Rooting your DEI Strategy in Data and Analytics

March 18, 2021

Rooting a diversity, equity and inclusion strategy in data and analytics makes sense. We do this when we develop other business strategies.

How else will you know how diverse your workforce is? If you have pay gaps? If you have greater turnover within certain populations? How inclusive your workforce really is?

But it’s scary and generally met with lots of resistance.

Can we even do that? Is this legal in Canada? Are we risking a human rights claim?

Seek legal advice, certainly. But know that –

  1. For many years, the Government of Canada has had legislation requiring federally regulated employers and federal contractors to have Employment Equity Programs, where they are actually required to gather diversity data from employees.
  2. The Government of Canada recently launched the 50-30 Challenge for Canadian businesses. The challenge is for businesses to reach both gender parity and 30% representation of other underrepresented groups on their boards and senior management teams.

How do we even start?

TAP Network has developed a series of tools that organizations can leverage for engaging employees in self-reporting. We have two versions of the toolkit -

  • This version is for TAP Network members. It incorporates information about the broader industry data reporting process.
  • This version is a stand-alone generic toolkit.

These tools look good, but what really happens when companies roll this out?

We recently spoke with a few tech companies who are in various stages of collecting this information. Here are some nuggets and lessons learned from their experiences -

One company first asked their employees if they wanted the information collected. They learned there was actually demand for it. Employees wanted the company to measure diversity.

One large tech company believes that starting with the “why” helped them be successful in gathering the information. They started by explaining why they were collecting this information. They got a 50% response rate the first year and were very happy with that. They will be doing a follow-up survey to seek further participation. They are also collecting the data up front from new hires.

Another tech company we spoke with is about to ask employees to self-identify, but before they do that, they are sharing the questionnaire in advance and starting with a dialogue and a chance for employees to ask questions and express concerns. They are using a software platform for this so that employees’ questions and comments are anonymous.

What are they seeing? Fear. And a lack of understanding.

People want to know how the information will be used. Who will see it? Some people are intimidated by the questionnaire because they don’t understand the terms (e.g. non-binary). They are answering all of these questions now, before they launch the survey.

One global tech company took a unified global approach to collecting the data but then tailored it locally by country.

Most of the companies we spoke with adjusted the employee questionnaire template to meet their needs and preferences.

One company is taking the opportunity to ask a few other questions. They’re asking employees if there are accommodations needed to support them in doing their jobs. They are also asking people to identify culturally important days for them. They are asking if they can share the answers to these two specific questions with their managers.

Another company found that the most common question they received from employees was “Will my manager be able to see this data?”. The answer was no, absolutely not. They decided to not have managers involved in communicating about the initiative. All communications came from Human Resources. They removed managers from the process.

These are different approaches for sure, but one common thread we heard was the need for up-front communication and dialogue before launching into such a personal ask of your employees.

We hope that with our toolkit and these shared experiences and tips from other tech companies, you’re feeling both inspired and prepared to collect diversity data from your employees!