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Why Diversity & Inclusion Professionals Need Predictive and Other Analytics

01 Apr

Challenges of Diversity Metrics

There’s a fair amount of buzz around Diversity measurement and analytics. Advances in software, newly-available data sources, and how-to manuals have made it easier gain access to Diversity measures. Although interest in measuring the effects of diversity has been growing, the topic still challenges even the most sophisticated and progressive diversity departments. Many Diversity professionals and practitioners know they must begin to show how diversity is linked to the bottom-line or they will have difficulty maintaining funding, gaining support, and assessing progress.

The Data-to-Wisdom Continuum

Over the past several years, Diversity journals abound with volumes of information about the impact of a diverse workforce, primarily from a talent representation point of view focusing on organizational make up covering race, rank, and gender (counting heads). Many of these Diversity professionals are working with inconsistent, basic information and have yet to move from being reactive to proactive and predictive. In short, they have made little progress along the data-to-information-to-wisdom continuum needed to provide sophisticated diverse workforce insights that are critical to strategic decision making. How would you respond to the following questions?

  • Do you struggle with defining or measuring the success of Diversity initiatives or other Diversity interventions?
  • Are you constantly fighting the battle to show and justify the value that Diversity initiatives or other Diversity interventions are bringing to your organization?
  • Does your organization view Diversity initiatives or other Diversity interventions as an expense versus an investment with predicted returns?
  • Do you need to link Diversity initiatives or interventions with the value it produces for your company?
  • Do you need a method of predicting (forecasting) the value of Diversity initiatives or other Diversity interventions to help decide whether to train and/or do something else?
  • Are your current Diversity evaluation efforts always after the fact–do you need a way to measure success using leading indicators that drive continuous improvement?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then Predictive Analytics for Diversity is for you.

For the past 8 years, I have been researching and developing a new comprehensive “Predictive Analytics for Diversity” approach and framework that addresses all of the above questions and more. My goal often is to create the “next-level” of Diversity ROI-based tools that give Diversity professionals a competitive edge and alignment to drive business performance and results. The Hubbard Predictive Analytics for Diversity framework is designed for professionals looking to break new ground to demonstrate the strategic ROI value of Diversity and Inclusion, or breathe life into floundering Diversity initiatives that have little evidence-based value.

What are Analytics

Analytics come in different types with a specific focus. They can be defined as follows:

  • “Analytics” is the Science of Analysis
  • “Descriptive Analytics” tells what has happened in the past and usually the cause of the outcome.
  • “Predictive Analytics” focuses on the future telling what is likely to happen given a stated approach.
  • “Prescriptive Analytics” tells us what is the ‘Best’ course of action.

Descriptive Diversity analytics can help us understand human capital challenges and opportunities in utilizing a diverse workforce. Whereas Predictive Diversity Analytics, helps us to identify investment value and a means to improve future outcomes from Diversity interventions and initiatives.

Companies struggle with evaluating whether their programs meet business needs and whether they are worthwhile investments. Reasons given for not measuring Diversity’s impact on business outcomes include statements such as “It is too difficult to isolate Diversity’s impact on results versus the impact of other factors”, or “Evaluation is not standardized enough to compare well across functions”.

Sound business practices dictate that Diversity & Inclusion professionals collect data to judge progress toward meeting the organization’s strategies and annual multi-year objectives. The Hubbard Predictive Analytics Framework, for example, is a new approach that provides compelling Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) data to executives, including:

  • predicting success of the D & I intervention in the three areas of Intention, Adoption, and Impact and measuring to see if success has been achieved;
  • leading indicators of future adoption (transfer of the intervention outcomes) and Impact (business results);
  • making recommendations for continuous improvement; and
  • isolating Diversity and Inclusion’s impact versus the impact of other factors.

The beauty of Predictive Analytics for Diversity is that it uses leading measures (Intention and Adoption) as a signal of results (Impact). If the leading indicators are below predicted success thresholds, actions can be implemented to “make adjustments” so that the desired results are realized.

You can interweave outcomes and leading indicators into Diversity interventions during the design and delivery phases to enhance their predictive validity and consistency in achieving sustained benefits. Predictive Analytics practices helps Diversity and Inclusion organizations move from an event-driven function to one that predicts success, measures its performance against those predictions, and is seen as returning significant shareholder value for the funds invested.

