5 Ways to Prepare for Your 2021 Affirmative Action and Diversity Initiatives

Discover how the work you do this quarter could set you up for a smoother AAP cycle for years to come—and feed your diversity & inclusion initiatives while ensuring you’re always audit-ready.

If you’re reading this article, you’re already thinking about 2021—a fantastic start. However, this isn’t just your opportunity to get ahead of next year’s Affirmative Action Plan. AAPs are an ongoing process, something with practical applications throughout the year, and there’s no substitute for thorough planning and prep.

The tips in this article, drawing on our webinar ‘2021 Checklist for Affirmative Action and Diversity Initiatives’, will help you achieve an always-on AAP, and reap the significant rewards of doing so.

1) Perform Your Program’s Essential Maintenance

Year-end is a great time to assess and take stock of all the aspects of your strategy that need periodic maintenance. This could mean:

  • Digging into your processes to see where you have gaps.
  • Conducting meetings to review your existing programs and align D&I goals with corporate goals.
  • Reviewing surveys currently in distribution—if continuing, now’s the time to tweak and change them so you’re not caught off guard next year.
  • Assessing your current demographics at every level of your organization.
  • Taking a look at the contents of your training: Do you have unconscious bias training courses that you should be rolling out? How are you going to get that info out there?

2) Address Your Data Challenges

Data validation and reconciliation are among the most critical of your maintenance tasks. We strongly advise against waiting until an audit happens to weed out all your data issues. This is the most time-consuming part of your whole process and one that inevitably causes delays while the team scrambles to clean the data.

Rally everyone to look over the data—your D&I group, HRIS teams, and beyond. The data will only be useful to these teams if it’s timely, accurate, and includes all the fields they need to produce reporting that supports their initiatives. If you’re changing systems and/or job group structures, it’s always a good idea to work with your consultants to work through these.

Start by pulling test data to see what kinds of issues you encounter. Some classic areas that drag your data down include:

  • Poor data entry: this can include misspellings, typos, transpositions, and variations in spelling/naming.
  • Data missing from database fields: for example, missing race or gender codes.
  • Inconsistency of data between systems: commonly a problem with pre- and post-hiring systems (e.g. ATS to HRIS).
  • Broken hierarchies and relationships.
  • Lack of companywide or industry-wide data coding standards.
  • Unreconciled data from multiple databases: especially when you have a large number of different departments and/or organizations (Note: this can be especially time-consuming).
  • Poorly documented or obsolete data: often encountered when incorporating data from older systems.

Also on the blog: ‘How to Use a Climate Survey to Understand and Nurture Diversity and Inclusion

3) Take Stock of Your Data and Consider Where It Could Be Used

With the promise of clean data, it’s easier to change the conversation from compliance to diversity.

Start by finding out how much info you already have in your HRIS, your payroll, and other systems. Look into whether you have the info necessary to create roll-ups and breakout reports that would enable you to start sharing information throughout your organizational hierarchy. You’re probably spending a lot of time on this anyway. So it makes sense to look at how much additional information you could get, and who that would be useful for.

Consider how the data could be used for areas such as management reporting. Your AAP runs on similar data to diversity-related workforce planning, recruitment, and outreach planning efforts across your organization. Once you bring your leadership in and prove the value of making the data more widely useful, you should be able to leverage them as a change agent.

Get all stakeholders involved and aligned on what’s required. Ask yourself: if you just pulled in a few additional fields, what could you achieve? With the right data, a company can meet the compliance requirement, provide talent acquisition staff an index of needs, and provide the diversity team with metrics to build and monitor its programs during the year.

Read more: ‘3 Reasons to Monitor Your Affirmative Action Plan (And 3 Ways to Do It Well)

4) Access the Right Data With the Right Technology

While your AAP will mostly use census data for benchmarking purposes, it can also be worth looking at industry-specific third-party data, and other sources such as college and university data (e.g. IPEDS and SED). These data sources may give you a more accurate depiction of the demographics of available talent, if your industry has in-built variations from the general population. If any aspect of your talent lifecycle looks significantly different from the benchmarks, the data will prompt a review.

