June 8, 2021

How your Diversity & Inclusion programme fuels business success

Darshan Baskaran
Darshan Baskaran Consulting Manager

Business challenge:

Diversity and Inclusion
People Analytics

A few weeks ago, I contributed to some new research from TrueCue – ‘Overcoming the Top HR Challenges through Data.’ 

In the research, TrueCue surveyed 222 HR leaders, asking a variety of questions relating to key HR challenges that businesses are facing as they navigate the return to work, post-pandemic. In this article, I would like to discuss some of our findings about Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), what they mean, and how organisations can use data and analytics to address them. 

Whilst traditionally known for being a qualitative function, modern HR departments are becoming increasingly quantitative, and data-driven. However, despite people analytics being key to understanding your organisation’s most valuable asset: its people, over half of the respondents (55%) to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2020 Survey, 1 said that they still need help with putting basic people analytics into practice. 

When we asked HR professionals about tracking progress towards Diversity and Inclusion goals, 76% said that they found it ‘challenging’ – the highest score for any of the challenges we asked about. That said, 59% also said they were challenged with providing internal stakeholders with timely and insightful analysis of people data. 

Throughout the pandemic, HR teams were faced with extraordinary demands, all of which were in addition to their existing workloads – dealing with unprecedented complexity, volatility, and uncertainty at a global scale. As one HR leader put it recently, “HR is not just HR anymore – we are being asked to play an expanded role in the boardroom, formulating strategies to drive transformation.”  

Yet, during all this turmoil, the fundamental challenges remained – including how to progress the D&I agenda and make the most of all our people in trying circumstances. 

Diversity, inclusion, and well-being 

In a blog ‘The role of data in achieving diversity, inclusion & equality in the workplace,’ one of our Data Scientists defined Diversity and Inclusion like this: 

  • Diversity represents the traits and characteristics that make people unique.  
  • Inclusion refers to the behaviours and social norms that make people feel welcome and have equal access to the same opportunities. 

The blog highlighted that arguably, most D&I strategies focus almost entirely on Diversity. Not only because it is easier to measure, but also because it is easier to manage and, in a quote most often attributed to Peter Drucker; “What gets measured gets managed”. However, the danger with this philosophy is a focus of attention on what is easy to measure and not necessarily what is meaningful or focussing solely on what gets measured. 

Harder to measure (and therefore to manage) is inclusion, because everyone is subject to a range of beliefs, attitudes, biases, and values that influence both culture and individual norms and behaviours. These internal heuristics (rules of thumb you follow without thinking) are far less tangible – we can see the effects, but often not the cause. 

Business culture resides within people, and it is generated and sustained in the everyday interactions between co-workers. Humans learn from the example of others and from the responses to their own actions.  

The pandemic made things harder. 

Thinking and acting on inclusion pre-pandemic was already challenging, but with so many workers now working remotely or in a hybrid environment, and with less physical contact and a greater reliance on collaboration technologies, it has become even more difficult. 

When you are working closely with teams and colleagues in an office-based environment, it is easier to monitor employee sentiment. However, many organisations have said that the wellbeing of their remote workers is of growing concern and these concerns will extend into the post-pandemic era with a remote / hybrid workforce.  

This is even more true for those employees that may have already been facing barriers to inclusion – those barriers have become higher as they seek to overcome the shortcomings of infrastructure and the lack of opportunity to become physically embedded within the corporate structure. 

Also, the techniques often relied upon by organisations to achieve inclusion goals, such as staff training, awareness-raising workshops, seminars, etc. have also had to adapt to circumstances, or even take a back seat to the urgent need to train staff in new operating techniques and technologies. 

However, there are practical steps that your organisation can take to assess where you are in terms of diversity and inclusion and the progress you are making in achieving your goals. By analysing the actions that people take, you can infer from their behaviour changes in values and attitudes that are at the heart of inclusion. 

Organisational Network Analysis (ONA) for monitoring inclusion. 

Two-thirds (67%) of respondents in our survey indicated that they find understanding formal and informal employee networks in a remote/hybrid working environment challenging. This is where the real value of Organisational Network Analytics (ONA) comes into its own; ONA helps organisations to understand how knowledge flows within and between their employee networks, and how those networks represent the de facto levels of inclusion and engagement. 

Using ONA, it is possible to capture and track social data that can shed light on how inclusive your workforce is. For example, how extensive is the contact network of an employee? is it static or growing? Are specific employees or groups regularly included or excluded from team communications? Is career progression equitable? And so on. 

These network monitoring techniques can provide powerful, objective insights into the progress of your D&I strategy, but there is also a role for active questioning – staff engagement surveys being one example. In either case, both techniques provide a rich source of data that you can use to make better informed, more targeted decisions. 