Benefits of Predictive Analytics for Diversity

The area of human capital analytics and “big data” has been around us for a while, yet I have found few Diversity professionals who are ready to step up to the challenge and opportunities that utilizing Predictive Analytics for Diversity offers. The greatest strength of a Predictive Analytics approach for Diversity is the active involvement of stakeholders setting their own intentions and measurement of adoption rates. This adds a high level of credibility to the practice of forecasted Diversity outcomes. To reap its benefits, it requires a genuine commitment to implementing a “science-driven”, rigorous approach to demonstrate Diversity’s value as a worthwhile business investment.

In addition, predictive analytics practices involving Diversity and Inclusion must implement measurement approaches based upon “utilization” (making heads count) not merely representation (counting heads). The presence of Diversity alone does not ensure progress, the strategic utilization of Diversity does. Diversity’s ability to add investment value and improved capability means, at least to some degree, the ideas, creativity, new perspectives, etc., generated from a diverse workforce have been applied and have generated a modicum of benefits. Predictive Analytics for Diversity and Inclusion offers tremendous insights into the value of a Diversity and Inclusion initiative’s approach and creates “informed-choice” decision making potential.

A recent monograph published by The Conference Board cited that organizations begin their analytics journey by using data at hand. Most organizations have access to an employee head count that decision makers can use to manage staff cost. This usage is akin to organizations that simply use head count data to reflect race, rank, and gender to ensure ethnic Diversity is present at all levels. Other organizations, however, use people data to make real-time staffing decisions to help drive revenue and performance. MIT Sloan Management Review, in collaboration with IBM Institute for Business Value, describes a continuum representative of organizational capability with analytics. They conducted a survey of more than 3,000 business executives, managers, and analysts from organizations around the world. Based on “how thoroughly their organization had been transformed by better uses of analytics and information,” the authors segmented respondents’ organizations into three categories:

1) Aspirational organizations that use analytics to justify actions. The focus is primarily on efficiency rather than revenue growth, and they have limited ability to capture and analyze data to make decisions.

2) Experienced organizations that build on what they learned at the aspirational level and use analytics to guide actions. They focus on revenue growth, with less focus on efficiency. While they still lack an understanding of how to leverage analytics for business value, they are moderately skilled at capturing, aggregating, and analyzing data to make decisions.

3) Transformed organizations are highly skilled in analytics across functions. They use analytics as their competitive differentiator. These organizations focus more on revenue growth and less on cost than either the aspirational or experienced organizations. Data analysis includes the most rigorous approaches to make decisions using insights to guide future strategies as well as day-to-day operations. According to the MIT study, organizations described as transformed are “three times more likely than aspirational organizations to indicate that they substantially outperform their industry peers.”

Applying this three-tier framework to your organization’s use of analytics for Diversity, what level of practice and application does its use of metrics reflect: Aspirational, Experienced, or Transformed? Are you ready for the full implementation of Predictive Analytics for Diversity and Inclusion as an integrated practice in your organization’s Diversity measurement strategy?

Beyond these benefits, you may be wondering why should Diversity professionals learn these new analytic skills? No one is really asking us to provide measures other than “representation”, “rank” and “gender”. Looking at a few numbers helps to answer this question. Let’s start with intangibles for example – organizational assets that are not physical in nature. Intangibles include intellectual property, knowledge, reputation, etc. These sorts of assets represent an ever-growing percentage of the average organization’s market value, increasing dramatically from 9 percent of market value in 1980 to 65 percent today.

And what do all forms of intangibles have in common? They’re created by people. A few decades ago, if you wanted to increase your company’s value, you focused on managing your physical assets – plants, equipment, etc. Today, if you want to increase value, you need to manage your people – your human capital.

This, more than anything else, explains why analytics are now an essential strategic Diversity professional competence area. Executives and boards of directors are always focused on company value. Today, that means they need to be focused on their people. Some companies and Diversity practitioners recognized this earlier than others, and some companies have done a better job managing their people. How have those companies fared? Extraordinarily well!

A Boston Consulting Group study from 2012 found that companies appearing on the Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For” list at least three times in a ten-year period cumulatively outperformed the market by an average of over seven percentage points per year for ten straight years.

All told, the numbers certainly support the world’s current fascination with analytics – and suggest that focus will continue to intensify in the years to come. Are you on board? If so, you will find an informative body of knowledge and insights waiting for your use to drive strategic performance improvement and success for your organization!

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