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HR technology's role in DEI&B: Moving the needle on your strategy

HR pro at center of circle of employees in chairs conducting DEI&B focus group

Almost all HR functions relate to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) in some way, but now more than ever, we are seeing an elevated response to how these disciplines can support DEI&B strategies for organizational success. Modern HR technology is critical for helping create, redesign, and advance the workplace as we continue to see how HR leaders evolve their approaches to DEI&B.

One thing is for sure — organizations are all at different levels in their DEI&B journey, especially regarding the types of tools being used to assist their overall strategy. I've worked with various HR leaders across the world and have witnessed everything from just starting out with data collection and project management to using HR data to gather insights on their people and create actionable organizational strategies.

The problem is if the appropriate technology isn't in place our data is just numbers without context to give them meaning. In addition to having a positive culture, prioritizing trust, and working toward an inclusive and equitable environment, having the right tools at your disposal is essential in helping to move forward DEI&B no matter the size of an organization.

Let’s look at some of the practical solutions HR technology can deliver when it comes to supporting DEI&B strategies:

 

 

Managing through uncertainty HR technology for DEI&B banner

Understanding your people

One of the most common and important questions I get around DEI&B is “How do I even start?” Understanding your current workforce is perhaps one of the most important first steps.

Many HR professionals spend a great deal of time looking through employee data through spreadsheets and even more time trying to analyze that data, whether on an individual employee or group level. I've also experienced spending significant time looking through multiple HR data sets and then trying to figure out how to merge the data to provide valuable answers that elevate DEI&B strategies. And afterward even more time is spent with the results of these efforts trying to use the data to build the case for stakeholders.

These activities are important, but unfortunately when HR leaders spend significant time manually searching and attempting to merge people data from multiple sources, oftentimes that information has already become outdated by the time they're ready to present it. HR technology allows intuitive tools like chart displays and dashboards to serve up key facts in ways that let HR answer questions in real time. When you've got all your people data consolidated in a modern system, it becomes easy to set up some standard displays you can check on regularly to get the kinds of answers that used to take you hours of digging to uncover. 

Dashboards can guide and help us understand and increase the awareness of our DEI&B landscape, gain visibility into the current and future makeup of our workforce, and most importantly set objectives and measure the success of our DEI&B initiatives. Being able to clearly see things like workforce composition, pay equity, open positions, career paths, and other critical areas makes it easy to measure success and track changes based on the DEI&B activities and initiatives you put in place. And even before you get any initiatives off the ground, this level of insight can help you decide where to focus first and where there may be areas of concern that require immediate action.

Hearing your people

According to a recent global study from the Workforce Institute at UKG, “The Heard and Heard Nots,” four in five employees feel that not all colleagues are heard equally, and one in three would rather quit than speak about challenges and common concerns that keep them from performing at their highest levels. HR technology provides us with the opportunity to check in with employees, understand what people are saying, and even recognize how they're saying it and the emotions behind their responses.  Technology also helps HR leaders to evaluate whether and where change is needed, and to see how employees are truly connecting with DEI&B efforts. Identifying employee gaps with the right tools is just the beginning and following up with tangible action plans is what creates meaningful change.

As a DEI&B practitioner, I've learned quite a bit about the variety of insights that can come from frequent and rapid employee surveying. But the key is you have to execute these kinds of surveys in ways that work for your workforce.

Here's an example. During one engagement survey, the organization I worked with spent significant resources ensuring the survey they were giving was available in multiple languages to authentically capture their employees' voice. An outside global company was hired to create and translate the survey into three different languages in addition to English, and interpreters were brought to do live interpretations. I arrived in a large auditorium with about 100 employees, two other interpreters, and tech support. We were tasked to assist the employees in completing the surveys that would be shown on one projector in English and another language while the other projector showed the other two languages. Employees would then choose their response by choosing the letter they wanted on clickers the company provided. Each employee was given a headset and then assigned a seat to listen to the interpreter in their chosen language.

Sounds confusing, right? Well, as one of the people trying to do the live interpreting, I can tell you it definitely was. On top of a setup that was putting too much information in too many languages up in front of the employees all at once, the interpreters quickly noticed many issues with how questions were worded and translated, making it hard to capture accurate responses and causing a lot of additional back and forth with employees. On top of that, there were technical issues with the clickers and it was challenging to get 100 employees to all stay on the same question until everyone was ready to move on and the projectors could be changed.

As you can imagine, the feedback on this whole process was less than stellar. Employees generally didn't feel like the survey was worth taking if their employer wasn't even taking the time to truly understand their needs with the format and question translations. Most significantly, they voiced that they knew there would be no follow-up actions based on the information they provided because the company was just trying to check a box and move on.

Obviously, this isn't the kind of takeaway you want employees to have from your survey efforts. That's why you need to get away from manual processes so you can meet your employees where they are. As you can see from my example, even in bigger corporate settings with consulting resources brought in you can still end up with a disconnected, manual survey process that doesn't get the results you or your people need. So let's break down what you should do:

  1. Automate translation into the languages you need. Many HR technology solutions nowadays can translate with far less error than manual attempts.
  2. Deliver surveys through channels your employees can easily understand and use, such as the same solutions they enter time or enroll in benefits using, and make sure your surveys can adapt to mobile devices and be delivered anytime, anywhere so your employees have the flexibility to fit answering them in.
  3. Use the workforce composition and other data we talked about earlier to get an idea of where critical employee needs may be. Then, test some survey questions with targeted groups to ensure you're saying things in relevant and culturally appropriate ways that will get you clear answers that help you help your people.

Talking to your people

Now let's shift focus to something else that could have helped that survey experience I walked through earlier go more smoothly — strong communication. As we know, HR is continuously transforming, and communication strategies also need to be constantly updated as new situations arise. Employees look to HR leaders and their managers to provide a sense of trust and awareness of key organizational developments.

Make your communication channels clear at all levels of the organization. There should be centralized places where your employees can go to easily see all the latest announcements, standards, and updates, which is something else the right HR technology can easily provide for you. This also serves the dual purpose of helping you promote and drive participation in DEI&B initiatives you undertake, such as telling people about employee resource groups or staging the surveys we were just discussing. Always remember that a big part of successful DEI&B is creating a culture of transparency and listening that supports retention, brings new perspectives into the company, and drives both individual and organization-wide performance. Communication is a cornerstone in all of that.

Another important area to communicate in is about the data we've kept discussing throughout this article. Providing knowledge of where your key metrics stand and how the data you're collecting is driving change for your people can really help with stakeholder buy-in for DEI&B projects, helping leadership and other departments understand the purpose and vision of what you as an HR leader are trying to accomplish and how it will benefit the organization.

Conclusion: Maximize DEI&B's impact for your people with smart technology choices

DEI&B initiatives have the potential to have the biggest impact when we leverage HR technology to help them along. We can see the biggest benefits for both the employees and the employer when we integrate DEI&B into strategic organizational practices that go beyond recruitment. Proper tools can give us the best insights for driving positive change that is correlated with action throughout the entire employee lifecycle. HR technology provides the opportunity for HR leaders to improve efficiencies by eliminating manual processes and allowing for more time to be focused on scaling and creating meaningful and actionable advancements. It can also help drive data-driven actionable results, which plays a significant role in creating a positive employee experience and promoting collaborative work. HR professionals are dealing with so many moving parts, especially at smaller organizations, and modern HR technology tools are the path to getting your focus and impact back.

If you need help making the case for the tools you need to drive DEI&B and other HR initiatives forward at your company, UKG can help. Use our value estimator to get all the talking points you'll need to make the case.

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