This same data should be driving metrics for both AAP and diversity initiatives. Nonetheless, it’s surprisingly common to see organizations using completely different data sets for the two areas. This is obviously inefficient. So unless there’s a really good argument against doing so, add the little extra data required and leverage the data for both.

Crunching your internal data alone is a daunting prospect. A software solution helps to make it manageable. If you want to add external data on top of that, the technology available is a little harder to come by—though Affirmity’s suite is capable of pulling in this exact type of data. External pool data can be graphed against your internal ATS or HRIS data to identify variance in applicants and hires, for example (in Affirmity, these graphs are two components in the easy-to-read Talent Lifecycle report).

Your technology choices can also help out when it comes to getting the right data in front of the right people: Affirmity has a benchmark progress trend report with a simple traffic light system showing quarter-by-quarter performance against external benchmarks. This is perfect for time-poor managers to pore over. Similarly, as more and more leaders are finding that static reporting is less useful to them than being able to see live data via a single link, you may find dashboards more useful than reports.

Further reading on data and D&I: ‘Answering 11 Questions That Will Help You Use Data to Improve and Advance Your D&I Program

5) Document Your Efforts

We cannot understate the importance of documenting the processes and actions that you take. Compliance officers want to know not just that you’re putting a job posting out, but that you’re developing relationships with external organizations, groups, and individuals. You need a paper trail that proves you’re going out to organizations to actively bring applicants into the pool, that you’re consciously hiring, retaining and building up your employees. Documentation will provide the information needed in the event of a compliance audit and (more importantly) that your efforts to attract a diverse candidate pool are effective.

Another aspect of documenting your efforts is pushing for standardization—having a clearly defined idea of how your organization achieves the activity. There are many ways to track this information and if it’s not documented and standardized, personnel changes can throw a wrench in the works.

A lot of the information you record won’t become relevant for another two years—it therefore needs to weather personnel changes and simple memory lapses. So make sure it’s all saved in one place, in one particular way. When this kind of attention to detail is in place, audits become a very routine process—not a fire drill every time you get an audit letter.

Hand-picked for you: ‘4 Great Ways to Help Embed Diversity & Inclusion as a Priority in Your Organization

Conclusion: Establish a Framework for Success

If you’re getting ready for 2021, take this opportunity to scrutinize your entire talent lifecycle—recruitment, hiring, pay, performance, development, succession planning, and termination. People are making decisions at every step and there’s always the possibility for bias to slip in.

With some foresight and planning, it’s possible to have answers to critical workforce questions that will be very helpful in optimizing your affirmative action and diversity initiatives. Once you have your data, work within the following six-part framework to make this level of D&I precognition a reality:

  1. Draft a communication plan for external and internal audiences.
  2. Create accountability scorecards to track progress against goals (and run them semi-annually, ideally quarterly).
  3. Establish an executive diversity and inclusion council to increase buy-in and accountability from executive leaders.
  4. Recommend improvements to your organization’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).
  5. Identify activities that can be implemented by diversity committees in their respective communities. For example, you could list community partners in local areas for collaboration initiatives.
  6. Implement an online management system for the ERG/Diversity Committees (This will improve their efficiency and save money).

Are you building a more efficient pipeline for your Affirmative Action Plan and are in need of help with metrics and an external assessment of your approach? Contact us today to find out more about our software and consultation solutions, and take your AAP above and beyond.

Photograph of Zoe Ann Whitley, Director, Consulting Services.About the Author

Zoe Ann Whitley, PHR, is a Director of Consulting Services at Affirmity. In this role she leads and manages a team of Affirmity consultants who provide audit support and consulting on affirmative action, equal employment opportunity, and diversity. She has over 20 years of compliance experience, including serving as a compliance manager for a large federal contractor.

Ms. Whitley’s experience spans US and Canadian compliance, affirmative action, employee relations, recruitment, diversity, and training. With her deep expertise in this industry, she is regularly relied upon to provide guidance to the Affirmity auditing team and to participate in executive briefings and client training.

Talk to an Expert or Request a Demo

Let Affirmity help your HR and compliance teams with expert consulting services, data analysis, training, and software to optimize your affirmative action and D&I programs.