What works in D&I? Let's talk evidence

Dec 11, 2020

Businesses are increasingly taking steps to understand their diversity and inclusion, but focusing on D&I is not the same as making progress. To have a positive impact, we need to combine in-depth insight into the current challenges with meaningful and evidence-based recommendations.

In this post, we'll introduce the thinking behind our D&I recommendations, explain the importance of well-researched evidence and show how we leverage science to bring you the crème de la crème of D&I recommendations.

Don't (automatically) believe the hype

Unconscious bias happens (to all of us) as our brains are making incredibly quick judgments about what we see and hear. It's so seamless and quick that we don't even realise it. We all know that unconscious bias is bad for diversity - it makes people want to hire, work and hang out with people that look and talk like themselves, negatively affecting underrepresented groups such as women and people of colour - so what should we do about it?

The idea is that we can consciously overcome our biases by learning about them. Recently, companies have signed up en masse to educate themselves with US companies alone spending around 8 billion dollars a year on unconscious bias training. Yet, this type of diversity training doesn't actually make people behave more inclusively. Yes, it raises employees' awareness of bias, but if that doesn't translate to behaviour, what's the point?

So why doesn't it work? The key to this puzzle lies in the "unconscious" part. Changing behaviour that we're not conscious of takes a lot of effort, motivation and self-awareness; a couple of hours in the classroom doesn’t cut it. But don't worry, effective remedies do exist.

What works?

We’ve been staying on top of all the latest D&I research and have used rigorous criteria to distil the best proposals into our one-of-a-kind recommendations library. Let’s take a look.

Firstly, research shows that diversity only truly benefits the company culture if you also get inclusion right (see Mor-Barak and colleagues, 2016).So instead of embarking on a one-off diversity campaign, we help you build an all-round D&I strategy that encourages talent - regardless of their background - to join, stay, succeed and lead.

We bring a series of ready-to-implement recommendations to the companies we work with - tailored to the areas that need the most attention. Whether that's making sure the hiring process isn't biased towards preserving the status quo, empowering minority employees to build long-lasting social connections or making it easier and safer for people to voice their concerns and complaints.

All of our recommendations are based on verifiable and evidence-based sources. We've scoured academic journals, think-tank reports and company D&I initiatives for impactful interventions. Where possible, we rely on evidence from field experiments, which test an intervention directly against a business-as-usual group. This gold-standard method is used to test the effectiveness of new medicines, but increasingly it's also used to test if workplace programmes work.

What did we find?

These super-robust studies unearth fascinating findings. For example:

  • Explicitly mentioning flexible working arrangements in job adverts boosts applicants by 30%.
  • The odds of hiring a woman are considerably better when at least 2 women are shortlisted.
  • Diversity training which focuses on perspective-training actually does work.
  • When it comes to CVs, the gap in callback rates for ethnic minorities tends to vanish when job applications are anonymised.

Circling back to unconscious bias, we learned that we can remove unconscious bias from the hiring process by blinding CVs, making hiring managers' feedback on candidates private rather than shared and using work sample tests.

These are just a handful of insights (we promise, there's loads more on onboarding, performance reviews, promotions, pay and bonus, and so on) that we weave into our recommendations. But because we don't believe in silver bullets, nor one-off D&I initiatives, we combine various types of proposals for each company, including the small nudges, big programmes, tech tools and low-cost changes to your policies and processes that are key to truly improving equality. 🗝 And to make sure you hit the ground running, we provide guides, templates and implementation tips & tricks ... all based on evidence and each company’s unique D&I maturity level.

Don't stop there: check in to see how you're doing

We started this blog by asking what makes D&I initiatives likely to succeed. We'll pick out one that comes up time and time again: evaluation and monitoring. It's simply not enough to design impressive plans and let them loose. Companies should track diversity and inclusion metrics as they would for any business unit be they marketing, sales or product analytics.

As the old saying goes: if you can't measure it, you can't manage it.

Organisations who don't monitor implementation and progress end up inventing the wheel over and over again.

Therefore, you might think: "Hey, we track the diversity in our hiring funnel", but have you collected and tracked data on employees' access to promotions and pay raises? If you find significant gaps in promotion rates between men and women, for example, you've diagnosed a clear issue. But it's when you check in regularly, seeing the gap closing (or widening - help!), that you ensure your D&I strategy is powerful.

We're here to help. Fair HQ built a tech platform enabling you to...

🔬Audit your D&I and benchmark it towards your location & industry

🚀Build a strong strategy with evidence-based initiatives that fits your current D&I status

⛰ Set crystal-clear goals

🤝 Build accountability across the organisation - you're in this together

📈 Track your D&I metrics over time

🎉 Celebrate progress and results

Dive deeper into our thinking - here's our academic back-up

Atewologun, D., Cornish, T., & Tresh, F. (2018). Unconscious bias training: An assessment of the evidence for effectiveness. Equality and Human Rights Commission Research Report Series. https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/research-report-113-unconcious-bais-training-an-assessment-of-the-evidence-for-effectiveness-pdf.pdf
Bertrand, M., & Duflo, E. (2017). Field experiments on discrimination. In Handbook of economic field experiments (Vol. 1, pp. 309-393). North-Holland.
Chang, E. H., Milkman, K. L., Gromet, D. M., Rebele, R. W., Massey, C., Duckworth, A. L., & Grant, A. M. (2019). The mixed effects of online diversity training. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(16), 7778-7783.
Dobbin, F., & Kalev, A. (2016). Why diversity programs fail. Harvard Business Review, 94(7), 14. https://hbr.org/2016/07/why-diversity-programs-fail
Kochan, T., Bezrukova, K., Ely, R., Jackson, S., Joshi, A., Jehn, K., ... & Thomas, D. (2003). The effects of diversity on business performance: Report of the diversity research network. Human Resource Management 42(1), 3-21.
Krause, A., Rinne, U., & Zimmermann, K. F. (2012). Anonymous job applications of fresh Ph.D. economists. Economics Letters, 117(2), 441-444.
Mor Barak, M. E., Lizano, E. L., Kim, A., Duan, L., Rhee, M. K., Hsiao, H. Y., & Brimhall, K. C. (2016). The promise of diversity management for climate of inclusion: A state-of-the-art review and meta-analysis. Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance, 40(4), 305-333.
Williamson, S., Carson, L., & Foley, M. (2019). Representations of New Public Management in Australian Public Service gender equality policies. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal.
Burd, H., & Roy-Chowdhury, V. (2020).| Well-being and Flexible Working. Encouraging employers to advertise jobs as flexible - a randomised controlled trial with a job site. Applied Research Conference, p. 62. https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/2020-submissions-_tcm18-70875.pdf#page=62


Ready to boost your company through D&I?

Get notified
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.