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Scientific Method Is Key to Successful Diversity, Inclusion Plans

May 16, 2022, 8:57 PM

Payroll and Human Resource professionals can approach diversity, equity, and inclusion issues the same way a scientist approaches an experiment, a recruitment and retention expert said May 11.

“My hope is that we all think about it in terms of economics” and as an opportunity to grow business, said Bob Lockett, Chief Diversity and Talent Officer at ADP. “Companies that practice these principles show greater signs of profitability over time.”

DEI initiatives help retain clients as well as employees, Lockett said at the American Payroll Association’s 40th Payroll Congress. “We can have a great opportunity to do what we want to do by being inclusive of everyone.”

Rely on the scientific method to “create a hypothesis about something, and then allow the data to prove or disprove,” he said. “Look at what the data is telling you, and build your plan based on the information that’s being shared.”

It is important to examine data thoroughly for anomalies to ensure that initiatives are based on a complete picture of existing disparities, Lockett said.

“We have to be careful when we’re talking about the data. The data can be very interesting, but it can also be misleading,” he said. “You might see something very different than what you saw initially.”

For example, a company’s general demographic data could demonstrate that the company’s workforce mirrors the communities where it operates, which can be considered a success, Lockett said. However, a closer examination could reveal that diversity decreases among more senior leadership roles, and that initiatives should be in place to improve access to advancement opportunities.

“If you give people access, then they have a greater opportunity to succeed,” Lockett said.

Once sufficient data has been gathered, it is important to have a focused approach to choosing which problems to solve, Lockett said.

“One strategy I’ve seen fail over and over again is the fact that people have tried to boil the ocean: you cannot boil the ocean. You cannot solve every problem,” he said.

Carefully choosing priorities, on the other hand, is more likely to lead to progress, Lockett said. “There’s an old adage I learned a long time ago: ‘a simple plan well executed is better than a perfect plan poorly executed.’”

An organization should commit to initiatives that can be sustained “for the long haul,” Lockett said, rather than continuing a cycle of incomplete plans that are restarted as a reaction to national catastrophes.

“We start out with the best of intentions, then we lose steam,” Lockett said. “Make your plans extend over time such that you can continue the progress that you need to make,” and regularly evaluate that progress and make adjustments as needed, he said.

Using a methodical approach can “take the emotion out of a very emotional topic” and avoid an “us-versus-them” mentality, Lockett said. “The reality is, if the pie gets bigger, everybody gets a bigger slice.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jazlyn Williams in Washington at jwilliams@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: William Dunn at wdunn@bloombergindustry.com