With mandatory Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) disclosures on their way in Canada, it is clear that the measurement and reporting of sustainable business practices—including diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives—will remain a priority. The requirements for DEI disclosures are currently limited and corporations must only report on the representation of women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and racialized individuals at the board and senior leadership levels.1

However, when it comes to understanding and realizing the full value and impact of an organization’s investments in DEI, tracking demographics such as those above alone doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. In addition to demographics, leaders in this space need to collect data on all of their DEI initiatives and tie it to key business metrics and priorities to understand their impact across levels of the organization. It is no surprise that they rely on tailored data analytics solutions to do this effectively.

Not having a clear line of sight on the impact that DEI initiatives have on key business objectives puts an organization at risk of misdirecting its investments in this rapidly evolving space. Organizations who are not effectively measuring the impact of their DEI efforts can fall into the trap of taking a reactive approach and implementing initiatives in an impulsive response to changing social sentiment. Similarly, those who take this approach are more likely to find themselves starting from the ground up every year or two, as they continuously react to trends rather than setting their own course with confidence.

Taking an intentional, strategic approach to DEI and supplementing it with data insights provides the information that is required to make effective decisions. A data-analytics solution provides a foundation for reducing risk, being strategic, and gaining competitive advantage.

An effective analytics solution will:

  1. Leverage information from multiple data sources across the organization. The ability to effectively collect and track data on specific initiatives and key metrics across the organization, in addition to demographics, will provide a holistic look at the impact that DEI efforts are having at all levels.
  2. Tie DEI initiatives and investments to key business priorities and objectives. Not only will this support fast and informed decision-making and strategizing, but it will also identify gaps in business leaders’ approach and help them understand the material impact of their DEI efforts and investments in across their organization and in their community.
  3. Support a long-term, sustainable approach to DEI. Not only will a strong analytics approach help keep organizations accountable to their goals but knowing what works and what doesn’t will alleviate the urge to continuously react to external trends.
  4. Automate the reporting and disclosure process. Ultimately, a strong analytics foundation will contribute to automating and keeping up with disclosure requirements as they continue to evolve and place increasing demands on organizations.

Getting started

Broadly speaking, getting started with an analytics solution might involve identifying and measuring an important, high-impact metric. For example, if an organization aims to create a culture of belonging, they could measure the sense of belonging and inclusion felt by individuals across the organization in an annual or quarterly survey.

They could also implement initiatives designed to achieve this metric. For example, introducing manager training on how to foster inclusive teams, and then measure the investment, the number of participants, and the degree to which knowledge was retained or improved.

By also incorporating demographics and key performance metrics, businesses will have a nuanced look at how this training had an impact on the way that diverse equity-deserving groups experience belonging differently, how a sense of belonging impacts well-being across the workforce, or how belonging contributes to attrition and productivity, for example.

However, every organization is at a different stage on their sustainability journeys. And when it comes to getting started with analytics, leaders can start by leveraging what they already have in place.

To begin, leaders take stock of what their organization is currently doing and what progress has been made in this space. To assess one’s strengths, gaps, and overall readiness to implement an analytics solution, start by asking questions like:

  • Which key metrics are already being tracked?
  • What are the current measurement capabilities?
  • What types of data are already being collected?
  • What strategic priorities have been identified for DEI?
  • What types of DEI initiatives are already underway or have already been executed? And what type of data exists accordingly?

The answers to these questions will help business leaders get a clear understanding of what can be leveraged and where they may need support to start developing their organization’s DEI analytics foundation.

Every company's sustainability priorities and roadmap are different. The key to effectively supporting leaders’ efforts with analytics is to find an approach that can meet them where they are and grow and adapt alongside their organization as this space continues to evolve.

1 Diversity of boards of directors and senior management (Government of Canada, May 2023)

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