6 min read
The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.
Long before Black Lives Matter put the topic in the spotlight, research on diversity in the workplace was crystal clear: Different companies are more innovative and work better. In fact, there is growing evidence that companies that hire and promote diversity and inclusion will come out of the pandemic stronger than those that don't. Yet so many companies keep failing to get D&I under control. Skin color, women, LGBTQ + and people with disabilities are largely underrepresented in leadership positions in various industries.
So what's up? Now that companies from Microsoft to Amazon to Adidas (to name a few) are being publicly called not to give their diversity enhancement speech, people are quickly losing patience with companies that are inactive with good intentions and toothless mask public statements. These things alone are not enough to make real change happen. What could be, however, is to dig deeper into the data. This can reveal some ugly truths. Are companies ready to act on the data?
Related: The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in Uncertain Times
Good dates, ugly truths
Yes, some progress has been made with D&I. Many companies are already tracking the hiring, retention and attrition of various groups of employees. However, in order to make real and lasting progress, a more nuanced analysis is needed that captures different employees' experience at work. We now have the tools and analysis on hand to do just that. The problem is that the pictures they paint aren't always, or even often, pretty.
While many companies make concerted efforts to improve diversity, when hiring and recruiting, they do not pursue the many factors that determine a person's experience at work. These are things like whether they are invited to social gatherings, included in meetings, or properly looked after, to name a few. It is these "little" details, not just pay and promotion, that ultimately make someone stay or leave, and it is in these interactions that discrimination, micro-attacks, and lack of support undermine diversity efforts. Without this information, companies create massive blind spots for themselves, making it nearly impossible to locate and address destructive patterns that are holding back progress.
For example, suppose a company hired several women of color, but after a year almost all of them had quit. Retention dates show they were abandoned, but not the critical reasons for it. With the help of cohort analysis tools that capture the detailed interactions and movements of a person in an organization, organizations can identify critical nuances that are often overlooked in simple input and output data. Applying cohort analysis can reveal significant patterns over time, e.g. B. Encounters with certain managers or missed promotions compared to other groups.
This type of analysis can show how race and gender play a role in sales by uncovering everyday interactions that don't support – or actively work against – an inclusive and diverse workplace. The tools are available. Why are so many companies still reluctant to risk the data breach?
Related: Stop focusing on the 'pipeline problem'. Tech's diversity problems go deeper.
Data won't do the hard work of change
It is true that D&I data is not always easy. It can be found expensive, time consuming, and intrusive. In fact, in some countries it is illegal to collect certain race and gender data.
In my experience, the main reason companies don't fall under the near-surface D&I metrics is because they reveal truths that are difficult to acknowledge and even harder to address. The fact is, it is a long and difficult road to make real change in terms of diversity and inclusion. It won't happen overnight. The solutions aren't always obvious, and companies seeking real change are sure to fail along the way (and must be willing to do so publicly).
This is a major challenge for organizations that already fear being called out for lack of progress. In addition, many companies do not want to investigate the problem as it does not offer immediate and obvious solutions. Too often seemingly unsolvable problems are pushed into the background without effort or encouragement being made to find a way forward. Organizations that choose not to get a full picture of where they are failing at D&I often do so in order not to uncover a compelling reason for the hard work and provide the resources needed to make real change. For this reason, even among companies with Chief Diversity Officers, only 35 percent measure employee demographic data. Do you need more evidence? My company makes a tool that is specifically designed to collect key data related to D&I. Despite the public attention paid to the topic, it is still not a top priority for HR investments.
Related: Instead of thinking about what she couldn't change, this founder focused on making progress
Understand the problem in order to arrive at the solution
Look, I understand. As an engineer working in technology – an industry with longstanding challenges in terms of D&I – I understand how overwhelming this can seem. The fight against diversity and inclusion is still in full swing in our company. We go about it by hiring engineers and people of color, but also making sure they are offered mentoring, that they are encouraged to attend meetings, and that they receive ongoing support after the onboarding process is over.
Still, I know we're far from perfect in this regard.
The bottom line, however, is that gathering detailed information on D&I is absolutely crucial to finally moving the watch face. The reality is that it is impossible to find effective solutions to problems that are not fully understood, and the backward-looking approach most organizations take to this problem – not investigating the problem because they lack solutions – costs They both pay a lot of money in public and perceive their own business goals.
As with all difficult endeavors, there are no shortcuts here. Technology and tools can help, but companies must first be willing to look at the hard truths right in front of them instead of settling for just showing progress in top-level hiring and recruiting. Only then can they handle the chaotic business of addressing D&I and really do better on the other side.