By Eleanor Goichman Brett, consultant and trainer at global diversity and inclusion training consultancy PDT Global, part of Affirmity

Business women studying charts and diagrams on digital tablet closeup

All organizations now recognize that diversity and inclusion (D&I) are key to their success as a business. And yet many companies are still not making the progress they would like. D&I should be approached just like any other business issue or activity—using a data-driven strategy that creates specific and measurable outcomes. Here are some practical ways to ensure your D&I strategy is set up for success:

1. Collect Diversity Data

The first step in having a data-driven D&I plan is, of course, collecting the data. But there’s much more to it than that. You need a culture where people are willing to share their diversity data and trust what you’ll do with it. That means you can’t just ask people for their diversity data out of the blue. You need to make your people believe that you really care about not just diversity, but also inclusion. This takes continuous effort and communication, and it doesn’t happen overnight. As with any culture change, it’s a journey.

You also need to collect the right data. Too many organizations only measure and focus on narrow ranges of diversity—for example, just gender and ethnicity. The aim should be to understand whether you are reflective of the communities you serve, and the data collected should be in line with those communities.

2. Collect Inclusion Data Too

Inclusion data is just as important as diversity data. Inclusion data tells you how people feel within your organization—whether they feel they belong, and are understood and listened to. It also gives you valuable data about specific aspects of your organizational practices, such as how inclusive your communications or learning programs are. However, inclusion data is useless if you can’t analyze it by diversity group. For example, 85 percent of your people may tell you that they feel your communications are inclusive and accessible, but if the remaining 15 percent are all disabled employees, then you have a problem.

3. Use the Right Benchmarks

Understandably, many organizations wish to benchmark themselves against their industry or direct competitors. But those who do should be cautious about using industry benchmarks as targets. Your real benchmarks and targets are found in the diversity of the community you serve. And using industry data can put you at risk of decreasing motivation for change if the industry as a whole is doing poorly.

4. Analyze Your Data to Understand What Your Drivers Are

To understand what’s driving your diversity data, and what you can do about it, you need to cross-reference your people data by diversity. For example, your recruitment, promotion, attrition, absence, and any other people data you can get your hands on! This enables you to create a meaningful and targeted action plan that addresses your unique barriers to diversity. It will highlight, for example, if there is a problem with the way you assess and promote talent, or if your marketing approach is not appealing to or reaching diverse communities. Or there might be something in your processes that is turning people away.

You can also stop wasting valuable resources on solutions to problems that you don’t have. For example, many organizations prioritize anonymizing their recruitment process. This is important and is a great way of reducing bias in your process. However, it is often a resource-heavy activity that shouldn’t necessarily be a priority unless your diversity data is clearly showing that you have a problem. By collecting diversity data in your recruitment process, you can find out if diverse applicants are not getting through your sifting process to interview—or whether you’re actually just not seeing a diversity of applications in the first place. In which case, your valuable resources can be spent on changing where you advertise, and ensuring that you have inclusive adverts and job descriptions.

5. Regularly Measure the Results of Targeted Activity

By using data to create specific D&I plans for your organization, you’ll also have a robust way of measuring the success of your actions. For example, if you identified that many LGBTQ+ people were leaving your organization after taking parental leave, you may have implemented a new parental leave policy that is more LGBTQ+ inclusive. But if you find that this does not increase your retention data, then you’ll be able to explore other causes and actions.

Data-driven D&I plans allow strategic and measurable actions that are more likely to produce results. There is also another benefit—some D&I plans can be undermined by people’s lack of recognition of the problem. Many of these doubts come not from a place of negative intent, but from an inability to see.

Those who are not on the receiving end of discrimination have the luxury of not being able to recognize it. But, when faced with evidence, numbers, and facts that clearly demonstrate that injustice exists in our culture and systems, it can’t be denied. And only then can we create a culture where people recognize that the problem does exist—and what our parts may be in both the problem and the solution.

Eleanor Goichman Brett

Eleanor Goichman Brett

Eleanor Goichman Brett is a consultant and trainer at global diversity and inclusion training consultancy PDT Global. Having completed a dissertation in the unconscious bias of attractiveness, she has also worked at Virgin Media, the Alzheimer’s Society and Ciklum Software to implement internal diversity and inclusion and accessibility strategies. The anchor of her approach is leveraging the diversity and inclusion of employees to increase an organization’s reach, providing a clear path between the two. With a motto of ‘data, action, data’, Eleanor helps organizations not only design and implement inclusion and learning plans that are right for them but also ensure measurement and sustainability.