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The Importance of Data Collection on the Path from DEI Commitment to Action


Data dashboards


In recent years, there's been a notable surge in organizational commitments to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI), but also a growing skepticism surrounding the effectiveness and value of DEI initiatives (Maurer, 2020; Friedersdorf, 2023). Amidst the stirring rhetoric and well-intentioned pledges lies a pivotal question: How can organizations move beyond words and good intentions to actionable insights? The answer lies in DEI data collection.


If the prospect of collecting DEI data feels daunting, you're not alone. Despite acknowledging DEI as both a moral imperative and a driver of business success, many companies remain hesitant to adopt evidence-based, metrics-driven practices in this domain. As a result, many lack tangible evidence regarding the impact and value of their DEI initiatives (Zheng, 2022; Taylor, 2022). Fear of legal ramifications, employee backlash, or negative publicity, coupled with a lack of expertise and resources, often contribute to this hesitancy. However, as with any other business priority, DEI goals cannot be achieved without objective measures to gauge progress accurately.


Understanding the importance of collecting DEI data is paramount for organizations at any stage of their DEI journey. In this post, we'll review the why, what, and how of DEI data collection, incorporating best practices we use at Ivy to help our clients leverage DEI data insights to achieve their workforce, workplace, and marketplace goals.


Why should I collect DEI data?


  • Strengthening accountability for DEI goals: DEI metrics provide tangible evidence of your organization's commitment to diversity and inclusion. This allows stakeholders such as organizational leaders, employees, and the public to track progress toward DEI goals, lending credibility and sustained attention to the organization’s DEI initiatives.

  • Identifying blind spots: Data can uncover patterns of bias and barriers within your organization's policies, practices, and culture. While revealing shortcomings in DEI may be daunting, it presents an opportunity to address systemic issues and drive meaningful change for your employees, culture, and community.

  • Facilitating informed decision-making: Many organizations opt for popular and one-off events or interventions lacking clear objectives or evidence of effectiveness. This method of “shooting in the dark” with DEI initiatives can be costly, underscoring the value of using DEI data to track progress over time, identify areas for improvement, and make informed decisions about resource allocation (Williams & Dolkas, 2022; Zheng, 2022).

  • Enhancing employer value proposition: Organizations that prioritize DEI and transparently report their progress can enhance their reputation as employers of choice, as many of today’s job seekers prioritize working for organizations that demonstrate a commitment to DEI (Hopke, 2023). 

  • Creating a competitive advantage: Data on customer and supplier demographics, preferences, needs, and behaviors can be leveraged to win market share and deliver exceptional value to customers. Such insights allow you to identify and engage with underutilized supplier populations, tailor products and services to better serve diverse customer segments, discover new market opportunities, and ultimately drive business growth.

What are the best practices for data collection?


  • Use a combination of methods: Implement a combination of methods for a more holistic understanding of the demographics and dynamics of your workforce, customer base, and supplier population.

  • Employer transparency and participant anonymity: Whether you’re collecting data from employees, community members, customers, or suppliers, clearly disclose to participants why their data is being collected, how it will be used, and the potential benefits to them. Participants should also be informed that their involvement is optional, and that they can choose not to disclose certain information.

  • Employ inclusive data collection practices: Use language and categories that reflect the diversity of experiences and backgrounds within your organization or community. Utilize multiple strategies of data collection to accommodate different preferences and accessibility needs.

  • Obtain a representative sample: For activities designed for a subset rather than the whole population, such as focus groups, aim for a diverse and representative sample of participants to ensure that your data accurately reflects the demographics, perspectives, and needs of your organization or community.

  • Utilize legal and ethical practices: Ensure that your data collection methods comply with legal requirements and ethical standards for privacy, confidentiality, and non-discrimination. Be mindful of sensitive information and take appropriate measures to protect the privacy of participants.

  • Ensure you have the right systems in place: All data you collect should be well-maintained and supported by adequate technology and resources.

  • Regularly review and update data collection practices: Regularly evaluate and adjust your data collection practices based on feedback and changes in organizational goals or needs.

