When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, what data are more relevant and helpful in non-US businesses?

Following the social justice protests in the United States in recent years, a number of companies have been striving to both meet and renew their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) targets. Although adding people from different backgrounds to one’s workforce and giving them leadership and management positions helps the diversity cause, it is by no means enough, and further action is needed to continue increasing and cultivating diversity.

To identify actionable steps toward that goal, however, companies must understand their workforce demographics so as to plan the way forward. In addition, for companies with international offices or based outside of the United States, identifying the background of one’s workforce is even more critical. It is paramount for companies to assess their situation to ensure that their workforce is both comfortable and diverse.

It is crucial to have demographic data that can be considered “universal,” such as one’s race, gender, level of ability, or age, to start the sensitive work of building DEI goals. This is only the starting point, however; employees should also be comfortable providing extra data about themselves. Not all employees will feel comfortable divulging their details, and for this reason, it is wise to deploy voluntary surveys for employees to fill out.

According to a recent survey, 100% of participants collected data related to their gender, while 88% collected data related to age. However, only 46% collected data pertaining to race and ethnicity, whereas when it came to language, only 39% reported data being collected in this regard. For a comprehensive picture of employee data, it is important to ask employees simple and specific questions, something that ensures that the information one collects is indeed actionable. In addition, comparative data should be easy to understand, especially in the context of comparisons being made in longitudinal studies.

Although DEI goals need to be adjusted from time to time, these goals should be made available to all employees. This ensures that, in turn, the workforce feels more comfortable within the company itself, thereby guaranteeing higher response rates. Naturally, a higher response rate will result in more accurate and generalizable data, leading to better strategies and DEI goal attainment.

In the current labor market, businesses are focusing on inclusion to gain a competitive edge over their competitors. Therefore, it is imperative for companies to have updated and accurate data to act on making the workplace more inclusive. Moreover, research by McKinsey, spanning 15 countries and 1000 businesses, shows that there is a direct correlation between a company’s performance and diversity. In other words, the more diverse a company is, the more likely it is to outperform its peers. Accordingly, this means that although there are moral and ethical reasons for businesses to increase DEI inclusion initiatives, there are also financial ones, meaning that by diversifying their workforce, businesses can strengthen diversity the bottom line simultaneously.