By Justin Kaufman and Jeff Sorensen, PwC US

It’s a new age for diversity and inclusion.

Justin Kaufman
Justin Kaufman
Jeff Sorenson
Jeff Sorenson

Indeed, for decades, making America’s workplaces more diverse and inclusive has been a societal mandate for many—employers, labor advocacy groups, schools, and government. Yet, while the charge to make our labor force truly reflect our population has always been strong, our ability to reach our diversity goals has, in recent years, rapidly accelerated. Even our definition of diversity has expanded from once including race, ethnicity, nationality, religion and gender to now representing people in other groups such as LGBT, older workers, single parents, people with disabilities, and those of experiential diversity.

The timing could not be better. Nearly 14% for the US population—or about 45 million people—are foreign-born, the highest percentage since 1910, according to the US Census.(1) Meanwhile, business leaders have taken notice not only in the US, but also internationally; some 87% of global CEOs in 2017 said they focused on talent diversity and inclusiveness, up from 64% in 2015, according to a global PwC survey.(2) Nearly half of employees in their 30s (read: digital natives) believe that lack of diversity in the workplace is a barrier to business, according to the 2017 PwC survey.(3)

First, companies are doing more to create D&I benchmarks through analysis of a plethora of data—from employee surveys to hiring and retention (and employee departure) data—to first get a situational awareness of what results their D&I efforts are achieving, and then spot any gaps or lagging in overall D&I performance.

D&I goes high-tech. To be sure, more sophisticated—and redoubled—D&I initiatives, as well as metrics and analytics, are being carried out across industries and globally. This is happening thanks, in large part, to digital technology. What was once sequestered as a human-resources initiative, D&I initiatives are being amped up through the use of social media, advanced computing power and software, personal communication technology, real-time data gathering and analytics, and artificial intelligence.

So, how are companies on the leading edge deploying technology to raise their D&I acumen?

First, companies are doing more to create D&I benchmarks through analysis of a plethora of data—from employee surveys to hiring and retention (and employee departure) data—to first get a situational awareness of what results their D&I efforts are achieving, and then spot any gaps or lagging in overall D&I performance. These data are also used to help tally overall corporate scorecards, thereby including D&I as a core cultural and business measurement of company’s success. Some companies even tether employee’s D&I performance to compensation and use the data as part of decisions on promotion.

For companies with thousands—or hundreds of thousands—of employees, gathering and consolidating D&I metrics in a real-time manner is a sprawling, complex and technical task, not only in the gathering of that data, but also in the analytics to properly tease out the most actionable information to help make informed decisions. Some companies go beyond workforce metrics, pulling relevant D&I data from college campuses (from which they may want to recruit) and even D&I metrics on communities (in which they plan to expand or sell into).

Only once the data is pulled and analyzed can companies measure their success toward stated D&I goals and targets. Once companies secure and understand this wealth of D&I data, they can use it for much beyond the realm of HR matters. For example, D&I data can inform companies, via real-time metrics and demonstrable evidence, to make informed decisions on business issues. That could mean informing research and development of new products and services. Or, discovering, for example, that diverse teams are more successful than less diverse ones, or that there is a bottom-line advantage to promoting more female minority employees across an organization.

Using personal tech to unite employee groups. Such D&I metrics benchmarking and data analytics initiatives are driven from the top of organizations. But there’s a lot happening at the grassroots levels, too, through employee resource groups (ERGs)—groups of employees bound by a common advocacy. Social media posts and group webcasts have done much to energize and empower these groups both within—and outside—of organizations. For example, a conference of one ERG in one part of the world can be fed throughout the company for virtual participation. The rise of personal communication technologies, too, also brings ERGs together in real time and more intimately—including instant messaging, virtual chat rooms and meetings. These communications are less formal and, presumably, more transparent and personally relevant than company-wide communications. Additionally, the increasing influence of some ERGs can even help leadership at some organizations define the corporate stance or advocacy of issues surrounding D&I. Just as the Internet has promoted citizen journalism, it has also provided a channel for employees to unite their voices globally around issues affecting them. In myriad ways, D&I has become part of the greater fabric of organizations, with more voices heard and represented.

And, in most cases, it’s technology that’s binding these voices in this new age of D&I.

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1 “US Has Highest Share of Foreign-Born Since 1910, With More Coming From Asia”, The New York Times, September 13, 2018. 2 2017 PwC Annual Global CEO Survey. 3 Global PwC Survey: Diversity & Inclusion Benchmarking Survey, 2017.