If your car isn’t performing optimally, you don’t attempt to fix it without getting insight into what the issues actually are. In fact, if you do jump to solution without understanding the issue, chances are you may create new issues and the original problem(s), left unattended, may worsen.
Unfortunately, this is exactly the approach many organizations take when it comes to DEI. Implementing anything or everything to improve your DEI profile (motivated by both desire and pressure for change) might be the expensive mistake that keeps your organization running in circles, while failing to make real and qualifiable progress.
Rather, when you have a problem with your car, you get a mechanic to open up the hood, run some diagnostics, and offer their informed perspective on what’s going on inside. Only then, will you know where and how to address the specific problems that are creating performance issues in the overall system.
DEI need not be - and should not be - a nebulous mystery that leaves your organization flailing. Creating real change in diversity, equity and inclusion comes down to how well you identify and understand the problems in the cultural ecosystem of your organization. You need to know not only what to address but also why and how.
Why Good DEI Strategy Is Data-Driven
Is your DEI strategy being handled with the same diligence and accountability with which your organization addresses other parts of the business, such as marketing or sales? If not, that’s the first obstacle. Chances are that within your organization, what is not well measured is also not well managed and is an underperforming area of the business. DEI is absolutely no exception, and may be the glaring case in point.
DEI analytics are not just informative “nice-to-knows”; they are a diagnostic tool from which to develop strategy and an action plan. Until you understand the strengths and challenges that different employee groups face in your organization, it’s difficult to know if you are taking the actions that will actually be effective in creating inclusion. Instead, guesses and assumptions and the displaced value put on simply “doing something” may drive a lot of inefficient wheel-spinning that isn’t closing the inclusion gaps.
Great intentions are not the same as great outcomes.
Bespoke DEI analytics provide guidance on understanding the gaps to diversity, equity and inclusion in your organization, as well as the what, how and even why of those gaps. Data grounds the DEI strategy in priorities that will make measurable impact in your areas of focus. Before moving to an action plan, a data-driven strategy asks, where and why and how should we act?
Not only do DEI analytics move your organization towards targeted actions focused on measurable outcomes, they also help to move the DEI strategic conversation away from intentions, denial and defensiveness. DEI data help you to consider, despite everyone’s best intentions and own personal experiences in the workplace, the actual patterns and outcomes that existing structures, processes and systems are creating and replicating for certain groups in your organization. This insight broadens leadership perspectives and stimulates curiosity about how to grow as an organization.
If DEI data is used only as a status check, it holds limited value and creates little accountability. When used as a diagnostic tool to frame the DEI discussion and develop strategy and action, DEI data becomes a powerful catalyst for change that your organization will want to gather.
Types of DEI Analytics
Findings such as the fact that companies in the first quartile of gender and ethnic diversity on executive teams are 25% and 36% more likely to enjoy above-average profitability are compelling, but at Pulsely we have found leadership is most engaged and motivated by what is pertinent to my organization and my business.
With Pulsely’s proprietary scientific framework, we investigate the State of DEI through core analytic measures: diversity data, workforce analytics, inclusion data, business performance indicators and inclusion competencies. Beyond diversity representation, we are able to quantify the patterns of how inclusion is experienced by various demographic groups in your workplace.Diversity Data: Provides a snapshot of diversity in your organization based on demographics (eg. gender, ethnicity, age, LGBTQ+, disability, relationship status, etc). This reveals the hard facts on who is represented (including intersectional representation) and how that varies in different parts and at different levels of the organization.
Workforce Analytics: Identifies the gaps in how different demographic groups progress in your organization, and where leaks exist in the pipeline to leadership. This explores factors such as hiring, attrition, time in position and promotion rates to help identify the specific patterns that impact equity and inclusion, and creates strategic focal points to achieve more impact.
Inclusion Data: Looks through the lens of employee’s perceptions, with employee survey data, to understand how different groups experience the workplace in very different ways, and reveals insights on any patterns of inequity. Once the unintentional impact of systems and processes is revealed, it’s more manageable to close the specific gaps that are present in your organization.
Performance Indicators: As research shows the link between inclusion and business outcomes, this analysis investigates how employees rate their engagement, ability to innovate and intent to stay in your organization. When this data is correlated to inclusion, it creates an internal business case to leadership that demonstrates how addressing their DEI gaps contribute to better business performance.
Inclusion Competencies: As inclusion is largely a result of day-to-day interactions that happen between individuals and within teams (including having the absence of exclusion experiences), this assessment evaluates the competencies of individual employees in supporting a culture of inclusion: learning from others, willingness to adapt, cultural intelligence, courage to engage, awareness of systemic bias, addressing bias,, and allyship. Scores on those skills also enable us to identify where individuals are in their own inclusion journey and sort their maturity level into four different mindsets (ranging from traditionalists to advocates). Understanding the prevalence of mindsets in your organization informs learning and development objectives to move the needle by meeting individuals where they are and supporting them and the overall organization, to evolve.
How To Apply DEI Data Effectively
Social scientists report that the most effective way to leverage DEI data to meet your DEI goals is:
- if data is presented in a way that is simple, salient and comparable.
- if data empowers the right people to act.
- if diversity goals are set to create accountability and increase follow-through.
- if data is leveraged to shift social norms around DEI.
DEI data is as valuable as your ability to understand the meaning of the data, investigate your complex questions and apply the learning. Then, the dots need to be connected between daily employee behavior and daily decisions and how they impact diversity outcomes. Targeted actions can be placed against goals and strategies, outcomes can be measured, accountability can be created and business performance can be improved.
As the authors write: “Manage DEI in exactly the same rigorous and data-driven way you manage the rest of your business. Achieving DEI objectives requires no more and no less than the use of the same planning, feedback, and accountability processes that are deployed to reach targets in sales, product development, and budgeting.”
DEI analytics provide the same precision approach that you would seek with any performance gap - the ability to look under the hood to understand the issue and then target your interventions.