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DE&I supports happy workforce

DE&I and weathering the storm

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The importance of diversity, equality and inclusion (DE&I) has become more apparent within corporate agendas for many years; however, there is no doubt it came to a head in May 2020 following the murder of George Floyd. The outpouring of anger and empathy from across the world shook the foundations of corporations globally. Companies promised introspection and poured billions of dollars into programmes designed to address bias in hiring practices and committed to improving DEI across the board.

Two years on, organisations should be able to assess whether DE&I strategies and programmes are bearing fruit. Yet Ceridian’s 2022 Executive Survey suggests intentions often don’t often align with actions. Ninety percent of respondents report their organisation has a DE&I strategy. But only one-third say progress is being made in this area and only 19% say their organisation is a leader in DE&I.

Perhaps a significant contributing factor to this has been the pandemic. In times of uncertainty and when navigating disruption, the natural thing to do is focus on business continuity. Within the context of COVID-19, implementing DEI strategies with clearly articulated measurable outcomes in the workforce may have taken a back seat. Across the UK, some DEI regulations were temporarily removed – such as the annual mandatory gender pay gap reporting – to help struggling companies to cope, for example.

Despite these challenges, the Harvard Business Review, in its analysis of S&P 500 earnings calls, found that since 2018, the frequency with which CEOs talk about DEI rose by 658 percent. Authentic, trusted leaders are the proven winners in creating cultures that attract and retain their staff. DEI is becoming a benchmark by which all employees can scrutinise whether their employer does what it says it will do, or whether it’s paying lip-service to it. Now is the time for organisations to implement their strategies, with a focus on measurable outcomes and quantifiable performance metrics for ongoing evaluation and refinement.

Where to begin

LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends report found that diversity is a key trend that has impacted the way organisations hire their people. According to the report’s findings, 78% of companies prioritise diversity to improve culture, and 62% of companies prioritise it to boost financial performance. This is a welcome shift in reporting.

Traditionally, DEI has been measured in terms of self-disclosed demographic data, which makes it unlike how we measure any other area of business.

For example, within sales, the performance of a campaign is measured against straightforward KPIs (key performance indicators). The challenges of running a sales campaign without having a goal and knowing how many deals have been closed is obvious to all. In a similar fashion, organisations need to approach challenges that touch every aspect of diversity, equity and inclusion in the same way they solve problems in every other aspect of their business.

Finding the root cause of bias is the crucial place to start, which can be determined by measurement. Although technology can make DEI measurement easier, it’s not essential to start.

My tips for any organisation, big or small, beginning this journey are to:

  1. Get a concept of demographics: Look at who is being hired and promoted and start building measurable demographics for each person on aggregate. Initially, these can include the most common potential biases – race, gender, age – but as an organisation becomes more sophisticated can include educational attainment, childcare responsibilities, etc.
  1. Work out conversion rates: With the above information in hand, one can see how the conversion rates differ between talent goal posts. For example, it may show that women with children are being promoted exponentially less than those without. With statistical information on this, leaders can then make value judgements about what to do about it. For example, to subsidise day care.
  2. Facilitate ongoing feedback: Ceridian’s 2022 Executive Survey suggests employees don’t think progress in DEI is being made. By deploying, for instance, pulse surveys across the workforce, leaders can arm themselves with the information they need to make more informed decisions to help reduce or eliminate patterns of discrimination on a regular basis. Anonymous feedback, particularly when we see inclusion from people at an entry-level role all the way up to the C-suite, can help build a case to take on immediate action across smaller, but pressing issues, as well as inform long-term strategies. Crucially, they give organisations a measurement platform to start with.

Applying and avoiding a little black box of AI

We’ve seen many clichés about how data is key. But it’s a cliché for a reason. HR teams are often small in headcount yet responsible for a vast trove of information: payroll, timesheets, interview scheduling, and more. Making sense of that data manually is an enormous task that often requires a skillset that may not be present in most HR departments.

In the past few years, we’ve seen AI- powered DE&I solutions connect within an organisation’s different systems to drive intelligent recommendations in a way previously unimaginable. These platforms use a combination of self-disclosed demographic data and inferred demographic data to ensure equity and fairness through all stages of the talent decision-making cycle. This methodology is used to uncover inequities in both human and automated decision making to make fairness and DE&I a core principle of design, rather than an afterthought.

Crucial to successfully implementing artificial intelligence into HR and recruitment is that results are explainable. The decisions made are so important that it’s critical HR teams can understand exactly how an algorithm is making a decision and a recommendation. For AI to work in DEI it needs to be transparent, externally validated and completely defensible.

Impact on the bottom line

The business case for DE&I has never been stronger. Our research revealed that respondents see DE&I strategies as allowing them to be more innovative (35 percent) and adaptable (34 percent). The only way that organisations can move beyond paying lip service to diversity, equity and inclusion is to start measuring the impact of schemes, responding and delivering the resources needed to change.


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