Statements about wanting to increase diversity and inclusion come from good intentions, but words alone aren't enough to get the job done. Business leaders must go beyond good intentions and develop a strategic mindset anchored in data.
Bob Lockett, chief diversity and talent officer at ADP, explained the data-driven approach during his session "Using Data to Walk the Talk and Build Inclusive Teams" at SHRM INCLUSION 2021.
He said that by using a data-driven process—much like the classic "scientific method" learned in grade school—companies can identify gaps, target specific issues that need to be addressed and establish an informed path forward.
Lockett said HR professionals have to persist in their efforts to create more-inclusive workforces.
"You can't expect results overnight," he noted. "Wanting that kind of turnaround might be the case with the social justice efforts going on now, but you will struggle. Getting that kind of immediate results isn't possible. And what you don't want is to have success [for one group] at the expense of others. Because after all, this is about inclusion."
Using Data to Make the Case to the C-Suite
Data can help HR professionals explain to the C-suite the value that comes with diversity and inclusion.
"You might only have five minutes to make your case in front of them," Lockett said. "You have to speak in corporate terms. You have to tie it to profitability for them to give you buy-in. Or make it about how the company can hire better talent or reduce turnover. You can also tie it to your company's values. If you can make it about that, you can [have their ear]."
He said more companies are beginning to better track demographic information about their workforce. In fact, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requires it. These figures often do not reflect positively on the companies.
One attendee mentioned that his workforce is only 3 percent Black and 2 percent Hispanic. Both these numbers are far below the national averages.
"I see that as an opportunity," Lockett said. "This should show the C-suite the importance of building a more diverse workplace and it's a reason why people of color would want to join the company, helping the company meet its goals."
Personal Stories More Impactful Than Data
As persuasive as data can be, Lockett said HR professionals cannot use numbers alone when advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
"When you can add a personal story to go with it, that will resonate a lot more. A person listening to you might not get all the numbers, but they can relate to a personal story. That's the 'aha' moment for them because it brings emotion into the conversation."
For starters, he said, companies should create plans that are simple, because "having a simple plan that can be done simply is far better than a perfect plan that is executed poorly."
Success will come if employees feel connected to the company. To gauge employee engagement levels, measure whether workers feel their voices matter at work, whether they feel like an important part of the company, whether they feel they belong in their workplace and whether they feel completely accepted at work.
Knowing employees' sentiments in those areas will help create stronger strategies, Lockett said.
Paul Bergeron is a freelance writer based in Herndon, Va.