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MEANINGFUL DATA TO SHAPE DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION – HRDebate Report

Data is central to DEI, yet notoriously difficult to collect. The reasons behind employee hesitancy to disclose personal information with employers include; lack of clarity, concerns regarding anonymity, data storage and protection and fears of negative consequences of disclosure on job safety and career advancement. Ultimately, it is lack of trust that discourages disclosure, so is it time for a new approach?

ALASTAIR PROCTER – SVP Strategic Global HR Operations – Interpublic
MANAZ JAVAID – Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Manager – Cambridge Judge Business School
AMANDA SCOTT – Group HR Director – Renew Holdings
JACQUI SUMMONS – Chief People Officer – EMIS Health & Non Executive Director – Zellis
JO REGAN ILES – Chief People Officer – Ventrica
ARUSHA GUPTA – Associate Vice President HR – Larsen & Toubro Infotech
EKTA GOEL – Talent Program Manager – HR Talent Center Of Excellence – Ferguson
EMMAN DESOUZA – Strategic HR Business Partner – Smith + Nephew
MATT DOWIE – Regional Director – Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – Silicon Valley Bank

IN WHAT CAPACITIES DO YOU USE PEOPLE DATA TO REPORT ON PROGRESS AND INFORM ON DE&I STATUS AND FUTURE STRATEGY? MATT, WOULD YOU LIKE TO BEGIN?

Matt Dowie: We collect different demographic data in all geographies – through the HR system in Workday and candidate module – and integrate them into other people reporting processes such as; recruitment and our performance management process. This enables us to identify inclusion barriers and how to design them out, rather than just looking at what our workforce profile looks like from a diversity perspective.

Arusha Gupta: This is sensitive data, so you have to be cognizant, particularly as in our organisation, it’s considered voluntary data. If an employee doesn’t want to disclose, no questions are asked, but the purpose of collecting this data is inclusion. The data can be shared at the start of employment or any time during the employee lifecycle and the information can be updated under ‘iProfile’ on the HRMS, so empowers individuals.

Jo Regan Iles: We’re going through a new HR system rollout, so we’re at the start of our journey. We gather the data when people join, but going forward, it’s then turning that into meaningful plans.

Amanda Scott: Likewise, we are at the early stages. We’re a group of ten subsidiary businesses that run independently, albeit reporting into a holding company. We don’t mandate a particular type of system or process and we are very much focused on gender equality. At the moment, we collect a very basic set of data around gender split, to try and at least identify what gaps we have. This informs our processes and it informs the way that we’ll recruit.

Alastair Procter: To date, engagement surveys have typically included basic demographic slice questions, which are completely voluntary and moving forwards, but we’re broadening the dimensions of diversity that we measure to include; gender identity, transgender status, sexual orientation, ethnic heritage, disability and care responsibilities. We intend to extend that market by market, subject to local legislation permitting us to do so.

Ekta Goel: We use diversity data across; attraction, engagement, development and retention. By virtue of our industry, we have historically struggled to attract female candidates, especially in the field roles and so to promote a culture of DEI, we are focusing on analysing and utilising data to define strategy around attracting and hiring a diverse candidate pool.

Manaz Javaid: We’re looking to gain more meaningful data that tells a story, about where we stand with DEI, where certain groups dominate across the business school and where there is underrepresentation and our objective is to make more equal the opportunities that become available. We need more data to really understand the detail.

Emman DeSouza: DEI is one of our key strategies and focusing on the female-male ratio – which is a good testbed, as it’s easy to define – and it revealed a 50/50 split across the business. However, when we looked at management, it’s more 30/70 female/male. So, we are drilling down into the metrics to really find out what is limiting women going into leadership roles and what can be practically put in place to change that statistic. In the US, it’s been a lot easier to gather that data, but in EMEA, it’s difficult.

Jacqui Summons: Currently, we only collect gender and ethnicity data and we found a big uplift in the number of people prepared to give the ethnicity data, once we started to demonstrate improvement in the gender pay gap. We use that experience to gain more granularity in this data and it revealed our ethnicity pay gap was 20 percent and our focus right now is reducing that.

DO YOU THINK WE’RE LACKING AN ENCOURAGING NARRATIVE?

Matt Dowie: The answer to that question is, it depends how you’re going to use the data, it needs to be actionable data. Also, if your policy is to identify gender and ethnicity voluntarily, that has obvious implications around data capture.

Alastair Procter: There are key considerations in gathering data – such as a heightened expectation around transparency – and leaders need to stand up and answer challenging questions – not just in terms of ratios in leadership, but on all sorts of topics such as; pay equity, access to development, hiring practices and processes. We will be asking our people to help us to be more accountable and transparent, by them giving us this data. We also need to enable people to qualify and further describe their ethnic heritage, as it needs to be defined for compliance purposes.