The role of data and analytics in achieving D&I objectives 

Our research shows, as highlighted earlier, that about three-quarters of HR leaders find tracking progress towards diversity and inclusion goals challenging. It is my theory that much of this is down to the lack of adequate data and analytics maturity – there is an increasing need for comprehensive people analytics to support strategy and inform tactics.  

In an article I wrote for The HR Director ‘How to achieve Diversity and Inclusion aspirations using data,’ I introduce the concept of a ‘people data warehouse’ that consolidates disparate data from various stages of an employee lifecycle, to provide a holistic view of each employee, and more importantly, track changes to the employee lifecycle over time. A ‘people data warehouse’ is rapidly becoming an invaluable source of insight for D&I initiatives, and the foundation for sustainable people analytics. 

One way to think about this might be as the HR data equivalent of a Customer Data Platform (CDP) – a resource that any customer-centric organisation has in order to coordinate customer operations. Both should offer the suite of tools needed to gather and manage data, provide regular reports, and support deeper analysis. 

A recent use recent use case where a people data warehouse has been driving the D&I initiatives for one of our clients, was at a FTSE 100 FMCG enterprise, where they wanted to understand which areas of their organisation were affected by potential unconscious bias, i.e. 

  • Hidden issues that could hamper the organisation in achieving its D&I targets, and   
  • The unconscious biases that could impact employee engagement, unplanned staff turnover, or innovation. 

With a people data warehouse, we were able to get a descriptive and objective analysis of where an organisation was in terms of representation and to explore key areas of the employee lifecycle, such as in applications and hiring, turnover and leavers, and career progression.  


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Figure 1. Examples of some of the data sources within the People Data Warehouse 

If you want to improve D&I in the workplace, it is imperative that you understand the data behind your initiatives. 

With access to a reliable and comprehensive source of data, you can do more than generate static reports – you can start to perform root cause analysis, identifying the causal contributing factors and drivers to changes in representation over time and to determine specific areas of concern and address them with targeted initiatives. 

We used this to develop the Drivers of Representation (DoR) metric, designed to measure the following: 

  • Is an organisation on track to meeting a D&I target over time? 
  • What are the key drivers for helping the organisation meet the targets? 
  • How equitable have internal policies been on the representation of the subgroups? 

We contend that the DoR metric gives leaders a valuable instrument to track progress towards D&I targets, identify problem areas and to address them when the need arises. 

For an effective D&I strategy, an organisation needs to know where it is today, where it wants to get to tomorrow (in quantifiable terms) and whether it is on course and making headway. As someone once said to me “it doesn’t matter how fast you are going if it is in the wrong direction.” 

Conclusions and Next Steps 

There is nothing good that can be said about the pandemic. However, organisations have adapted, and the following trends have emerged: 

  • Many organisations have embraced the need for urgent change – we are no longer operating in the world of 2019. 
  • Leaders have been surprised at how quickly change can be affected when there is a compelling need and are now turning their attention to where else transformation can be accelerated.  
  • Whilst many of the recent changes have been focused on technology and processes, organisations cannot afford to ignore the values and needs of its workforce, especially as the world of work post-pandemic is likely to be different. 

All of this is interesting, but why is D&I so important to both employers and employees? 

There are at least three good reasons that come to mind: 

  • More diverse and inclusive organisations are more likely to attract and retain a wider pool of talent. 
  • A diverse workforce will therefore foster innovation and resilience. 
  • As a result, diverse and inclusive organisations will perform better financially. 

Taking just that last point, in their report ‘Delivering through Diversity,’ McKinsey state that “Companies in the top-quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability.” Having a diverse and inclusive organisation is clearly not just ‘the right thing’ to do, it makes sound business sense too. 

The world is recovering from a crisis. However, there has never been a better time to take advantage of the broader transformation agenda to make the changes necessary to ensure a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce. 

If you want to learn more about how to improve diversity and inclusion in your organisaton or would like an informal chat about how to maximise the value of your people data, contact us today.


1 LinkedIn Global Talent Trends Report, 2020 

Business challenge:

Diversity and Inclusion
People Analytics
Darshan Baskaran
Written by Darshan Baskaran Consulting Manager

Data is in Darshan’s DNA – both literally and figuratively. Data story-telling is his passion. He obtained a DPhil. (Ph.D.) in “Molecular Cell Biology of Health and Disease” at the University of Oxford prior to joining Concentra's Analytical Consulting Team - now TrueCue Services. As Analytics Lead and Consulting Manager, he manages the delivery of analytics projects, develops analytics solutions and oversees the operational running of the Analytics Consulting Team. When on holiday, he can be found globetrotting, snowboarding, diving or taking a nap.

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