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Fixing Loopholes in DEI Data

What can workplaces do to leverage their data to inform action?

Provide granularity where it counts

Individual experiences should be protected but not ignored. For people that already have access to granular data, for example, managers, making it easier to understand their historical and current performance across key metrics should be an integral part of how they, and their managers, look at performance. The job of managers, and leadership, is to create environments of psychological safety; this includes the culture they build and who can be part of that culture.

It’s also important to create avenues where people affected by discrimination and injustice at the workplace can speak up - this, unfortunately, isn’t commonly their manager or HR. It’s critical to provide spaces where people can safely speak to an advocacy group or an outside party. Avoiding granular data that can be informative is a way for managers and leaders to opt out of responsibility. Providing them with insight that is actionable can be a positive forcing function for change.

Centering Employee Voice and Experiences

Sentiment surveys have been one of the first “quantifiable” ways for employees to have a voice in organizations but as we touched on in our previous post, they still often miss the mark. One program we’ve seen to be extremely successful (when done right) is embedded employee resource groups. Employee resource groups are communities that create brave spaces for those that identify with their communities. It’s important to note that employee resource groups should be advisors and consultants to functions that implement organizational changes surrounding DEI but not burdened with the task of advocating and implementing these changes themselves.

We see employee resource groups as complementary to sentiment surveys, often providing additional context into what the survey identifies as a potential problem at the organization.

For examples such as Rosa’s, it’s important to provide safe support structures where people like Rosa can speak up without the fear of repercussion or being gaslit. As we know from many experiences like Rosa’s: Managers and HR are not always considered safe. Helping people find either internal advocates that are unbiased third parties or giving access to trained external parties that can be a brave space for employees while offering an anonymous feedback loop to employers can fundamentally affect whether or not those impacted by systemic issues at the workplace feel heard and valued. It’s also important to create ways for employees to anonymously flag issues and have processes in place to follow up on them.

Accountability as empowerment, not blame

We’ve heard serious concerns from HR leaders that “too much data” would make people feel called out as “bad people” for their inability to create equitable environments. But in reality, withholding data is limiting our ability to actually make a change. If we don’t know where the problem lies, and what our role is in that, then we aren’t able to move the needle. It’s true that maybe initial insight will be hurtful to some, like feedback often is, but the right people will come out on the other side feeling empowered to make changes. When we’ve surfaced data with companies, we’ve often seen people put up their defenses and try to explain why the data is that way. Our method? Let them sit with the data. 99% of the time, teams circled back with us to discuss the next steps and additional questions they want to answer going forward. Data can be empowering, especially to the people that are building culture today. We know that people and DEI teams experience much higher rates of burnout, often because they aren’t empowered to do the work they set out to do. Data can empower them to demonstrate root causes and their impact on culture. Knowledge is power, not a disadvantage.

Constant pulse on data

We mentioned in our previous post how point-in-time data can be skewed and it’s important to have a constant pulse on how metrics and employee voices are trending. This can be challenging, particularly because HR often has to leverage a suite of tools that don’t talk to each other, and employee communication and feedback isn’t centralized. Using a tool that helps centralize data, like Joyn, can help ingest data to call out trends and opportunities in a timely manner. Beyond using a tool, making sure that your people or talent operations function has the ability to export data into, for example, a spreadsheet that automatically populates data, is a worthy investment.

For example, we’ve recently worked with a tech company and analyzed their historical data over the past 5 years. When looking at gender representation, we’ve noticed that when a woman was leading a function, both representation and hiring rates for women were significantly higher than when a man was leading the function. This might not be a groundbreaking statistic and something we can assume could be a driver (we’re more likely to hire people that resemble us), but seeing the actual data and trends over time that reflect this is a notable callout that a representative leadership team helps create more representative teams. Representation at the top, as a result, should be a focus for that company. Whether that is by hiring more representative leaders or enabling internal movement through programming focused on developing people from underrepresented identities into leadership roles.

We want to acknowledge that this is hard work but actionable data can be pivotal to making real changes to workplace culture and the above also shows that when data is done wrong, it can be very misleading. Misleading data doesn’t only come at a cost to employees at the company, but to the company itself by potentially investing in the wrong areas that continue to fail at making a dent in workplace culture.

If you’d like to work with us or want to get connected with companies that have done this, feel free to reach out directly to

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