Effective diversity data collection can provide HR with a wealth of insights into the lived experience of their people. But collecting this data is only the first step in crafting an impactful DEI strategy. It’s what you do next that matters most.
From key performance indicators to sales targets, leaders and HR use data to drive their decisions and strategies on a daily basis.
However, one area that is conspicuously lacking in data-driven decision-making is diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). In a recent AHRI report, just 45 per cent of HR professionals said they actively measured the diversity profile of their organisations (12 per cent were unsure).
Even in organisations that do engage in diversity data collection, a lack of data literacy can hold HR back from leveraging their findings into action, says Roman Ruzbacky, Director of DEI at Diversity Atlas.
“My main advice for HR professionals is to be curious around data,” he says.
“Don’t accept data that’s presented to you without actually questioning or interrogating it – develop your [data literacy] and actually use the data to inform your diversity, equity and inclusion strategies and actions.
“That also means developing success metrics so you actually understand what action has resulted in moving the dial, whether it’s representative target, or a percentage agreement rate for inclusion in the organisation, or knowing who feels included.”
Ruzbacky will be speaking alongside Rezza Moieni, Chief Technology Officer and Project Director at Diversity Atlas, at AHRI’s upcoming Virtual DEI Conference on 31 October 2023.
In a recent HRM article, Moieni provided valuable tips for HR to hone their diversity data collection practices, including creating a more inclusive data set. This week, Ruzbacky explores actionable ways for HR to translate their findings into action.
From data literacy to data storytelling
In order to effectively use data to drive DEI initiatives, HR professionals need to ensure they are ‘data-literate’, says Ruzbacky.
“I’d love to see greater diversity, equity and inclusion data literacy as an essential criteria for DEI practitioners and HR professionals… It’s critical to understand what the data is actually telling you.”
Data literacy involves the ability to read, understand and analyse data effectively. The importance of honing this skill extends far beyond HR; research conducted last year by business analytics platform Qlik predicted that data literacy will be the most in-demand skill in Australia across the board by 2030.
A lack of data literacy leaves HR at risk of missing or misunderstanding inequities revealed by their diversity data.
“The best example I can give is pay equity analysis,” says Ruzbacky.
“When you’re doing a pay equity analysis for an organisation, you might [see] a five per cent pay gap between men and women in the organisation. But, when you drill down to a non-managerial level, it might be one per cent; for an executive, it might be 10 per cent, and for an IT department, it might be 20 per cent. For people who are from different cultural backgrounds, again, it might be quite different.
“Make sure the aggregate data you receive doesn’t mask the drill-down data.”
Once patterns like this have been identified, the next challenge is to effectively convey their significance to leaders.
“I’d love to see greater diversity, equity and inclusion data literacy as an essential criteria for DEI practitioners and HR professionals.” – Roman Ruzbacky, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Diversity Atlas
Data alone may not inspire action; it’s the stories behind the data that will resonate with decision-makers, says Ruzbacky. HR professionals must therefore hone their ability to transform data from a bundle of numbers and charts into a compelling narrative that speaks to the heart as well as the head.
Of course, this is easier said than done.
As a first step to building meaningful stories from data, Ruzbacky recommends identifying what he refers to as “headline data”.
“Strong headline data which is irrefutable can really connect with leaders,” he says. “For example, one woman being killed a week in Australia due to family and domestic violence, or one in four women experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, or a 22.4 per cent pay gap between women and men (total remuneration); these are figures you can’t dispute. And they’re the kind of figures that should be prompting people into action.”
Leveraging diversity data to co-design DEI
Ruzbacky echoes Moieni’s advice for HR to build a data set that is as inclusive as possible in order to identify intersectional patterns within the workforce. This can reveal unique challenges faced by individuals at the intersections of multiple identities.
This will undoubtedly increase the volume and complexity of HR’s data sets. To avoid spreading their efforts too thin, HR should focus on addressing the pain points revealed by the “drill-down” data, rather than constructing catch-all initiatives to ‘fix’ broad issues such as gender inequality, he suggests.
For instance, he recalls conducting gender equity analyses in the past which revealed that women between the ages of 45-54 were especially vulnerable.
“[In this case], if I was designing a gender equity action plan, then I’d say, ‘That’s going to be the focus of my plan for the next few years – to look at the most vulnerable cohort.’ I would also look at where data may be missing, such as our trans, gender diverse and non-binary people.
“We often refer to it as like the Hubble Telescope. You might see a million stars out there, a million data sets, but you’re not going to [focus on] every single one – you’re going to see a bit of activity in one space and explore further.
“So I’m not going to attempt to review every single policy in the organisation and run a whole suite of unconscious bias [training] without understanding context. I need to say, ‘This is my priority, because that’s what the evidence is showing me.’”
To ensure the authenticity and effectiveness of DEI strategies, employees from diverse backgrounds should be involved from day one, he says.
“What I suggest is that [any] action is co-designed and includes the lived experiences of people. Because, [for example], I might see a figure on racial discrimination, but I don’t have lived experience of that, so I might not know the impact of what that figure might mean.”
As well as standard surveys and pulse checks, establishing dedicated employee resource groups is a great example of gathering valuable input on DEI initiatives and encouraging advocacy for change, as well as helping to increase confidence and comfort in sharing personal information.
By taking action based on input from diverse groups as well as relevant data, organisations send a clear message that they value and respect the unique contributions of every individual.
In doing so, they not only strengthen their internal cohesion but also enhance their appeal in an increasingly diverse and discerning global marketplace.
Roman Ruzbacky will be speaking further on data-driven decision-making to foster equitable workplaces at AHRI’s Virtual DEI Conference on 31 October 2023. Secure your spot today.