Diversity, Equality & Inclusion - Employee Engagement Data

Teaming up with Kevin O’Brien, our co-founder Matt spoke to a formidable panel of experts on how to link up diversity, equality and employee engagement data.

DEI engagement data

It was an absolute pleasure to team up with Kevin O’Brien again to speak to a formidable panel of experts on how to link up equality, diversity and employee engagement data. Big thanks to Dr Jenny Cook, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Data Lead, The Met Office, Monica Stancu, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Royal Academy of Engineering, Meera Roy-Chowdhury, Diversity & Inclusion Adviser, Business in the Community and Cat Wildman, Co-Founder, The GEC for sharing their expertise. Click here to watch the session.

The good news is that the impetus to improve diversity, equality and inclusion reignited in 2020 by the Black Lives Matter movement remains strong in 2021. Employees, investors and customers are all asking tough questions which put all organisations under pressure to address this important issue. So how should they move forward? I continue my journey of learning on this issue both personally and as a business leader every day, but here are my key learnings from this insightful session. I hope that they help you.

Diversity, Equality & Inclusion Is A Hot Topic

Diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) is a hot topic for organisations and the HR community. The Happiness Index’s data shows that HR professionals view it as one of their top 3 challenges in 2021. 

But it’s also a hot potato! Meera shared how the businesses she’s speaking to are struggling with DEI – many are scared that the problem is “too big to solve” and they don’t know where to start.  

What Are the Biggest Challenges On Collecting DEI Data?


Many organisations have archaic HR systems that only collect gender data. Meera’s tip – get to know the system you are working with and it’s capabilities. Then either make the business case to make the changes you need, get a new system or supplement your data with external survey data.  

Legal & Cultural Requirements

DEI data is very sensitive and in many jurisdictions, is subject to special requirements and restrictions as well as different cultural norms. Monica recommended that you work with your legal team and are always mindful to consult with the country concerned to ensure not only that you are compliant, but that it lands well. For example, when it comes to collecting LGBTQ+, disability data and ethnicity data you may need to adapt your filters to reflect each country. 


Our panellists were unanimous that trust is key and the most important component to collecting DEI data. Without trust employees won’t share this information with you. Remember trust is fragile and built over the long term. You must be consistent in your approach to how you and your leaders listen to, treat and communicate with your people. 

Start With A Problem You Want To Solve

All our panellists agreed that it’s vital to start with a problem that you are trying to solve, not to look to your data to try and locate a problem.  

Communication & Transparency

To build trust you will need a really strong communication plan, with absolute transparency around how and why you are collecting the data, who will have access to it and how you plan to store and use it. Cat highlighted the need for this strong communication plan to overcome the apathy of employees ticking (prefer not to say) or not completing the data at all. 

Engaging Employees Is Key 

Engaging employees in the process is vital. Educate them on the issue and what needs to be done and how their response will help. 

Just Collecting Data Isn’t Enough

Jenny’s experience was that many organisations held diversity, equality and inclusion data but that it was often hidden in their HR systems, and even those who did have data faced challenges on what to do with it. She pointed out that Frameworks and charter marks are helpful, but you may need external help on analysing and interpreting your data.

What Data To Collect 

The main lesson I’ve learnt on my DEI journey is that collecting more demographic data isn’t fixing the problem. We must move on to what data we are collecting. We realised that the big missing piece of the puzzle was how people are feeling. You must try and understand how people feel and whether they feel free to be their authentic selves in your organisation. 

Employee Engagement & DEI Are Inextricably Linked 

When it really boils down to it, if you are treated differently at work it impacts your happiness. If you are less happy you are less productive. Jenny reminded us that employee engagement surveys can gather and get the personal experience of individuals. We must humanise DEI data and bring in emotions to understand it in context and bring to life the perceptions and experience of all employees in your organisation.

Disaggregate Your Data  

Cat told us that disaggregating DEI data (breaking it down into smaller subpopulations) is crucially important. By not disaggregating your data you’ll just continue catering to the majority of your organisation and won’t be able to understand the experience of different groups in your population (for example the experience of black women versus white women will probably be very different). Cat recommends combining and looking at different intersectionalities of data to go very deep and get a full picture of what’s going on in the organisation. 

Look at the results of your engagement data by protected characteristics and see if people who possess different characteristics are receiving the same treatment, the same opportunities and experience a culture where they belong, or whether you can see if discrimination has happened. 

Use The Data To Tell Stories

At The Happiness Index we talk a lot about moving from data to insight.  If you want to get your senior leaders bought into diversity, equality and inclusion they tend to respond to data – expose them to the stories that they wouldn’t know otherwise. Bringing the DEI issue to life and humanising it is crucial to changing perceptions and ultimately your culture. 

Create A Plan Of Action

Go back to the problem you set out to solve, make sure you create a clear action plan on how you will move forward using data-informed policies to solve it. Identify your gaps and understand how you implement improved policies and processes. As an organisation, if you don’t have this expertise internally, get external help to support you.

Don’t Stop There – Acknowledge & Respond

Leaders must acknowledge employees’ stories and respond. If you don’t respond, don’t expect people to bother engaging again. 

Embed DEI Targets Throughout Your Organisation... Not Just At Board Level

My personal view is that when it comes to tying executive pay to diversity targets, CEOs shouldn’t be financially rewarded for doing their job. Financial targets can often skew actions! 

I do agree that diversity, equality and inclusion targets should be baked into your people processes and strategy at all levels – ultimately it’s everyone’s responsibility. I love the work that our customer Sodexo does on this, where DEI forms a part of their balanced scorecard and DEI targets form a part of appraisals and performance management for everyone. 

Equality Of Voice - Our DEI Survey

In 2020 we went back to the drawing board to create our new diversity, equality and inclusion survey – Equality of Voice. It uses a neuroscience-based methodology to allow all employees to safely and anonymously share their feelings and emotions on diversity, inclusion and belonging. The insight empowers leaders to really listen and begin to build the trust required to create a thriving culture for everyone!

Equality of Voice was designed and tested in collaboration with an expert panel: 

  • Margot Slattery: Global Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Sodexo

  • Shereen Daniels: Managing Director HR rewired

  • Kevin Withane: Group Ethics and Compliance Director

  • Clive Hyland: Head of Neuroscience, The Happiness Index

  • Gemma Shambler: Head of People, The Happiness Index

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Recommended reading

How to Link Your DEI & Employee Engagement Data

DE&I: Creating Balance & Belonging in The Workplace

Why Is Diversity, Equity & Inclusion so Important?

About The Happiness Index

The Happiness Index helps organisations measure the key employee engagement AND happiness drivers to power their people strategy.

Our unique platform offers the products, insights and tools to shine a light on your cultural health and empower management to drive thriving cultures.

Our neuroscience-based pre-built surveys measure the full employee experience - from onboarding to exit to empower and enable organisations to understand their people and create data-led action plans.


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