What is top of mind for the CEOs we work with? Recruiting talented experts of color – and more important – retaining them. These CEOs understand that the most vital resource of any company is talent. Bill McDermott, SAP’s CEO, underscores that viewpoint: “We’re a company that believes in trust, love and the unqualified right of every person to be exactly who they are and live exactly how they choose.” But we’re often asked by accomplished leaders, “What do measurable diversity and inclusion (D&I) results look like? There are so many facets to D&I ─ and If we don’t measure them right, we could absolutely get the whole thing wrong.”
One company that gets it right is SAP. Its D&I initiatives are rooted in well-defined goals and tangible results. The company publishes its workforce diversity emphasis on Gender and Differently-abled inclusion; and connects with partners and affinity groups to build a diverse talent pipeline. At SAP women account for 25% percent of the company’s global leadership positions and an industry-leading 33 percent of SAP North America’s total workforce. “There is no more important ingredient to innovation than diversity and inclusion,” explains Jennifer Morgan, president of SAP North America. “The future will be won by those who understand the value and impact of diversity on your business and bottom line.”
With numerous industry-leading D&I initiatives, SAP has implemented concrete measures to ensure it can attract and retain diverse candidates. For example, its SuccessFactors technology aids in reviewing job descriptions, performance reviews and similar processes for potential bias, and recommends changes to promote equity.
Such technology tools are indicative of the steady rise in D&I analytics. For example, Blendoor is a new merit-based hiring technology that reduces unconscious bias by hiding data that's not relevant and highlighting data that is. Kapor Capital is investing in human capital management disruptors (e.g., Atipica) that feature collaborations between social science researchers and IT professionals. Increasingly, predictive analytics─capturing D&I data and interpreting what people and organizations are going to do next─is becoming critical to successfully executing strategic D&I aims. Predictive analytics offer the illuminating evidence required to support new D&I proposals, while enabling the D&I working group to make more intelligent decisions about which projects to eliminate, which programs to enhance ─ and which ones to invent.
At Culture Shift Labs, as part of our growth strategy, corporate development and advising work, we help companies to first adopt a holistic approach to developing and utilizing such technology: HR needs to work hand-in-hand with the Chief Financial Officer, the Head of Business Development, the Chief Diversity Officer, the Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, leaders in Mergers & Acquisition, the Head of Global Mobility, and critically, the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), who must have the cultural sensitivity and awareness to ensure that the company’s innovation strategies enable more diverse voices, cultures and perspectives—which in turn will help the company meet its strategic retention goals. A broad D&I working group helps eliminate blind spots, providing a wider view of where the gaps are, and the resources required to close them. A collaborative approach also helps to establish a sense of urgency, win support, and silence haters so that buy-in can be achieved while increasing the odds of success. At Culture Shift Labs, we achieve collaboration in part by utilizing Innovation Labs: short- or long-term centers of excellence that combine a company’s team with external subject matter experts and world-class inventors.
In selecting the right technology tool for your company, the working group should lift the technology’s hood to ascertain how complex or superficial its diagnostic infrastructure is:
- For example, how strong is the focus on the implementation of HR and D&I policies and practices? Research clearly shows that the mere presence of a policy or practice does little to enable outcomes. Though there are some signaling functions they can serve, whether or not they shape employee behavior, motivation, and outcomes in desired ways depends completely on implementation and the corporate culture.
- Do the data points provide information about how D&I practices are actually implemented (how rigorously, reliably, fairly, etc.) and therefore whether they are likely to promote the desired EO/D&I outcomes. Are the data points specific or generic? Do the data points provide a limited or wide view of workforce, workplace and marketplace demographics/diversity, and specific D&I practices?
- How does the diagnostic assess retention strategies, recruiting practices, bias, and/or social impact initiatives? Is the assessment in-depth or superficial? (after all, it’s about moving the needle every day, or at least every quarter)
- If empirical assessment is offered, is it a “deep-dive” assessment involving solutions, analytics and data collected from employees—and not just from an organizational representative?
- Does the diagnostic focus on elements like culture, employee empowerment and empathy, experiences of inclusion, etc. – which are indeed what really make the difference when it comes to retention. If yes, how are those factors measured?
The appropriate technology will allow the working group to close the network gaps, so that there are no deltas between the internal and external networks and the relationships required to execute the company’s strategic D&I objectives. It will also help frame the more accurate company narrative that can be used internally and externally.
In the Tipping Point, author Malcom Gladwell describes such “connectors” as “people [or tools] linked to almost everyone else in a few steps and who connect the rest of us to the world. Connectors can see a need in one place and a solution in another, a vacancy in one area and a talented person in another, a discovery from a different discipline and a problem in their own, and so on, because they’re just one or two ‘chain lengths’ away from the issues.”
After forming the working group and selecting the right technology tool, it’s time to be actionable about the results of the diagnostic. A key way to do this is by utilizing a talent database that can help achieve the stated D&I objectives in all areas: M&A, corporate venture, board diversity, C-suite hires, events, game-changing nonprofits, etc. Ideally, the working group should have access to a carefully curated talent database that includes thousands of accomplished innovators, influencers, investors and subject matter experts of color, so they can fill the gaps where needed ─ in any department of the company. An exclusive database of exemplary professionals who are often hard to reach or under the radar will facilitate problem-solving while generating new business opportunities, such as identifying new markets, which is what the president of SAP North America meant when she stated that, “The future will be won by those who understand the value and impact of diversity on your business and bottom line.”