According to extensive research by Glassdoor and others, Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is a priority for both employers and employees today. But very few organizations feel confident they're building the diverse workforce they need to succeed - and even fewer have collected sufficient data to know for sure.
In this Q&A, we sat down with our own Director of People Experience & Diversity and Inclusion Jacob Little to discuss the best approaches and applications for D&I data - and why it's critical that organizations act on their D&I initiatives soon:
Glassdoor: Why is it so important for organizations to collect D&I data today?
Jacob Little: The needs of a diverse workforce have evolved faster than the systems and processes that support those employees. Especially this year, we're experiencing a pent-up need for change. Underrepresented groups in the workplace are telling us that the daily inequities and microaggressions they face are no longer tenable.
Of course, they've been making their needs known for a long time, but our companies and our culture haven't been listening or changing fast enough. And when we don't evolve to meet the needs of people who have been underserved and underrepresented, they will demand better from us.
Employers that listen and respond set themselves up to attract and retain the new workforce of the future - a diverse workforce that deserves and demands to be treated equitably and fairly. Employers that fail to change and adapt will find themselves cut out of the talent market. They will struggle to hire and retain diverse, skilled and high-potential talent.
Glassdoor: For organizations with D&I initiatives in place, why is collecting their own unique data such an important part of the process?
Jacob Little: A surprisingly large number of people believe D&I data isn't helpful because we should only be looking at diversity of thought, not skin color, gender or other elements of diversity.
But you can't take meaningful action if you don't know the intrinsic and immutable identities of the people you're trying to help. In order to address the systemic barriers in place that impact people because of intrinsic and immutable aspects of their identity, you have to know those people are there. D&I data is how companies capture a defensible, accurate and comprehensive view of why they need to make the changes they need to make.
That's why, when we talk about diversity, we need to include in that definition anything that is intrinsic and immutable to someone's identity, and all the inherent things about us that others may not be able to see right away. This includes gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disabilities. But we're also all born with a personality, a particular way of operating and working in this world. Diversity includes all of those things, from working and communication styles to gender, race, ethnicity and more.
[Keep Reading: Glassdoor's Diversity and Inclusion Checklist]
Glassdoor: What's the best way to approach D&I data within an organization?
Jacob Little: D&I data within a company is essentially visibility - visibility into ways that inequities manifest in systems and processes. There are three important best practices that come to mind for companies that want to get the best visibility into this kind of information:
D&I data must be self-reported and optional. Companies cannot require employees to provide their personal data. But they can ensure employees have accurate, comprehensive and respectful demographic options. They can make it clear why it's in the employee's interest to report the data. And they can build the case that self-disclosure is a form of activism. This data must be self-reported - companies should never make assumptions about an employee's identity because of how they look, such as a profile picture or how they appear in the office, because you're often not getting the full story if you go on appearance alone.
D&I data must be updatable. Employees should be able to access and change their personal data so they can be confident it best represents their identity at any given time. For example, if a company hires a transgender person in the process of transitioning, they might identify as male when they start and female months later. Inclusive technology means incorporating simple, elegant and compassionate ways to evolve one's demographic information.
D&I data must be highly protected and secured. The first step in renewing your D&I data efforts is to audit levels of access to this information. D&I data should be stored in a company's HRIS platform and accessible to only one or two people within the organization. Managers, peers, and other executives should not be able to access an employee's self-identifiable information - it should only be used for aggregate reporting that ensures equity in key processes and events, such as promotions, pay and development opportunities.
Glassdoor: When an organization collects and protects this data in the aggregate, what kind of insights can they capture?
Jacob Little: This is an exciting part of embracing D&I data, as most employers aren't yet using it in meaningful ways to ensure and promote equity and fairness. But this data can offer incredible insight into the current state of D&I within your organization.
Here are a few interesting questions an organization can start with:
- Are promotion rates the same across different demographic groups (men/women, BIPOC/White, LGBTQ/Straight)
- Is there a gender, sexual orientation or race/ethnicity pay gap?
- Are underrepresented groups invited to participate in development opportunities and programs at the same rates as others?
- Are underrepresented groups being held to different performance standards than others?
- Are underrepresented groups being evaluated differently, placed on PIPs, terminated or laid off at different rates?
[Keep Reading: Explore Glassdoor's Diversity & Inclusion Products]
When you have accurate data on hand, you can dive into these insights and take a hard look at who is applying for jobs at your organization. If, for example, you are conspicuously missing a certain demographic group, you can ask "Why?": Is it the way a job description is phrased? The location it's posted? Are the requirements unintentionally excluding certain groups? D&I data allows an organization to get a root cause analysis for lack of diversity in their talent pipeline.
Companies are using data to better understand their customers and create more meaningful products. Data allows us to make decisions that are targeted and effective, and we often see the connection between engaged, happy, productive employees and happy customers. Companies should apply the same level of rigor in analyzing data on employee populations as they do in understanding their customers.
[Keep reading: Glassdoor's 2020 Diversity and Inclusion Transparency Report]
Glassdoor: What else do employers need to consider as they take action around D&I data in order to make progress towards real diversity within their organizations?
Jacob Little: There's a focus on diversity today, which does mark progress. But diversity without inclusion and belonging does not break the cycle of inequity. That is, if you bring an underrepresented person into a noninclusive environment, you've limited the impact they can make. Along with taking the initiative in developing and using D&I data, organizations must prioritize putting highly inclusive leaders at the helm so that when you do hire an underrepresented person, they are able to contribute and bring their best self to work.
[Keep reading: How To Conduct An Equity Audit Of Your Organization]