Though Wisdom 2016, PeopleFluent’s annual customer and market conference, was a few weeks ago now, the event’s focus on diversity and inclusion deserves some further attention.

One of the larger announcements was the release of PeopleFluent’s new diversity and inclusion software. I had the chance to play around a bit on the demo, and I was impressed with the analytical capabilities of the suite. shutterstock_355222121

Having researched and written about diversity in the past, I’m familiar with the aversion to quotas and numbers that are often associated with diversity, at least among the uninitiated. Truly, it’s really about inclusion when we are talking about the successful application of a diversity initiative. The words are often lumped together but are not synonyms of each other. As Haven Cockerham, SVP of Pinnacle Foods, remarked during a panel discussion on the ROI of a diverse workforce: “Diversity is the noun, inclusion is the verb.”

So how do you capture diversity in statistical form, and even more problematic, how do you capture inclusion? PeopleFluent’s D&I suite does this by not only tracking candidate pools, hiring, and promotion rates (diversity) but also by using analyses to show how different policies might impact diversity efforts and by tracking ERG efforts toward overall business objectives (inclusion).

Interestingly, I explored the demo of the software before I had heard the panel discussions on diversity or attended most of the diversity workshops that were featured, because that would have shed some light on why the those features were so prominent. To give you an idea of what I mean, here are some highlights from the diversity and inclusion discussions:

  • Diversity objectives should only be about 20% about demographics. The rest should be about customers and engagement and business goals. (Britta Wilson, VP of Inclusion Strategies, Expedia)
  • Don’t just focus on the diversity of your employees. If you’re a hospital, what about diversity in patients you are attracting? Or for retail, customers? What is your communication strategy to them? (Erica Simmons, Senior Manager/Strategy, Siemens)
  • Regardless of any of your knowledge and tools in the area, you have to start by creating a safe environment to allow people to talk about diversity. (Eileen Adler, SVP/Human Resources/PeopleFluent)
  • Data structure is very important. Without insight into your own organization you lack the ability to stay in compliance, much less increase inclusion. (Lakeshia Highsmith, Senior Director/HR Compliance, Marriott)

It was refreshing to see D&I take center stage (often literally) at Wisdom 2106. Admittedly, the focus on diversity and inclusion was probably largely driven by the release of the new suite, but irrespective of the motivations, these are all valid and important points that are only becoming more significant in light of impending regulations.

As Brandon Hall Group has written before, much of the new and proposed legislative oversight in HR is within the realm of compliance, and specifically in tracking data for varying classes of employees. Ignorance, which was the legal go-to strategy for many corporations, is no longer a viable option, as it is exactly that defense that government regulations are looking to strip. But by focusing not just on compliance, but on how to leverage D&I efforts to meet business objectives, you can stay two steps ahead of the curve.

Cliff Stevenson, Principal Analyst, Workforce Management, Brandon Hall Group