How to Leverage Your AA Metrics Toward Corporate Diversity Goals

This Affirmity blog post looks at how Compliance and Diversity teams can leverage AA metrics to meet organizational diversity goals.

The Diversity & Inclusion and Affirmative Action Compliance worlds have experienced different phases and speed of growth of their tools and metrics over their respective evolutions. Both teams benefited tremendously from the advancement of tools, which then facilitated the slicing and dicing of data and optimized reporting. In many cases, the D&I teams operated separately from Compliance and utilized different approaches, such as with metrics, data collection, and the sharing of results. 

This usually resulted from legal concerns, speed of communication, budgets, and team structure. Since Compliance is largely responsible for the collection of race, gender, and other pieces of information, Diversity, in most cases, relies on when and what the Compliance team is willing or able to share. 

In the last 20+ years, many of us have probably witnessed this complex balancing act play out. It’s not surprising then that few companies leveraged their wealth of affirmative action planning data to create or augment the meaningful metrics, benchmarks, and dashboards necessary for managing an effective Diversity program. Sure, you can operate as two separate entities, but there is a vast amount of valuable knowledge and readily available information that Compliance can offer to Diversity. We believe that this next phase of evolution now involves an improved partnership between D&I and Compliance. 

balancing requirements of AAP and diversity

Workforce Demographics: Where Two Worlds Meet

Rapid technology gains, including cloud computing and sophisticated data intelligence tools, have created great opportunities for organizations to better utilize their workforce data. These technology advancements make it easier to leverage the data across the organization. The rapid changes have also forced HR practitioners, across both Diversity and Compliance, to keep up with technology as stakeholders continue to get more tech-savvy and have more access to data. 

Despite the differences between the Diversity and Compliance groups, their planning, processes, data, and reporting have many similarities and overlapping elements, such as: 

  • Data Dependent – Both programs are very dependent on accurate, granular, and accessible data. The respective teams design and execute action plans driven by dynamic reporting requiring accurate workforce data. 
  • Communicate Results – The processes for amalgamating the vast amount of information has many similarities in the data fields and structure required. Achieving the respective goals for both groups demands sharing progress against goals, highlighting workforce trends, and identifying gaps and potential opportunities.
  • Iterate to Success – “What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done”. Sustainable success requires ongoing measurement and an iterative process to design and execute action plans that ensure continuing compliance obligations and ongoing improvement in meeting Diversity objectives
Process for AAP and diversity

Know the Audience 

Whether you’re supporting Compliance, Diversity, or both groups, for your organization to leverage your existing AAP data, you first need to know the Diversity stakeholders before you jump into gathering data, designing reports, and communicating results. This starts with: 

  • understanding what stakeholders are currently doing, 
  • what they know about the Compliance and Diversity programs and the current metrics, 
  • and where there are opportunities for training. 

Recognizing the differing needs of recruiters, hiring managers, top executives, and others will go a long way toward gaining buy-in throughout the organization.

Build the Data Set

With a clearer understanding of your audience, you can begin building the Diversity data set. Your data files are going to help build your report structure. Start by leveraging codes and the data within your HRIS to create your reporting levels. Take an inventory of what other relevant workforce-related data is available within your organization. You should also include who owns the data, availability, accuracy, and timing of updates in your inventory information.  

How Do We Measure Up?

Establishing reliable, applicable, and realistic diversity benchmarks is critical to a successful program. In Compliance, we have labor force availability data that can be compared to workforce data allowing us to identify shortfalls and set realistic goals. But Diversity measurements are often just about year-to-year comparisons. 

This approach lacks the context of labor force availability information, and by using appropriate external benchmarks, you will enable more insightful analysis. By partnering with the Compliance team, Diversity can design benchmark combinations that are meaningful for your business teams. There are many options available, and while “more is better” is often the best approach, you must make sure any benchmark data is applicable for your organization. You will likely need to customize the availability data so that it applies to your organization based on how you recruit and fill positions. Potential sources of benchmarks include Census Availability, Geographic Data, Industry Availability (NAICS), and IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System).

Diversity Reporting That Tells a Story 

Now you can begin developing your Diversity reporting. Create reports that are relevant to your audience. They should align with your organization structure and tell a story to help create actionable insights. Start the process by having conversations with your Diversity stakeholders about what they would like to see in reporting and provide suggestions based on your experience. Balance their wish list against your capabilities to ensure alignment in expectations. Remember, the first version is not the final version—have multiple meetings to continue to refine your reporting. The three critical elements in developing your reporting structure are configurable, consumable, and actionable

  • Configurable: Fight the temptation to take a shortcut with your reporting structure and delivery that results in “hard-coding”, making it difficult to change and update reporting parameters. Taking more time and a longer-term perspective will yield more benefits down the road as you inevitably require changes in your Diversity reporting. 
  • Consumable: Design reports that can be quickly and easily understood by leadership and portray a complete picture of workforce demographics. To maximize user engagement, reports must be visual, intuitive, and easily understood. Create executive dashboards for quick insights into the progress of the program.
  • Actionable: Reports must help your organization develop insights on root causes, progress to date, laggards in need of greater attention, and prioritization of resources. They should support the creation of clear action plans to improve your Diversity initiatives. 

The key to more beneficial Diversity reporting is including availability information. If you are already developing reporting for AAPs you have a head start. With just some different “slicing” of the data, you have the first cut of your diversity reporting. Think “outside-in” when developing your reporting. Start with what will resonate with stakeholders, what story will the reporting tell the user, and how will the report enable stakeholders to take necessary actions.

Design the Action Plans

We saved the best for last: developing action plans to reach your Diversity goals. Below are 7 steps to get you started: 

  1. Meet with your stakeholders and tailor discussions based on their responsibilities. 
  2. Help teams in analyzing information and formulating action plans. (A suggestion: before any meetings with senior leadership, have a meeting with someone on the leader’s team to gain a better understanding of existing reporting, any relevant current activities, and review draft presentation.)
  3. Set expectations on progress, assign responsibilities and schedule follow-ups.
  4. Focus attention on Red Flag areas and systemic gaps. 
  5. Provide regular updates on progress, even if you cannot meet in person.
  6. Consider engaging a D&I service provider who has access to different types of availability benchmark data 
  7. Perform ongoing reviews to ensure action plans align with the Diversity strategy.

The collaborative partnership laid out above to improve your diversity metrics will result in more robust reporting, leading to improved insights and decisions on your D&I program. The keys to success are ongoing communications, implementing joint planning, defining metrics, educating leaders, and supporting stakeholders. This approach will provide you with the framework and structure for transforming your Diversity program and improving business results.

To learn more, read about Affirmity’s Diversity Insights solutions and services.

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