Ekta Goel: We understand and acknowledge the apprehension behind disclosing personal information at the application stage. So, to address the issue behind making a data-driven decision, because of the lack of data availability, we have started giving candidates an opportunity to update their personal information in Workday, as a part of the on-boarding process.

Matt Dowie: People are more comfortable sharing job-related information, as it is part of the “passport” they are given from day one. But when you’re looking at special category data around; ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity, that’s a whole different regime and needs to be governed.

FROM WHAT CHANNELS AND BODIES DO YOU CURRENTLY COLLECT DEI DATA AND WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS WITH THESE METHODS?

Emman DeSouza: Data gathering has been particularly challenging in our organisation and, as we are an international, it is a global strategy and certain countries are easier than others. In our work on gender, we used anonymous surveys to gain some feedback and one of the discriminated groups was white males, complaining that the focus was too much on females. We need to educate and inform.

Arusha Gupta: Employee surveys are pointless if they’re just a tick box exercise when the objective is to gain a true understanding of DEI across the business. If employee surveys are the chosen method, the key to the truth can be anonymity and while we cannot then relate responses to specific people and groups, at least we gain a true sense.

Matt Dowie: In terms of channels, for us it’s mainly in the recruitment process. But as said, via Workday, we encourage employees to update their data, because it’s on a consent basis and then we take that dataset and integrate into other reporting. But such channels really only reveal success and/or problems and so the really nuanced elements and the detail behind the data comes through conversations, focus groups, integration with other data analysis and attending to processes.

WHERE DOES IT START TO LOOK OBTRUSIVE AND PRYING AND ALSO SELF-SERVING, AS OPPOSED TO MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL AND HOW DO YOU CHANGE THAT PERCEPTION?

Alastair Procter: Certainly, the more frequently you ask the same questions, the more likely you are, understandably, going to frustrate and disengage respondents. So, it’s about being very selective, which is one good reason why we plan to use our core HRIS to store the responses moving forwards. This will mean it is hopefully a one-time ask, unless they want to go in and change or remove their data. Once in the core HRIS, we can feed the data through to other areas.

Jo Regan Iles: For me, whether it’s gathering data or performance and engagement, if you create an environment in which people feel secure and able to be themselves, then you will gain their trust and honesty.

Manaz Javaid: We’re looking at workshops and briefings to explain how data is used, because we want to assure people that it is genuinely being used to inform our DEI strategy and planning. This is all about data integrity.

Jacqui Summons: I find it really hard to put myself in the shoes of somebody who’s worried about data request and I just feel it’s about being more understanding. The people who are requesting this information are probably those who have never had a concern about this and so cannot understand the problem. We have to try harder, to show that we do understand and build trust.

Matt Dowie: As has been said today, breaking down those barriers and gaining trust relies upon being very clear about how you’re going to use the data, but equally, it’s about who’s going to access it and making sure that people feel in control of their data. Collect it and share it back with people.

Emman DeSouza: Data is so vast and multifarious, so it pays to maintain simple lines and clear alignments. For example, data that relates to performance and diversity are aligned because it is proven beyond doubt that diversity improves performance.

Alastair Procter: It’s also about linking the data to the progress of action, showing how qualitative and authentic data informs on change and improvement and sharing that with people. Tangible progress and real momentum is a good news story.

Manaz Javaid: Organisations that are introducing new HR systems can integrate some really sophisticated data collation. New systems are so smart, it’s not so much worrying about anonymising data – we’re at a point where technology collects data as people go.

Ekta Goel: When our internal systems do not sync up and associates are being asked to share the same data repeatedly, at various stages of their employee lifecycle, they tend to lose faith in the system. Along with this, it is also critical for the internal team to only ask for the ‘required’ data with an end objective in mind, rather than focusing on collecting ‘all the possible’ data for the sake of it.

Matt Dowie: Collecting the data is the easy part – well, easy is perhaps not the appropriate word – but, particularly for multinationals, it’s the using of the data in a way that is legal and appropriate to local laws and cultures. It’s so important to understand all of the global implications, from one country to the next and with the appropriate data transfer agreements and privacy policies.

Arusha Gupta: Sometimes it’s the data itself that can be discriminatory. If you’re looking at filling a role internally and you don’t know something about an employee, then you discount possibilities. But when you know detail about an individual then subconsciously, you may associate the detail and fall foul of bias. So, data is a powerful ally, but it has to be managed with due care and sensitivity.

WE HAVE BEEN DISCUSSING EMPLOYEE DATA, BUT WHAT ABOUT CANDIDATE DATA?

Emman DeSouza: We have just implemented – as part of the recruitment process – completely anonymised CVs, which includes where they were educated and which university they attended. We have also cut out more personal information, such as interests and hobbies. We have tracked these CVs through the process – not to call people out – but to understand if and where there is inherent bias.

