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Five ways data can drive diversity and inclusion initiatives

5 November, 2019

Management thinker Peter Drucker said: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Data doesn’t always seem exciting, but it’s a key tool for improvement in your recruitment and talent management practices. If you don’t know how diverse your workforce is, how do you know whether to set new targets, or how best to serve that workforce?

At our latest Illuminate dinner event, guest speaker Roianne Nedd – a diversity and inclusion expert, author and life coach – talked about the power of using data for inclusion initiatives.

Collect data during recruitment

Collect data at different points in the recruitment process to understand the effects of unconscious bias or where there are barriers for applicants from different backgrounds.

According to our research, 25% of students and graduates think their background has hindered them in an application process. The figure rises to 35% for BME students, 30% for LGBT+ and 41% for those with a disability. Candidates from these groups may be less likely to declare data or more likely to drop out due to a lack of confidence.

Use contextual data – like the kind of school the applicant attended or whether they’re the first in their family to go to university – to inform your social inclusion initiatives.

Make it mandatory

Mandate the completion of forms but make sure you give people the option not to declare on individual questions. This means you can track how many people have completed the forms and the relative engagement rates for sharing data.

The onboarding period is a good chance to collect data – new employees are in ‘form-filling’ mode and eager to be as helpful as possible. Be aware, however, that declaration for some data points may be low at this career stage: at an earlier Illuminate dinner we discussed the challenge for LGBT+ people feeling comfortable to declare their sexual identity when they start work. Promoting your inclusion credentials and how you’ll use declared data to create an inclusive workplace can help.

Be clear about why you need data

Construct a compelling narrative around why people should share their data and what it’ll be used for. It’s likely

If you conduct a big drive to collect data but don’t take any action once you’ve received it, your staff will be suspicious and reluctant the next time you collect data. Nobody wants to divulge personal information that ends up in an ‘abyss’ and doesn’t make any difference to working life. From a trust point of view, it’s better not to collect data until you need it, rather than collect it and take no action.

Foster a culture of trust by being very clear why you’re collecting data and shouting about the differences it has made.

Test the best ways to collect data

Investigate best practice for getting accurate and useful data from respondents. For example, it’s generally thought that if you ask about religious preference before sexuality there tends to be a less honest response to the latter. There is also confusion about what should be declared as a disability – many respondents simply don’t consider themselves to fall into this category.

Keep testing, reviewing and consulting with diversity and inclusion experts to understand what data you really need, and the best ways to collect it.

Use the data you collect

Once you’ve gathered data, put it to good use. Data is helpful to remove the emotion from an uncomfortable or difficult conversation. It can highlight the effects of unconscious bias and help you tweak processes. It can also help you build a business case and get buy-in for diversity and inclusion initiatives.

And – used well – it can demonstrate to your employees that their identity really matters to the business.