Two black dogs swimming side by side

Building a Successful Partnership Between DEIB and People Analytics

October 13, 2022 Talent Management
Priyanka Mehrotra of RedThread Research
By Priyanka Mehrotra, Stacia Sherman Garr LinkedIn

“People analytics for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is no longer a nice-to-have but a necessity.”

“What gets measured gets done.”

Statements like these have become common as companies continue to pledge to improve diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) as part of their overall business goals. Yet organizations struggle to make lasting progress and measure impact meaningfully. So in 2020, we at RedThread Research launched an initiative to help leaders with DEIB analytics. We offered a guide on how to get started using DEIB metrics and analytics, information on what DEIB metrics are and how they can be used and practices for leaders to make the partnership between DEIB and people analytics (PA) work successfully, as well as checklists for PA and DEIB leaders to help them with the journey.

Our research uncovered three practices that DEIB and PA leaders must adopt in order to build a successful partnership. This article focuses on just one of those practices: understanding each other’s context.

Both DEIB and people analytics leaders operate within a complex and demanding governance structure. As such, they must understand each other’s perspectives and circumstances when beginning to work in partnership. Here are three ways leaders can do this.

The Start of the DEIB and People Analytics Partnership

A good way to start is by gaining familiarity with the different stakeholders that affect each leader and their team. Each team might have five or six different stakeholders with whom they work.

Leaders must also understand each other’s reporting and governance structures, especially if the PA leader doesn't report to the HR function. This includes having a good sense of their work with other teams, the types of requests they handle and what their process and rhythm of work look like. Leaders should also know about the other team’s composition, strengths and resources, as well as the two teams’ experience working with each other.

Related Article: Transparency Is Key to Making Employee Development More Equitable

Understand and Address Each Other’s Concerns

PA and DEIB leaders should take time to understand each other’s concerns. These can range from fear of using inaccurate data to concerns about how to interpret data properly. Some of the most common concerns we heard during our interviews are summarized in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Common concerns for DEIB & PA leaders | Source: RedThread Research 2022
Figure 1: Common concerns for DEIB & PA leaders | Source: RedThread Research 2022

Leaders can work together to resolve these concerns in two ways:

  • Align on goals, objectives and processes, which can, in turn, help address some of the existing fears around how data is used.
  • Set up check-ins and conversations to address other issues on a case-by-case basis.

One PA leader we interviewed provided a good example of how companies can do this. In his view, PA leaders need to understand that most DEIB leaders don’t have analytical training. Similarly, PA leaders often don’t understand the nuances and challenges associated with DEIB work. He recommends that both leaders acknowledge each other's differing disciplines and perspectives to prevent losing sight of the ultimate goal to drive DEIB — a potential danger if there’s no shared vision or established foundation for working together.

Related Article: Are Employee Surveys Masking Flaws in Your DEI Efforts?

PA and DEIB Share Common Goals, But Different Priorities

Communications between the two teams and leaders are fundamental to understanding each other’s priorities. For example, one of the things a PA director at a large tech company did when he first joined the company was to determine why the partnership between the PA and D&I teams wasn’t working. As part of this process, both leaders tried to understand the goals they were trying to achieve together. Ultimately, the teams worked on:

  • Gaining clarity around priorities.
  • Obtaining the help they needed to drive those priorities.
  • Defining the specific responsibilities on both sides.

As we mentioned earlier, understanding each other’s context is just one of the things DEIB and PA leaders should do to partner successfully. They must also be intentional about aligning around objectives, responsibilities and expectations, and work together in partnership with the rest of the organizational network.

Most importantly, these practices should be embedded in the broader strategy for both PA and DEIB teams. A few steps leaders can take to do that include:

  • Conducting an audit of where things currently stand between the two teams.
  • Identifying gaps that are preventing the two teams from working together effectively and the practices that will help.
  • Communicating regularly and broadly to the rest of the organization on how you plan to work together and support each other publicly.

We'd welcome any feedback you would like to share — reach out to us at [email protected].

About the Authors

Priyanka Mehrotra is a senior analyst at RedThread Research, where she studies human capital management and people analytics.

Stacia Sherman Garr is co-founder and principal analyst at RedThread Research and a thought leader on talent management, leadership, diversity and inclusion, people analytics and HR technology.

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