Taking Actions on Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion – The Role Of Data
Gathering and utilizing data to improve business and enable knowledge-based decision-making should be, and very much is, the norm for many companies. The amount of data we can gather to our advantage is massive, but it doesn't limit to sales or marketing alone. Putting effort into collecting and using internal data to improve diversity and inclusion or to recognize biases, for example, is the backbone for meaningful actions and paves the road for success.
But how do you do that? We gathered some useful ideas, tips and examples from the last Inklusiiv Talks discussion for you to get your DEI journey and measuring started. You are welcome!
Simply gathering data isn't enough unless it can be turned into insights that help us take the right actions that create an impact. So the first step is to identify the purpose of the information – why are we gathering this data, and how are we going to use it? What are we hoping to achieve? That helps companies to focus on the right things.
“A lot of companies measure something, like demographics or engagement, but it's not just a tick box exercise to get it off your list. I want people to look at measuring and collecting data that's about the impact of the actions taken by their companies," says Laura Smith, an independent diversity, equity, and inclusion analyst and researcher.
I want people to look at measuring and collecting data that's about the impact of the actions taken by their companies.
Another key point is to consider which data to use and how to collect it. In some cases, the data might be already there.
“Surveys are great for measuring belonging and how people feel within the organization, but if you want to look at diversity, for example, you already have a lot of relevant data from HR you can analyze for that. As for inclusion, the respondents don't often know the full extent of the conversations they’re excluded from - or they might interpret the meaning of inclusion differently. Rather than just asking, organizational network data might give more insight on the actual state of inclusion," Smith points out.
From data to an actual impact
It might feel intimidating for companies to start their DEI journey from scratch. An audit is a good idea to determine the current state and identify risks, opportunities, and future goals, actions and impacts.
"On top of the DEI survey, we did plenty of interviews to discuss our employees' personal experiences through external consultants. As a result, we got an 80-page report on our current state at Futurice. More importantly, we saw where we are failing or which groups we are letting down. That helped us to focus our attention to where it was needed the most," says Heidi Pech, the Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Futurice.
On top of the DEI survey, we did plenty of interviews to discuss our employees' personal experiences.
The learnings identified actions that could be taken both internally and with business, clients, or partners – and surprisingly, improving diversity, equity, and inclusion seemed to improve business too. One great example from Futurice was a client who had strict requirements in terms of skills but also preferred Finnish-speaking team members to carry out the project.
"Comparing the skill specifications against our employees, we found the perfect match. The only thing was that they did not speak Finnish. The client was willing to take the risk and ended up being very happy with the results once the project was completed. Unless they hadn't been open to overlooking the initial language requirement, they would have missed a top performer for their project," Pech says.
When it comes to specific tasks, like development or design, a certain set of skills is obviously needed. But if we keep secondary requirements, like language, in place, both the employees and customers might end up missing our valuable opportunities, skills, and talents simply due to lack of inclusion.
"Having data is very useful in building teams. A few years ago, we got this new tool to measure our personal strengths, and we used that to analyze our Nordic leadership team. We got along really well, being similar visionary people, yet had a big gap in the team. We lacked the strength to carry out all those ideas we came up with," agrees Tomas Nyström, the Country Managing Director of Accenture Finland.
Having data is very useful in building teams.
So, we are not just talking about doing the right thing by including different people, backgrounds, and voices, but paying attention to the state of DEI within an organization can improve so many aspects of today's work and business.
Measuring is as unique as you are
As both of these cases show, companies and organizations face their own unique challenges, which makes the comparison to others nearly impossible. In fact, success in terms of DEI shouldn't be measured that much against others but in relation to your own organization, and the previous actions taken.
"When it comes to your progress and outcomes, you need to measure against yourself to see if you are actually improving. You need to move towards your goals and tackle your challenges rather than someone else's, as they will look quite different. It's the same advice I give to teenage girls: stop comparing yourself to others," Smith laughs.
It's the same advice I give to teenage girls: stop comparing yourself to others.
Sometimes challenges and goals can vary within the organization too. For example, as a global company, Futurice has set company-wide goals in terms of DEI, but every market has its local challenges. Therefore, it only makes sense to set regional goals for each specific market rather than finding a solution to fit everyone.
"The market-maturity level can vary a lot. Our Stockholm colleagues are way ahead of their thinking compared to us Finns, and that comes with the market that has DEI as part of their everyday life. In Finland, we are still learning a lot which makes our situation quite different," Pech notes.
There are also the different aspects of diversity – tech companies often face the lack of women and LGBTQI+ whereas some other industries might struggle with multiculturalism, especially in a country that still heavily prefers Finnish as the working language. This will naturally impact what the focus should be for each company, which affects the metrics and actions relevant to your specific situation.
Three tips to get your DEI journey started:
Heidi Pech: Start with inclusion. Do it hand in hand with diversity efforts, but make sure your internal culture is inclusive before publicly celebrating your external diversity initiatives to avoid a PR disaster.
Laura Smith: Audit your current state and determine where you want to be as an organization and what your goals are, whether it's business or culture-related. And also, think about how you can tie those goals to something real to people.
Tomas Nyström: Start with the people. As a local CEO, it's essential to create an inclusive workplace for everyone to be themselves freely. To succeed, create enablement via training, gathering data, policies, and role models.
Check out the entire discussion as well as the summary of our annual The State of D&I in Finland report.
This post is written by Jenni Ahlapuro from the Inklusiiv Community.