Improving and encouraging workplace diversity is top of mind for HR professionals today, and many companies are making diversity initiatives a priority. But in order to understand if organizations are truly making a difference when it comes to diversity, we need to look at the data. The problem is, many companies don’t have the right systems in place to collect and analyze reliable people data.
Carin Taylor, who recently joined Workday as our chief diversity officer, knows this problem all too well. After spending six years as head of diversity at Genentech, she has been involved with belonging in the workplace for some time. We sat down with her to discuss how the conversation around diversity data is shifting, issues with the old ways of leveraging data, and how Workday’s diversity dashboard features have given her vital insights into the state of our own workforce.
Normally when we talk about diversity, people assume we are only talking about women and people of color. But diversity simply means difference. If I am standing next to my white colleague Joe, the lightness of his skin is no less diverse than the darkness of mine, his masculinity no less diverse than my femininity, and his tallness no less diverse than my shortness. These characteristics shouldn’t be categorized as more or less than, but rather simple differences between who we are as individuals.
I consider a few questions when I think about belonging. Do I feel like I have a place to be myself, where I’m valued for who I am? Am I being included in the work that’s going on? Do I have empathy for others to ensure they are feeling just as included? It’s my job as chief diversity officer to ensure that employees answer “yes” to each of these questions. When everyone feels valued and included, they bring their best selves to work, which leads to a more innovative and creative workplace.
Years ago, we would basically track diversity by looking at underrepresented minorities as defined by the government for compliance purposes. Now that our notion of diversity is evolving, as well as the technology needed to understand our employees better, there are many more things we’re starting to track. While it used to be more about race and gender, diversity now means age, introverts vs. extroverts, veterans status, and people with different abilities and different thinking styles, among others. Because we are beginning to redefine what being a diverse company means, the way in which we track this data and the type of technology we need to answer new questions has also changed. More robust tools such as Workday broaden our access to information and give us more data in a way that helps us better track and measure our efforts.
Our diversity dashboard helps me assess not only what our demographics look like, but what the opportunities are and where we need to make shifts. As an example, if I look at our gender demographics, I can see that Workday is 40 percent women and close to 60 percent men, and then I can break it down further by level. If I see a drop-off of women at a certain level within a particular function, that indicates to me that we need to think about a better career development plan for women, and at which point in their careers we should introduce those plans.
Another way I use our dashboards is to get a better understanding of how multiple generations in the workplace are evolving. With the recent hiring of Gen Z employees, we now have five generations in our workplace, who all have different career development needs, communication styles, and technology habits. Knowing our generational mix helps us create programs that are more personalized and hopefully more effective.
There’s a lot of data out there, but the ways in which many companies gather data today often means there is no single source of truth, so it’s impossible to know the accuracy of what you’re working with. In my past jobs, I was constantly worrying about data integrity and consistency since it was coming from several different systems. The process often involved mining the data myself and creating a report that lived outside of the HR system. That made making decisions based purely on data more difficult, and combined with the fact that it was often hard to get data in the first place, it was almost impossible to get your hands on everything you need without a data analyst.
When I started using Workday, I was thrilled that everything I needed was easily accessible right in front of me from day one. The other game-changer is that all the data I need to make decisions is in real-time—before, it could take me weeks or even months to get the data I needed, and by the time I received it the data was old and not relevant anymore.
I’m really excited about the opportunity we have to not only use data in Workday to think about diversity in a smarter way internally, but influence how our customers can take advantage of it as well. One of the things that excited me the most about this job opportunity was that I’d have the ability to apply my expertise and tie it back to our products to help us evolve our thinking. Some of the world’s greatest diversity champions use Workday to help manage their people, so I think there is an opportunity to create positive change not only for our own business, but for our customers too.
As this practice evolves, I look forward to correlating race, gender, and other diversity metrics with performance, career development, and retention data to better understand how we and our customers can make smarter, more data-driven decisions.