Firms dive into data for diversity and inclusion strategies

People analytics managers are seeking out and analyzing HR data that intersects with and impacts the employee work experience.

A new wave of social unrest is prompting businesses to reassess their diversity and inclusion strategies, which is putting attention on workforce data and analytics as well as the managers who assemble this data.

During the HR Technology Conference & Expo this week, three people analytics managers explained how the times are changing their jobs. As such, they are digging deeper into workforce data and taking their analysis in new directions.

At one time, diversity analysis was fairly straight forward. It involved percentages, or splits, in gender and age, assembled on a spreadsheet, said Lydia Wu, who heads talent analytics at Panasonic North America. But now there is growing interest in how demographic data "intersects" with other types of HR data, she said.

"How are we hiring? How are we [talent] pipelining?" Wu said. Answering questions like these now includes analyzing job promotions and recognition programs. The intent is to see how recognition may differ across a firm's employee population, including at the manager level, she said.

People analytics managers are also looking at employee experience data, or qualitative data, for insights that may shape diversity and inclusion strategies.

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HR wants to tell a story

"This is a year where understanding how our employees are feeling on a host of issues has become much more important," said RJ Milnor, who heads people analytics at Uber.

The analytics team at Uber is trying to "[empower] our HR business partners with data that they can use on the fly," Milnor said during the panel discussion, which was sponsored by people analytics company Visier Inc.

The idea is to "create the environment for [HR managers] to tell stories," he said.

What we need are the tools to help build root cause analysis.
Jeremy ShapiroExecutive director of workforce analytics, Merck & Co.

At Merck & Co., the pharmaceutical giant is taking aggregate diversity and inclusion data and putting it in dashboards for senior leaders.

"It's through that transparency that we can actually measure ourselves, understand where the gaps and the strengths are," said Jeremy Shapiro, executive director of workforce analytics at Merck.

But Shapiro had a message for the vendors that make tools used to shape diversity and inclusion strategies: They need to build systems that can do more than deliver ratios of a firm's diversity makeup. "What we need are the tools to help build root cause analysis," he said.

From the vendors, "we need sharp points of view and great points of view and diverse points of view," Shapiro said.

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