The rise of the data-driven people leader

Any successful business function runs on data, from marketing and sales to operations and finance—and HR is no exception.

For a long time one of the top business challenges for CEOs and board members was fully understanding the value of people initiatives, due to a lack of data insights and tools available to demonstrate material change and clear return on investment.

Because you can’t objectively measure culture, right? Well, at least not until now…

Today modern people leaders are using data to analyse performance, make informed decisions and get a better handle on the abstract dynamics within their department and organisation. And it’s creating a high impact business function that everyone in their company is benefiting from. Here’s how.

What is data-driven leadership?

A data-driven leader draws on insights beyond emotion and personal experience. They make data an important part of the mix, too, developing a decision-making process that’s more logical and evidence-based as a result.

By tempering their instinctive decision making, a data-driven leader can:

  • Move beyond trial and error
  • Avoid confirmation bias
  • Reduce the time spent on manual analysis
  • Make faster, more effective decisions
  • Keep pace with market trends.

A data-driven people leader can apply all of these benefits to talent management.

They can use data to gain insight into their recruitment needs, their training and development, and the compensation and benefits they offer to employees.

Importantly, when many companies are rightly treating DE&I as a priority, they can also use data to logically assess their DE&I efforts and find ways to improve performance and drive tangible results.

The power of data for DE&I

When you have access to DE&I data, you have the insight you need to link your organisation’s DE&I initiative with everyday processes and decisions.

You can use data to improve your recruitment practices, your HR approach and your company culture — all of which can help to improve racial equity within your organisation.

DEI data can make a real impact as it supports people leaders to:

Reveal the truth and eliminate bias

Many leaders believe their workplaces to be equitable. But you can’t argue with the data. If there is unconscious bias or systematic discrimination at play, the data will help to reveal those uncomfortable truths to the people who can champion change.

Make impartial assessments

You need a clear view of where you currently stand to know how you’ll move forward towards your goals. DEI data helps you to evaluate the current levels of inclusion within your organisation.

Data collection also allows for impartial DEI assessments, based on stats and real experience, rather than conjecture.

Provide benchmarks and opportunities for KPIs and other metrics

When you have access to the data, you see how your company measures up against industry standards. This paves the way for better measurement of your DEI performance on a YoY basis, against your previous track record.

Essentially, data helps you to set achievable DEI goals and see the quantifiable results of your efforts.

How to create a data-driven approach to racial equity

Data helps to take the guesswork out of your racial equity strategy. So how do you put that data into action in your workplace?

Selecting the right metrics

Recent research revealed that the majority of organisations are focussing on diversity as the key metric to measure the success of their racial equity strategy. However, achieving diversity should not be the single goal of your racial equity strategy. Racial diversity matters, but it doesn’t take into account other crucial components of racial equity, such as inclusion, awareness and behaviours. Building the right internal culture is a key ingredient to your company’s success – and, as a result, it will naturally improve your organisation's diversity.

As culture directly impacts the success of a company and well-being of its employees, both diversity and inclusion need to be targeted. We recommend organisations focus on the following metrics to overcome racial bias in the workplace:

  • Racial awareness: How well members know how to respond to incidents of racism
  • Racial inclusion barriers: The extent to which members perceive their ethnicity to be a blocker to inclusion
  • Racist behaviours: How often members are witnessing and being subjected to different forms of racism
  • Racial diversity: How distributed members are across different ethnic groups

Find out how you can measure these four key racial equity metrics here >

The takeaway: Organisations should focus on achieving inclusion and track diversity as one of the measures of their success.

Be specific

When collecting data, be sure to include as many identifiers as possible (even if the information is anonymised).

It can be helpful to know where your racial equity issues lie — whether it’s with the organisation as a whole or just with one or two departments.

It’s also really important to understand the role that intersectionality plays. Recognising all of an employee’s social identities helps you to gain a deeper understanding of employee experience. A Black woman in the workplace will experience inequality differently from a white woman or to a Black man, for example.

Race, gender, sexuality, disability and ethnicity intersect to create unique experiences for your employees. The more specific and detailed you can be in your data collection, the better and more comprehensive a DEI picture you’ll be able to create. And the better and more comprehensive your analysis is today, the clearer your objectives will be for a more racially inclusive future.

Encourage employees to take ownership of the data

Too often, DEI data is only accessed by leaders within an organisation and employees don’t get to see the bigger picture.

But these employees — making small, everyday decisions — have a huge impact on the DEI performance of a workplace overall.

To join the dots, data-driven people leaders have to share DEI data with their team. Only then can the people team begin to take ownership of racial equity issues within recruitment, promotion, employee retention and company culture processes.

When you assess and track data with everyone, employees better understand how their actions can impact outcomes — and they’re more likely to create, and support, the change you’re looking for.

Set data goals

Simply tracking data isn’t enough. You need to set targets if you’re to improve diversity and inclusion within your organisation.

Use the data you already have to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). As we mentioned above, you might want to measure success against your organisation’s past performance or against industry benchmarks. You may also want to set race equity goals at an organisational, departmental and individual level.

However you choose to set your targets, these goals will outline what you want to achieve — and how you plan to achieve it. They establish a clear roadmap and provide a helpful dose of motivation for your team.

Work on data presentation

There’s not much benefit to DEI data if it sits on an indecipherable spreadsheet. The data should be easy to understand and compare, for both people leaders and their teams.

That means working on data visualisation and presentation, and this is something the right software can really help with. Use FLAIR’s data-driven racial equity solution and you can see the results of your DEI research via our easy-to-understand dashboard.

First, you’ll get a glimpse at your performance in four key areas: racial awareness, racial diversity, racist behaviour & racial inclusion barriers.​ Then you can deep dive into the data to devise a comprehensive DEI strategy.

FLAIR makes it easy for organisations to collect, analyse and act upon DEI data. With dynamic dashboards and stakeholder pitch decks for easily digestible and actionable insights to drive long-lasting, meaningful change.

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