  • Analyze data for insights: Use the data you collect to track progress and identify areas for improvement. Work with data experts to translate your data into actionable insights and strategies to promote DEI in the workforce, workplace, and marketplace.


How can I collect DEI data?


Determine the most appropriate methods for collecting DEI data based on your goals.

  • Explore the DEI data that may already exist within your organization – there may be insights waiting to be discovered. For example:

  • HR and payroll data: Analyze existing HR and payroll data to understand the demographic composition of the workforce and population you serve. Identify patterns and trends across demographic groups, such as representation at different levels, turnover rates, and pay equity. Have data experts employ statistical analysis tools and techniques to extract meaningful insights from the data.

  • Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS): If your ATS already includes demographic data such as gender, race/ethnicity, and disability status, there is an opportunity to analyze demographic representation of applicants compared to labor force benchmarks and through each stage of the hiring process.

  • Feedback and complaint data: Many organizations provide avenues for internal and external stakeholders to provide feedback, make recommendations, or file complaints. If your complaint systems collect demographic data, compare information such as the type, frequency, resolution time, and outcome of complaints across groups. Feedback and complaint data can also be analyzed for DEI-related issues (e.g., experiences of discrimination, harassment, or accessibility barriers), or for opportunities to improve the organization's products, services, operations, and workplace culture.

  • Surveys and questionnaires: Surveys of employees, consumers, or suppliers on topics such as satisfaction and engagement can be a cost-effective way to gather broad insights into the perceptions and preferences of large stakeholder populations. Use validated survey instruments or develop questions in consultation with subject matter experts to ensure the reliability and validity of the data collected. Include demographic questions so results can be compared across groups.

  • Focus groups and interviews: Consider conducting focus groups or interviews to gather firsthand experiences and perspectives on various aspects of working for or with the organization. Ensure a representative sample and set ground rules that foster a safe and inclusive environment where participants can speak freely. Systematically analyze responses for patterns and themes and compare across demographic groups.

  • Social media engagement: Information such as website visits, likes, shares, and comments can reveal insights about user preferences, content effectiveness, and overall brand perception. Compare engagement across demographic groups to better understand how to reach and appeal to different audiences.

  • Document review: Valuable insights on the organization’s current state and potential barriers can be uncovered through a review of written policies, handbooks, guidelines, marketing materials, job descriptions, and other documented information. Ensure you assemble a team with the necessary skills and expertise to identify DEI barriers and opportunities to improve in the content.


The imperative for organizations to move beyond rhetoric and pledges into tangible actions for DEI has never been more pressing. Despite growing skepticism and hesitancy, organizations that embrace evidence-based, metrics-driven practices can strengthen accountability, identify blind spots, and facilitate informed decision-making. Ultimately, by prioritizing DEI data collection and analysis, organizations can take meaningful strides towards achieving their DEI goals, becoming an employer of choice, and contributing to a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive society.


Sources:

Friedersdorf, C. (2023, May). The EI industry needs to check its privilege. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/05/dei-training-initiatives-consultants-companies-skepticism/674237/ 

Hopke, T. (2023, July). 4 DEI questions today’s job seekers are asking. here’s how to respond. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/teresahopke/2023/07/11/4-dei-questions-todays-job-seekers-are-asking/?sh=5dae78f32bab 

Maurer, R. (2023, December). New DE&I roles spike after racial justice protests. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/topics-tools/news/talent-acquisition/new-dei-roles-spike-racial-justice-protests 

Taylor, C. (2024). (rep.). Global blueprint for belonging and diversity. Workday. Retrieved 2024, from https://forms.workday.com/en-gb/reports/global-blueprint-for-belonging-and-diversity/form.open.html?step=step1_default

Williams, J. C., & Dolkas, J. (2022, February). Data-driven diversity. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2022/03/data-driven-diversity 

Zheng, L. (2022, December). The failure of the DEI-industrial complex. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2022/12/the-failure-of-the-dei-industrial-complex 

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