How Can Analytics Help Solve Diversity Issues?

Many workplaces need to improve diversity, what can data do to assist?


The recent deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray have demonstrated that, despite what many may think, or rather hope - and in some cases, pretend - race is still an issue in America.

Prejudice still infects every corner of society like Wham! infects shopping malls at Christmas. Nowhere is this more true than in the workplace. Only 10 years ago, having an African American name made you 33% less likely to get a callback from a company you’ve given your CV to in the US according to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, while those that are in work still experience severe pay rise bias.

It’s not just minority groups that have it hard. Women too still face an uphill battle to succeed in the workplace, with a gender pay gap existent in nearly every industry, and a criminal lack of female CEOs at FTSE500 companies, with just 5.2% of CEO roles being held by women.

There are numerous reasons why it is better to have a diverse staff, but I’m not going to try and justify why it’s a positive thing for a company from a business standpoint. For whatever reason though, it is now being recognized as an issue that needs solving.

In an attempt to do this, many firms are now turning to HR analytics. While a simple glance around an office will often tell you that there are no minorities or women, data visualization software can break down all the information to understand why. Not only this, it provides a demonstrable way of showing senior staff that your company is failing in diversity, and inspire them to do something about it.

There are a number of ways HR analytics are being used to do this. A data-driven HR department can use analytics to do a number of things, including better understanding the drivers of performance, use statistics to make recruitment decisions, and establish the factors that impact retention rates, such as salary, distance from the office, and team manager.

This begins at the hiring process, and continues all the way through. For example, one company found that very few women were going for certain promotions. When asked why, they said that they only met 8 out of 10 of the necessary attributes. However, many male applicants were going for the role that had far fewer of the skills needed. This company now looks at transferrable skills when writing job postings, rather than mandating specific areas in which those skills were gained.

The hiring process is not the end of the road when it comes to encouraging diversity with analytics though. Retaining employees by evaluating employee turnover is another way. Companies can use analytics to quickly see when a disproportionate number of a certain group of people are leaving the firm. For example, if a number of black people are leaving one department, it may be worth retraining the manager or offering some other kind of support.

HR analytics can also be used to make employees feel welcome and comfortable in the office. Identifying an individuals core behaviors and values can then help a firm to tailor their work environment and make them feel welcome.

It is important to remember, no matter how useful analytics is, they will rarely change people’s attitudes. Realizing there is a problem is the first step, and analytics is a good way of keeping on top of it to ensure that once it’s solved, it doesn’t return. 


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