The best way to move forward is to not lose focus on DE&I in 2021
February 1, 2021 | HR.com
The pandemic is an ongoing seismic event for HR and employee relations (ER) teams, but last year, the ground also shifted on the diversity and inclusion front. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, people rose up again to demand equal justice. The pandemic also exposed and underscored racial, ethnic and gender disparities that existed all along. In several high-profile cases, employee activists moved to hold their companies accountable for making positive changes.
In response to Black Lives Matter protests, some brands expressed solidarity in statements, and many companies made commitments to do better on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) front. That’s a start, but employees, customers and investors are looking for action, not just words. To ensure that you are making progress on commitments (and to counter any suspicion that statements are empty virtue signaling), it’s time to demonstrate that you’re moving forward as a company. Employee relations data will be essential in that task.
Set a Benchmark to Measure Progress
Companies have an opportunity to reshape their culture, but that will require retaining the focus on DE&I programs despite continuing workforce disruptions. A fairer, more diverse and equitable workplace starts with assessing your organization’s current status on racial, gender and other bias incidents and reporting on that data so you can identify goals and the company can accept accountability for reaching them.
As we all know, what gets measured and reported is what gets done. But HR Acuity’s recent Employee Relations Benchmark Study found that only 25% of companies report incident investigation numbers to their board and leadership teams, and just 29% share aggregated, anonymous investigation data with employees. That has to change.
Everyone has a stake in improving DE&I, so take a look at employee incident data in aggregate to see where you stand. Then you can drill down to understand any variations in how incidents are handled by leader and/or region and see how your organization compares to peers of a similar size and industry. This exercise will allow you to quickly identify any significant outliers and take action as appropriate.
Use Predictive Analytics to Spot Trends
Once you’ve set a benchmark, you can conduct deeper analysis to improve fairness at your workplace and keep your people safer on the job. Predictive modelling and analytics can be a game changer for DE&I efforts — a tool you can use to reduce risk and improve fairness — but research indicates that only 15% of organizations currently use ER data to create predictive models.
If that’s the case at your organization, you can drive change by capturing data on incidents and remediation responses across your organization and breaking them down for analysis by race, gender and other protected categories. Are Black employees more likely to receive corrective action for the same policy violation than their white co-workers? Are there disparities in ER data across regions in performance assessments or promotions that may indicate that employees in protected categories get fewer opportunities for advancement?
If you’re not using technology and/or consistent processes to collect ER data at the HR and managerial level, you won’t be able to identify trends or spot potentially disparate treatment. That’s a barrier to becoming a socially just and equitable organization.
Predictive analytics can help you identify bias and racism and take positive steps to root it out. One proactive step is to arrange DE&I training for HR and ER professionals as well as training for frontline managers. Creating a safe and fair work environment is everybody’s job, but you may find that some leaders need additional support and information before they’re ready to lead on DE&I issues.
Up-Level Your Processes and Technology
Despite the best intentions, DE&I commitments can fall through the cracks due to a lack of well-defined processes for handling investigations — and a resulting lack of data and reporting capabilities. More than 40% of organizations don’t have any set processes for handling bias or racism allegations, and more than 60% of companies document investigations using a spreadsheet or no system at all.
Too often at companies without formal processes and technology tools to capture and analyze ER data, the person who receives the complaint handles it on an ad hoc basis, and the data stays siloed. This approach practically guarantees that cases aren’t managed consistently or confidentially. It can also expose the company to serious compliance risks. So, if your processes aren’t well-defined and your technology tools don’t make it simple to capture and analyze ER data, it’s time for an upgrade.
Engage and Enroll Your Managers
Commitments that start at the top but don’t cascade through the organization will inevitably seem hollow. When leadership makes bold statements, there can be a disconnect between the belief at the top of the organization and the employees throughout the team. Engaging and enrolling managers in DE&I initiatives – using your ER data to guide the way – is a must to cascade belief, action and planning throughout the organization.
People leaders at the front-line represent organizational values to employees, so gaining their buy-in is essential in cascading commitment to DE&I goals throughout the organization. Engage them through all channels, including employee resource groups and plain old face-to-face communication. Manager technology that empowers people leaders to address diversity as part of ongoing employee conversations can also help. Close the gap between the tone at the top and the rest of the organization to drive progress.
Turn Commitments into Action
Making real and significant change isn’t easy, as HR and ER leaders know. But turning 2020 DE&I commitments into action is essential to create a trust-based, transparent workplace. Making change requires data and a framework that allows you to fully understand your current status, identify where you can make improvements and a way to hold the organization accountable to stakeholders.
Employees expect a workplace experience that is safe and free of bias and harassment, and HR and ER leaders have an obligation to provide that environment. The best way to move forward is to not lose focus on DE&I in 2021 and instead put substantive, actionable plans in place to achieve goals and measure progress along the way. With the right data, processes and tools, it’s in your power to drive transformative change.