Jacqui Summons: That’s such a good idea because if you see that somebody shares an interest, that immediately gives a positive bias for the recruiter.

Arusha Gupta: We’re experimenting with the same thing. Hiding the basic data, repurposing the CV and seeing whether the same manager actually picks this individual up now that they don’t know about educational qualification and hobbies, etc.

IF YOU TURN OFF THE DETAIL IN THE DATA, DO YOU NOT STAND TO LOSE THE KIND OF VITAL DATA AND INFORMATION THAT IS SO ESSENTIAL TO DECISION MAKING?

Jacqui Summons: There is that risk, because every now and then, the data reveals a real nugget of information that unveils crucial detail that would carry on unseen without information on cause and effect. Integrating data into your process and progressing to an action can actually deliver a different result.

Ekta Goel: Tools, like ‘blind resumes’ are critical tools for preventing inherent biases and provide a level playing field to each candidate irrespective of their background. While it is critical to have some pieces of information in the form of data, for consciously driving decisions in the desired direction, more often than not, unconscious bias ends up driving decisions in the other direction.

Matt Dowie: There is no question, data informs and reveals and that really builds the business case in decision making.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN CONCERNS OF EXTERNAL JOB CANDIDATES REGARDING THE SHARING OF DATA?

Amanda Scott: If you are going to gather that data, what is it going to tell you and what’s in it for the person giving the data? We don’t gather the data at many points during the employees’ journey. From a DEI perspective, the challenges aren’t just with employees, they are with schools, colleges, students and parents. We’re an industry that needs diversity.

Jo Regan Iles: To make real change stick, you cannot rush it and you need champions and advocates to role model and lead the way and not always the obvious ones. A case in point, we recently had a male menopause champion, which has been really effective. It was authentic and really raised awareness across the business.

Alastair Procter: You have to look at the culture of the organisation as a whole, employees are not stupid and if the culture is consistent with a genuine desire to do the right things, then the majority will cooperate. Line management is crucial, the climate they create within their own team environment, how they interact with others, and their positive messaging, shows how how data can lead to constructive change.

Manaz Javaid: Everything is fast-paced change and people will have concerns if they feel that they are not being kept up[1]to-date and so there needs to be channels of communication that reach people across the workforce demographic.

Matt Dowie: The bottom line is the bottom line. There is a commercial and investment expectation around DEI, there is benchmarking and it matters to customers and investors. There needs to be a transparent and sustainable culture around data to enable it to be collected for the better good of all, employees and the business needs.

Manaz Javaid: This is where there is a strong case for a designated DEI team or dedicated resource, to manage a clear direction forward. Jacqui Summons: There’s no question that the BSG agenda is a rising star in the DEI drive.

Manaz Javaid: This is a journey and organisations will be at different stages and it requires awareness, thought and competency and businesses need to build this for their own context.

Emman DeSouza: Agreed, DEI is absolutely essential not a nice-to-have, but the reality is that return-on-investment is always the agenda topper and it’s easy to be distracted, because diversity is a long term gain, there’s no quick turnaround to show immediate revenue improvements.

Matt Dowie: Trying to connect DEI to the generic business is not the best approach, because it’s not causal and so it’s really difficult to prove. It’s about using the data and being really clear about the success.

Manaz Javaid: On the subject of success measures we have to keep questioning and probing: What are the hardcore metrics to measure progress? How do we capture culture change? How is DEI progressing and most importantly, how is it improving people’s lived experiences?

Jacqui Summons: Agreed, there is no room for complacency and people need to be confident about what to do when they find that people don’t behave as they should. We all need to be really hot on dealing with people that don’t make others feel included?

HOW DO YOU ENSURE YOU’RE GAINING BUY IN WITH A DEI STRATEGY?

Emman DeSouza: Unavoidably, we really do need to demonstrate to our shareholders the return on investment and that it’s not a short-term project. Our biggest challenge is demonstrating tangible numbers – if we say we’ve increased female diversity by X percent, what does that translate to in a business sense?

Matt Dowie: We have to be really specific and focused, set out to drive the strategy and land it and have a dedicated team to work on initiatives to make those compelling connections with all stakeholders.

SURELY OPENING UP OPPORTUNITY TO THE WIDEST DEMOGRAPHIC IS ESSENTIAL WITH TALENT IN SHORT SUPPLY?

Manaz Javaid: In the research sector, from a resourcing viewpoint, we know that jobs are going to become more specialist and will require more professional skills. If we’re not going to give the skills and knowledge to half the population, then we’re going to lose out.

Jacqui Summons: Talent teams have to think really differently to the way they thought before and to look at markets that they haven’t looked at before.

