Measuring D&I impact and progress with Alphabet, Paradigm and Greenhouse – Part 1

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8 mins, 31 secs read time

People teams are being asked to use data in every aspect of their jobs, especially for hiring processes and to better understand employee engagement. When it comes to equity, diversity and inclusion, however, data isn’t as simple to capture and analyze.

Recruiters, heads of Talent and DE&I; committee members from all across the Bay Area gathered in Fitbit’s vibrant HQ this week for an honest conversation around measuring the impact of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Greenhouse CEO Daniel Chait led the discussion with panelists Salima Bhimani, Chief Equity + Inclusion Systems Strategist for Alphabet and Other Bets companies, and Carissa Romero, PhD, Co-founder & Managing Director at Paradigm Strategy.

The conversation delved into the language we use to discuss these issues, specific examples of where data is vital, and how to approach the journey to further equity, diversity and inclusion. That journey is ongoing and shouldn’t be measured only in success – it should also be evaluated in terms of progress.

The terms equity, diversity and inclusion can get muddled. Salima provided the following definitions:

Equity is the place where race, gender and the social markers of difference are no longer factors impeding people’s ability to succeed in the organization. Evaluating equity involves looking at your processes within the organization.

Diversity is really about representation and who has historically been excluded, marginalized and unable to make it through the door. It’s about understanding if companies are able to retain these groups and help them advance in their careers.

Inclusion is about creating enough opportunities for people to have a sense of belonging and to feel that they are a valuable contributing member to the organization. The question to address is: Are resources and time allocated to ensure an inclusive workplace?

Salima and Carissa also unpacked specific examples of where change can occur and how to approach the entire process of undertaking DE&I; initiatives, revealing a slew of takeaways and thought-starters:

  1. Dig out the root cause.
  2. Data will reveal where your company should begin – and recommend a path to progress.
  3. No two Equity, Diversity & Inclusion journeys are alike.
  4. Balancing the moral case and the business case.
  5. Inclusion, belonging and performance.
  6. Lean into the fear. Communicate failure. Have the awkward conversations.
  7. It’s not just about the destination. Strive for progress and acknowledge the milestones along the road.

For anyone who wasn’t able to attend, or who just wants a refresher, we’re here to share more than just the key takeaways. Read on for insightful quotes, stories from the panelists’ own experiences, and actionable ways to address and measure in your own company. With so much rich material to cover, we’ll be sharing the second part of these findings in a subsequent blog post (keep checking back on the Greenhouse Blog).

1) Dig out the root cause.

The first and most important foundational step for any DE&I; journey is to uncover the reason for the issues their company is facing. Although each case is different, there is likely an impetus or specific gap that is driving leaders to prioritize DE&I; efforts and initiatives. Carissa explained, “No company can just rely on intuition. We need to look at People data to see where the biggest gaps are in DE&I; and then address them.”

One company may find that women are falling out of their hiring funnel at early stages or that there is a spike in attrition rates for Southeast Asian men. Only by sussing out what’s happening in the company and then digging in to both the causes and the effects can companies identify the source or sources of any pain and tension.

Salima shared that she finds many tech organizations are challenged by their inherent bias toward action. “It takes a lot for tech companies to slow down and ask the hard questions. There’s a lot of value in the process of asking ‘What are the root challenges that we’re facing?’ That digging can take quite a bit of time. I found there’s a lot of work to do be done to help people understand how to build an organization-wide strategy to address equity, diversity and inclusion.”

There is no set time for finding the root cause and asking the hard questions. But it is a necessary step. Once the groundwork is laid and the specific problems are uncovered, by looking at People data, for instance, a roadmap can be built.

2) Data will reveal where your company should begin – and recommend a path to progress.

Even if you’ve been on this journey for some time, engaging Employee Resource Groups and maybe even deploying company-wide unconscious bias training, data is a powerful tool for companies looking to make progress on DE&I; issues.

“There are so many things you could be doing,” Carissa said. “If you’ve been doing this for a while, where do you focus next? What I know certainly doesn’t work is a one-size-fits-all approach. You really need to take the time to look at data to find a strategy that’s right for your company.”

