Despite increasing organisational focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, ineffective data collection processes could be holding employers back from meeting their DEI goals. Use these expert tips to get the most out of your data.
The last decade has seen diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) rise to prominence as foundational elements of the modern workplace.
Once a relative rarity, diversity leadership roles are becoming increasingly commonplace. According to global LinkedIn data, the number of people globally with the ‘head of diversity’ title more than doubled (107 per cent growth) between 2015-2020. Since then, conversations about the importance of workplace DEI initiatives have only grown louder.
However, even with the best of intentions, research indicates that some employers are lagging behind when it comes to measuring their efforts with diversity data collection and analysis.
In an AHRI report published earlier this year, it was revealed that fewer than half (45 per cent) of HR professionals actively measure the diversity profile of their organisations. Forty-three per cent of respondents reported that they had no diversity data collection practices in place, and 12 per cent were uncertain about how or if their organisation was collecting data.
“Everyone is [using] beautiful words, such as intercultural understanding, harmony and anti-discrimination, and these words resonate with everyone,” says Rezza Moieni, Chief Technology Officer and Project Director at Diversity Atlas. “But, from my lens of engineering and data science, I [think] this area is analytically neglected. The main challenge is that – even though everyone is talking about it – until you can measure it, you can’t achieve it.
“This area needs a robust understanding around the definition of diversity, how you disaggregate culture into different elements, measure them separately, and have a total understanding of the intersectionality of your organisation through a data-driven approach.”
3 tips to improve your data collection processes
Whether your organisation is looking to kick-start a diversity data collection process or improve an existing one, Moieni offers a number of tips for HR to ensure their practices are thorough, effective and equitable.
1. Create an inclusive data set
Building an inclusive data set is the first step in improving diversity data collection, says Moieni.
Ensuring that your data collection practices recognise the wide array of diversity demographics – such as age, socioeconomic background, religious beliefs, the presence of an invisible disability, etc. – is key to making sure that all your people feel seen and heard.
“As soon as there are two people in the room, there’s definitely diversity there.” – Rezza Moieni, Chief Technology Officer and Project Director at Diversity Atlas
To illustrate the repercussions of employing non-inclusive data sets, he cites a controversy surrounding the 2021 Australian census, where certain groups found themselves ‘statistically invisible’.
Shortly after the census, a woman from Myanmar – a country home to 135 Indigenous ethnic groups – spoke out about the fact that, due to the limitations of the Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups, her ethnicity was lumped into the broad category of “Mainland Southeast Asian”.
“It makes me feel like we [do] not exist, and it just makes me feel like we are disappeared,” she said.
By gathering a wider array of data points, employers can better understand the intersectional diversity within their workforces. Inclusive data sets allow leaders to examine data from a multidimensional perspective, recognising the unique circumstances of individuals who identify with multiple diversity factors simultaneously.
Moieni says HR should think of their diversity data set as a picture of their organisation – and, the clearer the picture, the more informed our DEI approach will be.
“In the early 2000s, TVs started becoming bigger and bigger – 28-inch, then 55, then 60. But, in the last 10 years, screens haven’t gotten bigger. Instead, the manufacturers focus on putting more data and more clarification on each pixel to provide you with a sharper, higher-resolution, brighter picture,” he says.
“This is what [should] happen in your team. If we use higher-resolution data, we can see the pain points, and we can more easily address them – we can put more resources there and look for solutions.”
2. Don’t make assumptions
Moieni emphasises that data has a narrative, and it’s crucial to pay attention to the nuance beyond the numbers. In particular, HR should keep in mind that not every two data points that correlate are directly connected or indicative of causation.
“For example, [think about] the fact that in summer more people buy ice cream, because it’s hot,” he says. “Also in summer, more people are bitten by sharks. Does that mean that eating ice cream means you have more chance of being bitten by sharks?”
If employers take a surface-level view of their diversity data, they are likely to overlook underlying issues around fairness and inclusion, he says.
For instance, an organisation might see it has a fifty-fifty gender balance in its workforce and conclude that their work in the gender equity space is complete.
However, Moieni has observed a number of cases of gender-balanced organisations where the average age of male and female employees differed significantly. This nuance indicated challenges for older female employees in securing certain professional positions, despite the apparent gender balance.
“Until you can measure it, you can’t achieve it.” – Rezza Moieni, Chief Technology Officer and Project Director at Diversity Atlas
Assumptions about a lack of diversity based on superficial similarities can also be misleading, he says.
“From a visible perspective, you may look similar, but you may come from 10 different countries of birth, have different religions, different education levels and different languages.
“As soon as there are two people in the room, there’s definitely diversity there.”
3. Act on your findings
Collecting diversity data is only part of the journey toward a more inclusive workplace. Moieni emphasises that organisations must take meaningful actions based on their data findings and celebrate diversity continuously.
“A lot of the time, they don’t share the responses and findings with their team,” he says.
“People are disengaged from surveys because they never see any action, [even though] they have just been asked about their most sensitive information – their sexuality, their disability, their religion. Even if something happens behind the scenes, they don’t see it and they don’t feel it.”
In order to create a truly inclusive workplace culture, he says it’s crucial that the diversity of the organisation is not only recognised, but celebrated.
“Diversity is all about celebrations. And as soon as you celebrate, you see the actual value of diversity.
“To me, diversity means no matter your ethno-linguistic or religious background, disability or sexuality, you have equal opportunity to grow in the team. It’s all a matter of how we can grow together, how we can celebrate it together, and how we can be representative of the community we’re doing business in.”
Rezza Moieni 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.