately want to go.
DEI data simply paints a descriptive picture of the terrain. And if you don’t know how to read it and what to do with it, you’re as good as lost. Only now you’re probably lost and overwhelmed.
Getting the right DEI data is only the first step to developing data-driven DEI strategy. But as with any tool, it’s your ability to interpret and practically apply that tool towards your desired outcomes that are going to matter in moving in the right direction.
Leveraging Data to Increase Impact
We already know that the companies that are performing as DEI leaders have in common a commitment to both visible DEI leadership and DEI data-driven strategy. They are collecting more data metrics on diversity, equity and inclusion and doing so with disaggregated data. They are collecting data on the myriad aspects of organizational process such as hiring, recruitment, retention, development, and compensation. They are collecting data on nuanced employee experiences such as support from leadership, recognition and praise, mentoring and participation in training. They are collecting data regularly and they are equipping leader with easy and visual access to that data. They are also more likely to be sharing that data with employees.
But DEI leaders aren’t just data rich. They are data smart. They are leveraging data to gain clarity and DEI vision. They are data literate - and they are drawing in the right support to convert DEI data into specific DEI challenges and compelling DEI data-driven insights and strategy. Because although DEI leaders are no more likely to have employed a third party data expert, they are three times as likely to report they are benefiting from doing so! In other words, they are leveraging the tool of DEI data.
It’s not having DEI data coming out of your ears that serves your organization’s growth. It’s the ability to listen to what it’s telling you and knowing what to do with that information.
DEI data should empower your organization to tell a richer story about what is happening in your organizational culture. And it’s a story told by and from the collective voices that come to work for you. Drawing from DEI-data, that story should be full of surprising insights on your organizational behavior, blindspots and probably some confirmations of suspicions. But it should also begin to reveal what is contributing to give rise to each plot line in that story. It shouldn’t just be descriptive. It should be explanative and empowering. It is also a living story, that allows you to take strategic and corrective action, and change the narrative.
Too few companies collect the full range of DEI data they need. Too few of those who do know how to close the gap between data and the real insights that would accelerate their DEI strategies and change their DEI story. Siloed data, poor data reliability, data coherence and lack of analytical talent all contribute to failure to convert data to value add. Only 29% of firms report they are successful at connecting data analytics (in general) to action.
But the organizations that tie DEI data to the business agenda, harness critical insights and make them accessible, interpretable and actionable are those who are revisioning their DEI story and driving a quantifiable difference to their business.
More Than Data, Insights!
You can be DEI data rich but still be insights poor and get nowhere. You need to be both DEI data rich and insights strong to understand your DEI story and arrive to DEI data-driven strategy that will change your organization.
DEI data is ultimately describing the behavior of your organization as expressed through your people, culture and approaches as experienced by different subsets of employees. But by itself, it will only be information for information’s sake.
According to Brent Dykes, author of Effective Data Storytelling: How to Drive Change with Data, Narrative and Visuals, the key distinction between data, information and insights is:
- Data is the raw and unprocessed facts that are usually in the form of numbers and text. Data can be quantitative (measured) or qualitative (observed).
- Information is prepared data that has been processed, aggregated and organized into a more human-friendly format that provides more context. Information is often delivered in the form of data visualizations, reports and dashboards.
- Insights are generated by analyzing information and drawing conclusions. Both data and information set the stage for the discovery of insights that can then influence decisions and drive change.
The most valuable insights don’t only answer a question. They catalyze and inform action. They are especially valuable when they make you see something differently or make you see something you hadn’t thought of and inspire a new direction or approach. The more you can maximize the insights that question what you thought you knew, challenge how you do things and inspire new approaches, the more value you will drive from DEI data and the more impactful your data-driven strategy will be.
For example, perhaps you find a certain segment of your employees report lower development opportunities. Seeing that the promotion rates of that group crystallizes it as fact. Seeing that mentorships and especially sponsorships are lacking among that segment and they report poorer managerial relationships begins to point to actions required.
Dykes asserts that actionable insights have six attributes - each of which underlines the importance of comprehensive analytics in the case of DEI metrics:
- Alignment - Insights tied to key business goals, key performance indicators (KPIs) and strategic initiatives are more likely to drive action.
- Context - Data and information need to be contextualized by benchmarks and comparisons and even activities to create worthy insights.
- Relevance - Insights need to be spoken to the right ears (decision makers) at the right moment in the right setting to be heard and effectively acted upon.
- Specificity - Insights need to be specific and complete to be acted upon and shed light on the why something is occurring.
- Novelty - Due to human nature, insights that are novel or unfold a novel angle into an issue will be more likely to spark action than familiar patterns you are already aware of. New angles into old problems signal opportunity not reinforce stuckedness.
- Clarity - Insights need to be simply, powerfully and clearly communicated or visualized and emphasized to not be lost in the noise, but rather stand out as an area where action is needed.
MIT Professor Rama Ramakrishnan suggests an “insight” is “anything that increases your understanding of how the system actually works. It bridges the gap between how you think the system works and how it really works.”
In other words, when data shows a gap between your expectations and what is actually going on, insight is the ‘aha’ learning on what is going on that may likely be contributing to or causing it.
How to get Started with a Data-Driven Approach
A data-driven culture does not stop at data acquisition. It’s focused on interpreting data, mining insights and narrating the data in a way that is insights-rich and actionable and continues to engage with the living story of that data. Once you understand what is going on in your current DEI story, you are able to make changes that will influence that story.
This requires linking data to the business objectives, becoming evidence-based in your DEI decision making, bringing data-based insights to life in the real time of your culture and having fluid, comprehensive and accessible data assets at your fingertips to ask better and better questions.
Then, you not only know how to read the map and you can set your vision and strategy on moving in the direction you want to go, but you can also track the dots as you move that way or course correct if you need to. Ready to get data rich and insights strong? We can help you begin today.