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How DEI Leaders Can Use Data to Inform Their Work

An illustration showing a bar chart coming out of a magnifying glass: DEI policies
Regularly sharing diversity metrics and progress reports with leaders and teams helps leaders can foster a sense of responsibility and motivate the entire organization to actively contribute to DEI goals. [panimoni / Adobe Stock]

Using data to make real decisions that impact your entire workforce will help create a culture that embraces diversity, fosters innovation, and paves the way for long-term success.

How do your employees feel about your DEI policies? Are you creating a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion that workers — younger workers, especially — value? It isn’t easy for many organizations, especially if they’re missing one element that any workplace equality discussion needs: a foundation of good data.

Nearly eight in 10 business leaders aren’t using data in their organization’s diversity and inclusion practices, according to recent Salesforce research. This is a significant missed opportunity, and employees are taking notice. Some two in five Gen Z and millennial workers have turned down an assignment or role because it did not align with their values, according to a 2022 Deloitte survey. The same survey showed that workers who are happy with their companies’ efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive culture are more likely to stay. These folks are the leaders of tomorrow. 

Using data to make real decisions that impact your entire workforce will help create a culture that embraces diversity, fosters innovation, and paves the way for long-term success. Here are four ways to do that.

1. Use data-informed equality goals to improve profitability and productivity

Data provides a solid foundation for leaders to identify gaps in DEI policies, measure progress, and make informed decisions. By using data, organizations can gain deep insights into their workforce demographics, representation, and employee experiences. These insights not only help identify areas of improvement but also establish benchmarks to track progress over time. 

According to research conducted by Deloitte, companies that recruit, retain, and advance diverse talent have 27% higher profitability, 39% higher customer satisfaction, and 22% greater productivity. Media and entertainment company Paramount Global, for example, is using data as the foundation for its newly launched diversity reporting platform. The platform, powered by Salesforce, measures diversity across numerous teams, including writers, directors, wardrobe stylists, and stunt workers. This informed data practice is not only good for morale and culture, it’s also good for business.

Additionally, companies with inclusive cultures have a 22% lower turnover rate

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2. Identify areas of opportunity and set measurable goals

Leaders are able to identify gaps in their DEI policies when they have a full-picture view of their demographics data. This provides a baseline to both measure progress and prioritize initiatives that address challenges faced by underrepresented groups. “Data serves as the compass that guides our efforts towards achieving equality within our organization,” said Salesforce Chief Equality Officer Lori Castillo Martinez. “It enables us to pinpoint the areas where we need to direct our focus and resources for maximum impact.” 

To address low representation of Black leaders in the U.S. at the vice president level and above, Salesforce set the goal of doubling Black representation at those levels. To get there, Salesforce has launched several equality and leadership development programs to support the career growth of employees from underrepresented groups, and help increase diverse representation among leadership. 

3. Understand the employee experience and improve accountability 

Companies can capture the experiences, perceptions, and sentiment of employees by giving them opportunities to give feedback. Some methods of collecting data from employees include:

  • Employee surveys: Surveys provide employers with the opportunity to efficiently and quantitatively measure sentiment
    • Pulse survey: A quick, short, targeted survey for employees to share their opinions
    • Engagement survey: More detailed surveys that allow employees to share thoughts, feelings, and feedback on their work environment
  • Regular one-on-one meetings: Not only does this type of communication strengthen relationships between employees and managers, it also provides an opportunity for qualitative feedback to be shared
  • Suggestion boxes: This qualitative and quantitative method is a simple way of collecting information that could impact DEI policies

By using these analyses to better understand employee experiences, leaders are then better equipped to make informed decisions.This data provides valuable insights into the effectiveness of current initiatives and areas where further improvements are required.  

Along the way, corporations are able to create a culture of accountability. Regularly sharing diversity metrics and progress reports with leaders and teams — such as Salesforce’s annual Equality Update and its Equality Scorecard, shared in a regular email communication to VPs and above — helps leaders foster a sense of responsibility and motivate the entire organization to actively contribute to DEI goals. 

4. Support recruitment with DEI policies

Data can identify patterns of bias in recruitment, hiring, and promotion processes. By using this information to inform talent acquisition strategies, organizations can ensure fair and inclusive practices that attract diverse candidates and create a supportive environment for their long-term success. Through the implementation of meaningful DEI policies, current and prospective employees are able to see that inclusion is a priority. This empowers people to show up as their authentic selves at work — creating an environment that supports individual mental health and drives innovation. According to Forbes, “among companies with more than $10 billion in annual revenues, 56% strongly agreed that diversity helps drive innovation.”

When it comes to creating a culture of inclusion, there’s no one-size-fits-all remedy that every organization can simply implement. There is a lot to consider when it comes to creating and sustaining a more equal workplace — from identifying specific needs and areas of improvement to establishing relevant benchmarks. All of which requires leaders to make decisions that are specific to their organization. By using data specific to their own organization, leaders show that they are not just patching DEI policies with generic talk, but rather driving genuine, positive change that is designed to last. 

Jameelah Nasheed of Salesforce
Jameelah Nasheed Equality Content Manager

Jameelah Nasheed is an Equality content manager. She has a background in journalism and passion for diversity, inclusion, and social justice. She supports the Equality content strategy and explores ways to innovate and share Equality content via Trailhead modules, blogs, research reports, social media, podcasts, and events.

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