Carissa named a few of the ways to examine People data in your org:

  • Pinpoint phases in the hiring process where people from certain underrepresented groups are more likely to fall out
  • Analyze any variances in promotion rates
  • Determine if attrition rates reveal any insights about underlying DE&I; issues
  • Measure inclusion, a sense of belonging and who feels their voice is heard

Salima has conducted a deep landscape analysis which can take up to 6 months but can yield valuable information. "One of the things I've been doing is a systems mapping a technique I developed to determine where there is opportunity for change and where there are impediments."

“The information that comes through from that process becomes an eye-opener. People realize there are all these things in the company that provide an opportunity to make change. At the same time, many other things are making it difficult by adding on layers of complication or presenting roadblocks.”

Executing this type of exercise arms your company with more information and tangible data to provide a sophisticated and layered understanding of what might be, or could be in moving forward, impeding your efforts to mitigate bias and create a more inclusive, diverse and equitable workplace.

3) No two Equity, Diversity & Inclusion journeys are alike.

Maybe your executive team is driving efforts around DE&I; by providing support and a dedicated resource. Perhaps a surge in attrition rates and recent Glassdoor reviews brought an unknown issue to light, such as microaggressions and employees talking over women in the company. In some cases, your company’s board may be balancing the moral and business cases for making more efforts around equity, diversity and inclusion. Whatever the catalyst that started you on this journey, the one certainty is that no two journeys are the same.

“A lot of companies aren’t making any progress because they simply look at what their peers are doing and then replicate it,” Carissa said. “Unless you are facing exactly the same challenges, it won’t work. Which is why it’s so valuable to look at the data and take the time to figure out what exactly the DE&I; challenges are for your company.”

Many mainstream organizations are facing similar challenges. Salima noted this example: “If you look at team dynamics, women talk about their ideas getting stolen or that they get talked over in meetings. It’s pervasive across many companies, and industries. But should we deal with it the same way? Probably not, because there are different reasons as to why that’s happening in each organization. Again, this underlines that we need to know what’s creating that root cause.”

4) Balancing the moral case and the business case.

Many leaders taking action around equity, diversity and inclusion care most about the moral case. It’s the right thing to do. They’re looking around at the world and seeing that things aren’t the way they should be and asking themselves, “Do I want to amplify the inequalities in the world, or can I make sure things are going to be different within these four walls?”

But there is also a compelling, proven business case for improved equity, diversity and inclusion. There is no shortage of research – both peer-reviewed academic research and from renowned business consultancy firms – indicating that more diverse teams work better and companies that provide an inclusive workplace perform better.

Different individuals, teams and types of employees may be drawn to one case over the other.

Salima shared that sometimes many people on the ground in a company, like Employee Resource Groups, are mobilized by the moral case. “But we’re not seeing enough companies making the business case. It’s a balancing act between the moral case and the business case.”

It’s worth asking what makes sense for your company. The business case or the moral case, or both? Or is something entirely different driving the focus and energy around DE&I;? Which audience in your organization is driven by which case? Salima recommends aligning communication based on what they need in order for you to bring them along on the journey.

“I like to look at where there is momentum, and recommend jumping on that.” Being attuned to which group needs which type of information and impetus is vital. The executive team may be driven by the moral case, while the People team is focused on making the business case to hire a Head of DE&I.; Determine where and how and to whom you should be communicating. It’s another example of how personal this journey is.

In the next article, we’ll focus on the following:

  • Inclusion, belonging and performance.
  • Lean into the fear. Communicate failure. Have the awkward conversations.
  • It’s not just about the destination. Strive for progress and acknowledge the milestones along the road.

In your ongoing journey to learn more about equity, diversity and inclusion, head to our Diversity & Inclusion Hub to watch videos, access case studies and read the latest articles on the Greenhouse Blog.

Dinah Alobeid

Dinah Alobeid

is the Senior Director of Content and Communications at Greenhouse. She helps shape and share the Greenhouse brand story and keeps its audiences informed on company news and industry knowledge. Dinah has over 16 years of communications and content experience in the technology field and prior to Greenhouse, she built and ran the communications team at Brandwatch. She's an avid writer, dancer, foodie and book nerd. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.