HR system data could offer the solution for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives to be properly tracked, measured, and improved.

Research shows that more than 6 in 10 employees believe ‘employers are talking about DEI more than they are taking action’.

And 66% of people consider their employer’s DEI approach as a ‘somewhat’ or ‘very important’ influence on their plans to stay in a role. the issue is more pressing than ever.

So what should organisations do to start making a real difference?

Insights for improvements: better DEI needs data

Understanding the workforce is a fundamental first step to making organisations more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

Clear and reliable demographic data forms the basis for a whole host of insights into how different groups are faring, for example by investigating measures such as recruitment and attrition.”

John Petter, CEO, Zellis

But having the right HR system information in the first place requires developing robust and transparent data collection policies and practices that staff feel they can trust.

Such policies and practices enable you to create the strong foundations required to create an effective DEI strategy and measure and report on its outcomes.

The trust element is vital. Asking employees to share sensitive personal information, particularly if they are in a junior role or a member of a minority group, can raise fears over confidentiality and the potential impact on their career prospects.

As Julian Richard, Managing Director at diversity consultancy extense, says, when it comes to data, “disclosure is earned and not given”, particularly because many minority groups have historically had their personal information used against them.

Organisations need to recognise historical context and ensure they are cultivating psychological safety within local teams and in the broader workforce. This means clearly explaining what they seek to achieve by collecting personal data and information.”

Julian Richard, managing director, extense

In other words, employers must be completely transparent about what they plan to do with people’s data and, “just as importantly, what they won’t do with it”, Julian adds. Give reassurances about anonymity and privacy protections.

Make clear the link between better data and better DEI

Organisations also need to make it clear how their personal information will help to drive achieve better DEI outcomes.

“This involves taking employees on a journey and communicating the ‘why’, both for DEI itself and the collection of data to support DEI goals,” points out Siobhan Sweeney, Senior Director of DEI and Belonging at Element Materials Technology.

It’s vital to build confidence in the integrity of data – you can’t have double counting or inconsistencies as that can quickly undermine your efforts. Organisations that do this well and take employees on a journey receive higher disclosure rates and therefore have richer HR data and analytics.”

Siobhan Sweeney, Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Element Materials Technology

This situation enables you to understand the make-up of the organisation and how representative it is of both customers and employees in the geographies in which you operate. It also helps you benchmark performance and direct your resources and investment into high priority areas so you can be more targeted and proactive in your activities.

How our HR system approaches DEI data

At Zellis, we have direct experience of this ourselves. Some years ago, we set out to build a better means of gathering diversity data internally. This now takes the form of the MyDiversity Data module in our MyView self-service HR and payroll platform.

The MyDiversity Data module enables our employees in the UK and Ireland to securely share their personal information. This information then feeds into the DEI Dashboard.

This platform enables HR and business leaders to much more easily understand trends and patterns, identify target areas for action, and measure progress.

To build trust and alleviate any concerns over how their data could be used, the MyDiversity Data form displays the following message at the point of data entry:

“The data helps us to prioritise our support and resources, focuses our DEI strategic roadmap and provides a baseline to measure and track progress against. The information collected is entirely confidential and anonymous, and your manager will not have access to the information.”

For more details on our approach, including sample questions, in our latest DEI report.

Communication is key

But it’s clear is that this kind of communication cannot be simply a one-off occurrence. Providing regular, ongoing updates and feedback on progress is crucial.

The key is to keep going back to all employees to reinforce that the organisation is acting on the feedback they have given and on the data they have shared. This message needs to penetrate at a grassroots level, through staff networks, forums, intranet pages – whatever channels you have to reach and engage with staff.”

Janet Hills MBE, former President, National Black Police Association; former Chair, Metropolitan Black Police Association

Ready to make a difference?

Download Turn DEI Talk into Action with Data, with expert insights for HR and business leaders to harness data and improve diversity, equity, and inclusion.