Arusha Gupta: It’s a great time to experiment with the unconventional talent pool.

Jacqui Summons: Diversity is anything but binary. If you consider women that took a career break to look after family, they often find it incredibly hard to re-join the world of work and it doesn’t have to be like that. People tend to be judged on the last two years of activity and that is a very traditional CV mentality.

Matt Dowie: We need to work with hiring leaders to try and provoke more open-minded hiring decisions.

Emman DeSouza: We carried out a study in terms of maternity leavers, based on pay and 95 percent on the lower end administrators didn’t return, because they couldn’t afford the childcare. For higher salaries, that dropped to 25-to-30 percent no return. There’s also still that stigma of men taking paternity.

Manaz Javaid: This is more than an organisational issue, it’s a societal issue. We tend to talk about women in the context of raising children and we should be talking about families.

Jacqui Summons: We need to irradicate the stigma associated with taking time away from work and careers.

Matt Dowie: From a data perspective, there are moments that matter throughout the HR lifecycle. If we support people applying for maternity leave, make that accessible and easy, we can accrue the data as people use services in the course of their employment lifecycles. Too many steps and the wrong culture can easily impact on support uptake and essential data gathering.

Jo Regan Iles: Indeed, again line managers are so fundamental in supporting with one-to-ones and setting a support culture and just encouraging and reminding people to take responsibility for updating their data. We talk of autonomy and employee self-responsibility and I would suggest that this is part and parcel of that developing change in the employer/ employee relationship.

Emman DeSouza: It goes back to the basics in terms of the psychological contract. It’s that trust element and it very much goes both ways.

Arusha Gupta: The whole world is now moving towards personalised experience and people will eventually realise that without data, that cannot be achieved.

ARE YOU PLANNING TO USE TECHNOLOGY TO CREATE REPORTS, TO TRACK PROGRESS?

Matt Dowie: We use two systems, Tableau and Visier, which are reporting systems, that we use to share our DEI progress against targets and progress against other measures. For external benchmarking, we use Bloomberg’s Gender Equality Index. Also, In terms of industry bodies and regulators, there’s a role for them to help organisations understand where they sit in the industry as a whole.

Emman DeSouza: We constantly look at industry data in terms of DEI and we use specific targets that we put in our annual report. It is published in terms of what our targets are and how we’re fairing against those targets each year. Investors can clearly see that and all our employees have access too. We do try and keep a pulse on the industry as a whole and we’re tracking against peer firms.

Matt Dowie: Data is difficult to argue with and it is increasingly compelling for driving business decision-making. Gone are the days that you went around trying to convince people with the business case, but you need to maintain credibility and manage expectation from data insight.

Jo Regan Iles: Agreed, my advice is always do a few small things first, to gain momentum and make sure that you follow through.

Ekta Goel: We have started utilising tools like TextIo and TalentNeuron to mitigate unconscious biases. Along with this, our diversity initiatives include; Business Resource Groups, sponsored by ExComm members, policies to promote inclusive and diverse practices and training programmes to eliminate biases during assessment and the selection process.

Matt Dowie: From a strategy perspective, we measure ourselves in three key pillars: The first is representation, the second challenge is sentiment, so what’s coming through our engagement survey and we have an inclusion index. Then, we’re looking at the difference between those in and out groups based on the questions in an engagement survey. Then, the third one is benchmarks, global best practice which is underpinned into EDI indices and benchmarks. We use a Stonewall Global Index, which is super comprehensive and as said, there’s the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, which is very comprehensive as well. There are other frameworks in play for different diversity dimensions.

Ekta Goel: We have been utilising the power of storytelling and sharing of experiences as a part of our journey. We ask associates to share ‘diversity moments’ which are then shared through visuals on our internal portal. Additionally, there are multiple spotlight ‘role modelling’ stories covered and shared by our BRG teams.

Matt Dowie: Empathy and understanding are rising stars in the firmament, thanks to HR, but there are HR structures and policies in place today that haven’t changed significantly since they were designed in the ‘1950s and the world of work has moved on. Data has to be seen as the driving force in DEI and it has to be perceived as beneficial for all, not by HR for HR.

Emman DeSouza: The pandemic has forced change, but in the case of women, for example it has set the agenda backwards. Now, as we face an era of massive change, it is our opportunity to put that right and data is absolutely essential to creating forward momentum.

Manaz Javaid: We have in our time seen a lot of women make mid-management level and leave and much fewer stay on or return to make senior executive level. Part of the DEI drive requires a diversely represented board and so that outcome has to be rendered to the history books.

Matt Dowie: There’s still a long way to go with DEI, supporting people through those key life moments and ensuring that if they have the ambition to do so, that they are supported in their work and careers. There is no question, data is key to making those improvements.

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