Why Data is Key to Closing the DEI Gap

The challenges to creating a workplace that works for all of us are multi-dimensional. They start at the top, where a lack of diversity in the executive ranks is pervasive. Progress is further complicated by a need for greater accountability and the right kind of training. Ineffective standards and tools for measuring diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) also trip up far too many organizations. It’s here, however – in the data – where a real opportunity for creating meaningful change exists.

New research from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services and SHRM, sponsored by Trusaic, reveals that while 65% of respondents say DEI is a high strategic priority in their organizations, 67% of these same respondents indicate that efforts at creating a work environment that is actually diverse, equitable, and inclusive is, at best, only somewhat successful. This demonstrates that good intentions married with disjointed or ineffective practices isn’t getting it done. Intensifying social and political discourse around equity and equality also warn us this is so.

Central to closing the gap is access to timely and reliable data. Data supports firms in holding themselves to account. According to the research, companies that truly move the needle on DEI recognize the power of data to drive outcomes. They regularly monitor DEI metrics, communicate progress (or lack of progress) to senior leaders and other key stakeholders, and use data to identify interventions and course-correct. Furthermore, DEI leaders are more than twice as likely as laggards to track all three aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion (70% versus 30%). They measure progress across a wider range of metrics and they are more likely to share results with all employees.

While diversity may be the easiest metric for companies to measure and the one measured most often; in and of itself, diversity doesn’t drive outcomes. Organizations would fare better by emphasizing inclusion (a feeling of belonging) first. A supportive culture, one that is inclusive,  has far and away the greatest impact on driving DEI success. If you foster a culture of inclusion, diversity and equity will follow. As Josh Bersin notes, “Inclusion is the goal, diversity is the result.”[1]

Organizations most often track inclusion through employee engagement surveys. DEI leaders are twice as likely to also use a dedicated inclusion survey to track this metric. On average, leaders use more metrics to track inclusion and they track progress more frequently. Fifty-one percent of DEI leaders track inclusion goal progress at least quarterly; this is more than twice as often as laggards. The result? Two thirds of leaders have seen improvement in inclusion sentiment in the past two years.

Companies reporting the greatest DEI success also work much harder to track whether their leadership is supporting all staff equitably. Leaders are significantly more likely to track equity across every area measured, including compensation, participation in training, and promotion. A third of laggard companies that track diversity do not track equity at all. The most tracked diversity metrics are recruiting and hiring. Leaders track both areas much more than laggards.

Leaders are also significantly more likely to track development opportunities than followers or laggards.

By using timely and reliable data to measure and monitor what’s truly making a difference and widely sharing these trends, leaders demonstrate DEI progress matters and that an organization’s commitment to change is authentic and ongoing.


[1]“Elevating Equity: The Real Story of Diversity and Inclusion.” – Josh Bersin


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