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How Workforce Data Can Increase Diversity and Inclusion Efforts


It’s not Christmas, although decorations are already appearing in store aisles, but companies like Apple and Google regularly unleash a series of fascinating new products around this time of year. And everyone stands in line to vie for the shiny new objects. Isn’t that always the way? Sometimes the popularity of an “it” thing is inexplicable. Fidget spinners and pet rocks, for example. Sometimes, the object promises revolutionary ways to improve our lives, as with smart devices. In either case, we often discover a big chasm between desire and application. Our emotionally charged need to grab one of these gifts can overpower our sense of what to do with them. And this is exactly what many organizations are encountering with their diversity and inclusion goals. They want to increase diversity. They recognize the importance and bottom-line benefits. They just don’t know how to get there.

For Real Diversity, Read the Instructions Prior to Assembly

Consider this hypothetical. Let’s pretend there’s a brand-new “thing” on the market that everyone wants – the “it gift.” Let’s call it Lucky Duck. Its appeal is apparent. Its mechanics are hard to define. Lucky Duck guarantees to bring you measurable success and soaring profits. The few who’ve used it, those folks you see gushing over the device on television commercials, swear by it. Yet when your Lucky Duck arrives, you find yourself puzzling over a mysterious box with hundreds of symbols and buttons. The right combination unlocks the doors to prosperity. Of course, there are no directions – not even the cryptic diagrams that come with Swedish furniture.

What happens next? You’ll probably lose interest. It’s too difficult to operate. You don’t have the information you need to assemble it. And after a while, you may begin to wonder why it mattered so much in the first place.

As you’ve probably guessed, we’re not really debating the merits of the fictional Lucky Duck; we’re discussing the obstacles that persist in so many companies’ diversity initiatives. Executives, HR leaders, hiring managers and procurement professionals all realize the importance of diversity. Organization-wide, inclusion has proven to enhance profits, create a healthier culture, drive morale, foster job satisfaction, improve marketing outreach and spur innovation. Beyond that, diversity strengthens our society.

As McKinsey Global Institute’s recent study demonstrates, gender parity alone can dramatically improve the economy: “Every state and city in the United States has the opportunity to further gender parity, which could add $4.3 trillion to the country’s economy in 2025.”

Launching a robust diversity and inclusion (D&I) program is, for most businesses, an imperative. The prevailing consensus is that D&I must now evolve beyond compliance and into corporate strategy. Yet as PeopleFluent points out in its Measuring Diversity for Success report: “There is little indication about what is being done to accomplish this. While companies want to be more strategic and add value through D&I, they often have trouble even starting out. How are stakeholders expected to deploy a diversity plan if they aren’t sure what to measure or why they should be measuring anything?”

Critical Diversity and Inclusion Discoveries

PeopleFluent surveyed 420 companies ranging from less than 1,000 employees to over 10,000 employees, at varying stages of maturity in their diversity efforts. Close to 25 percent of the organizations polled have an advanced diversity function. However, many of the responses are distressing and illustrate the challenges we have yet to overcome:

  • “We don’t measure anything.”
  • “Our department doesn’t have metrics to report.”
  • “We don’t have D&I reports.”
  • “The business case still needs to be made for the D&I function.”
  • “We can only measure gender. Nothing else.”
  • “Metrics are simply kept on file for now.”

Persistent Challenges

All organizations in PeopleFluent’s study experienced similar challenges in achieving their diversity objectives. The primary issues were lack of benchmarks, lack of dedicated budgets for D&I programs, and a decentralized structure that presented difficulties in working across functional teams throughout the enterprise.

Silos

In a majority of cases, diversity programs end up in the silo of HR. As PeopleFluent learned, diversity efforts tend to be integrated only with groups focusing on talent acquisition, learning and development, and employee engagement.

Lack of Expertise or Resources

More than half of the companies questioned for the report have been concentrating on their D&I processes for over four years. Those that are seeing success have tapped into the power of big data. They have incorporated specialized HR software to track their workforce demographics – and they’ve hired experts to measure and analyze that data.

Limited Workforce Data

As we realize from some of the statements quoted above, too few organizations are tracking comprehensive metrics related to diversity. Some, not all. Companies that have moved toward advanced diversity functions are tracking a broad array of demographics that extend beyond race and gender. More importantly, they’re using incentives to enforce accountability and reward successful inclusion practices. These companies understand the business case for diversity and can prove it through quantifiable metrics.

