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Workday Rising EMEA - DEI spirit is willing, but the strategy is weak

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright November 18, 2022
At Workday Rising EMEA this week, the company's Chief Diversity Officer and customers discussed how to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives make a real-world impact.

Carin Taylor, Chief Diversity Officer, Workday, speaks at Rising EMEA 2022
Carin Taylor, Workday (@philww)

A new survey published by Workday to coincide with its EMEA conference in Stockholm this week shows that, while most organizations are committed to improving Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), few have the tools and systems in place to measure whether they're making an impact.

The survey of over 3,100 respondents in 23 countries, encompassing HR and business leaders, paints an encouraging picture of investment in the space. More than three quarters of respondents say they have a budget for diversity, equity and inclusion, and about 60% have increased spending on DEI roles. Over a third positively celebrate diversity, versus less than a fifth where the concept is downplayed. But two in five organizations still have no strategic approach for DEI, three in five lack adequate systems and software to track progress, and only one in five are currently measuring the business impact and value of DEI initiatives. Daniela Por, Principal Solutions Marketing Lead, Workday, comments:

When we ask questions about the approach to this, we see that most companies really are committed to this, there's almost none that say, 'Oh, we don't do anything.' There's a lot of action and commitment. However, only 20% actually measure the progress that they are making.

I can't imagine that in any other strategic HR field — like executive compensation or even payroll or the more core processes, you have a strategy and you're measuring that it works. Yet in diversity and inclusion we're just bumbling along.

DEI matters to everyone

Putting the technology in place to collect the data and monitor progress is clearly an important foundation for sharpening the effectiveness of DEI initiatives. But speakers at this week's conference also outlined why it's crucial to win support for the DEI effort from across the organization, both at a leadership level and from employees as individuals. Carin Taylor, Chief Diversity Officer at Workday, makes the point that, since every individual is different, inclusion matters to everyone:

It doesn't matter what you look like, it doesn’t matter what your gender is, none of those things matter. Everybody deserves an opportunity to feel like they belong and like they're included.

Once the systems are in place, participation is also crucial to make sure the data is representative. Building trust in the security and privacy of the system is paramount, since so much of the information related to DEI initiatives is personal. Persuading people to share this sort of information depends on their trust, both that it will remain confidential, and that it will be used constructively. Taylor says:

Just asking for the data, and asking for a plethora of data, people are very hesitant to want to give you everything about their lives. But if you are asking for the data specifically for things that you're going to do with the data, then we find that employees very much want to give you the data.

Then if you can then show them exactly what you did, or you implemented a programme that then solved an issue that they had raised, based on the data that you've been asking about, that pays off as well.

Once people see this happening, they may even insist on more data being collected, although sometimes local regulations may get in the way. For example, data on ethnicity can't be collected in some European countries. That has created a quandary at Accenture, as Caroline Gedin, who is MD Nordics Talent & Organisation - Human Potential Lead, explains:

What we're also seeing now is that the data that we're not allowed to collect, people are asking about it. We are for example reporting dimensions by gender. But then you might have an ethnic minority that say, 'Okay, why don't you report how many of us there are.' This we cannot do, because we're not allowed to!

The data also provides evidence to persuade managers of the case for taking action. Gedin adds:

As soon as we can show data around how they were treating their talents, how they recruited, how they promoted, and then then we could start having a dialog with the senior leadership around their own teams. It was an eye-opener for many.

Engaging individuals

It's important to remember that the aggregate numbers are made up of individuals. Taylor emphasizes looking at the intersectionality of the data to understand the multiple factors that may affect each individual, and considering qualitative as well as quantitative data. She says:

You have to have not just the numbers, but you also have to have the stories that go along with the numbers ...

That is really how we bring everyone along, making sure that, as we're talking about diversity, we're ensuring that every single person feels like they are a part of the diversity journey that we're on. Even though there are pockets and times when we have to go and do things for certain communities, there also is this opportunity, first, of always thinking about the impact on everyone in our entire workforce.

Making DEI an initiative that belongs to everyone also means giving everyone an opportunity to participate in taking action. She elaborates:

Just making sure that everyone is included is the first thing. I think the second thing is giving people a way to engage. What is my responsibility? Can I be a part of an Employee Resource Group (ERG)? Or can I actually play a leadership role for our ERGs? Or am I out there doing community work and volunteering? There's a role for just about everyone to play in the diversity space. How you engage everyone, I think, becomes a critical aspect to bringing bringing everyone along.

The experience at leading UK insurer Aviva bears out that advice. Jonny Briggs, Diversity, Inclusion & Resourcing Director at Aviva says:

We had one group executive member who was responsible for DEI, which meant 14 weren't. So we turned around and said, what now happens is, every single one of you will pick up a responsibility. So two/three will be executive sponsors for each of our six employee resource groups, which puts them in terms of a position of responsibility for what they have to go and do, and be active around that.

Aviva is also the first FTSE listed company to include diversity and inclusion targets as a metric that determines executive stock compensation, alongside sustainability and more traditional financial metrics.

My take

DEI needs to be much more than a checkbox for organizations to tick. Workday's survey shows that, despite a great deal of enthusiasm to be involved, the space is still relatively immature in terms of actually achieving measurable results. Gathering the data and putting dashboards in place is an important first step, but organizations also need to change mindsets and behaviors if they're going to truly make a difference.

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