Outsourced Expertise

This finding didn’t surprise me, yet it offered compelling evidence of what we recommend all the time: call contingent workforce program leaders. They hail from an industry that rose from diversity, they practice diversity, they champion diversity and they can become a client’s greatest ally in achieving diversity goals. One in three companies participating in the PeopleFluent study had enlisted the help of vendors, with positive results.

“Vendors assist undeveloped and beginning organizations with crafting a diversity strategy, while intermediate and advanced organizations use vendors to help them identify areas of opportunity with their current strategy,” PeopleFluent explained.

The Blueprint for Building Diversity

Defining the Mission

Like any corporate project, a diversity and inclusion program must begin with a mission statement and solid plans for measuring progress. Staffing partners can be particularly adept at helping clients craft plans and determine benchmarks to use as comparative metrics. Together, experienced staffing professionals and clients can devise a creative consulting strategy that targets D&I.

Diversity strategies have been key offerings for providers in the staffing space. They have years of experience and insight with helping clients create stellar D&I initiatives that extend to talent pools and, in MSP programs, staffing suppliers. During the discovery stages of implementation, for example, an outsourced workforce management team will collect a comprehensive set of workforce data for the client organization, with specific attention to demographic data. They enter this information into VMS or other human resource information systems, which allows them to build metrics, track D&I performance, identify areas of success or concern, and compare the results to diversity programs with similar clients they support.

Through this process, providers can devise an actionable D&I plan to serve the needs of struggling clients.

Measuring Progress

One of the biggest obstacles for building out D&I programs is determining what to measure. PeopleFluent cites a 2014 study by the Diversity Collegium, which uncovered 280 possible benchmarks across 13 different categories. This presents companies with a daunting and overwhelming task.

As PeopleFluent notes: “Given the option of measuring 280 different metrics or the sum of all individual experiences, organizations may just find it easier (or regulatory required) to track such compliance-related diversity metrics — such as race, gender or disability status — and leave it at that. Organizations with undeveloped diversity functions are hit hardest by the lack of accepted benchmarks; nearly a third (31 percent) don’t track demographics at all and nearly 7 in 10 (69 percent) don’t know what to track or why they should track demographics in the first place.”

Progressive talent acquisition specialists, who have begun developing digital talent ecosystems, have the advantage of wide visibility into other programs they serve – transparency an individual client will not have. Through their VMS or other enterprise tools, they can examine data from organizations of similar scope, industry, operational model, employment culture, talent population and more. This enables the them to suggest robust ancillary metrics that transcend compliance-based benchmarks.

  • Recruiting outcomes
  • Legal and compliance costs
  • D&I program efficiency and effectiveness
  • The work environment
  • Supplier, department, hiring manager and worker performance related to D&I
  • Diversity goals related to succession plans

Many of the latest and emerging workforce technologies also establish controls and reporting mechanisms for incorporating broader diversity categories such as veteran, disabled, LGBT status and more. These systems automate data aggregation, reporting and analytics. Some providers have even gone a step further by creating business intelligence teams that review the datasets, analyze the metrics and make ongoing recommendations for continuous improvements.

Extending Visibility and Accountability

PeopleFluent discovered that most businesses consolidate their D&I programs under the management of HR. Many cite budgetary and resource constraints. Outsourced contingent workforce programs also alleviate that burden. As the central point-of-contact between organizational managers, staffing partners and workers, they can take the reins of the D&I program and manage it across functional departments. They also manage the performance of staffing suppliers, who can be valuable assets in bolstering diversity recruiting efforts.

“The more the D&I function is integrated across multiple areas of talent management, the less often organizations encounter challenges,” PeopleFluent observes.

Looking Forward to a Diverse Future

By 2050, if the forecasts hold true, we won’t recognize a racial or ethnic majority in the United States. The diverse talent of today will become the boardroom leaders and CEOs of tomorrow, none of them conforming to a certain image or backstory -- none of them appealing to a single group of consumers. Contingent workforce professionals understood this long ago. As the doors to global communities open, witnessing unprecedented levels of mobility and integration, more employers are reaching out to elite staffing partners who can help them find tomorrow’s diverse talent today.

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