Unlock the Power of DEI Technology: Deeper Listening

Written by Explorance.

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Synopsis: Our first blog post in a special series examining the detailed use of feedback and assessment solutions to facilitate the work of DEI leaders, this post provides an overview of the challenges facing DEI leaders, and how newly emerging solutions can be indispensable in their work.

As the decade unfolds, social, economic, and global events are pushing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) toward the center of the workplace. DEI is now understood to be fundamental to strong, agile organizations.

From within and externally, organizations are being held to higher standards than ever before. You need a game plan for technology. In a time of increasing uncertainty, every single investment toward fostering DEI needs to pay exponential dividends.

Technology to Meet New Challenges

DEI leaders need technology designed to meet these challenges, and to enhance the impact of their entire DEI toolbox.

This is what has motivated Explorance to include new set of expertly researched DEI-focused questions in our latest version of MTM, the Learning and Development effectiveness solution. Comment analysis solutions, such as BlueML, in turn offer rapid and actionable insight into these topics. It is crucial to gain an overview of what technology is available.

This blog post is the first of a series that explores four key steps for unlocking the power of DEI technology.

To make the most of your DEI tech investments, you will need to:

  1. Achieve deeper listening in a rapidly changing world.
  2. Navigate relationships to get buy-in.
  3. Evaluate your entire DEI tech stack.
  4. Understand the contexts and challenges of advanced AI.

A Roadmap for DEI Leaders

This plan will be suitable for any professional charged with spearheading DEI at your organization. The range and shape of such roles varies from one organization to another, but applicable titles for DEI leaders can include:

  • Chief Diversity Officer
  • VP of Inclusion and Belonging
  • Director of Culture
  • Diversity Program Manager

As a DEI leader, you must be able to hear every voice in your organization clearly. You must be empowered to quickly identify high impact opportunities, and act on them. Explore the in-depth resources below to build a plan for how technology will help you achieve your goals and make a significant positive impact for the people in your organization.

This plan consists of four key aspects. Each weekly blog post will further expand on the next key aspect.

  • Deep Listening
  • Better Buy-in
  • Tech Powered DEI
  • The Truth about AI

Deeper Listening

Attaining diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within an organization begins with listening. Employees are giving more feedback than ever, but they are doing it through ever more fragmented channels. Employers are relying on surveying employees to get a grasp on the state of DEI.

Meanwhile, employees are expressing themselves freely on websites such as Glassdoor and Indeed. The challenge is to make that qualitative data as reliable and actionable as the quantitative data organizations are already collecting.

Surveys can provide important insights, but they are limited to the parameters set by the questions asked. Other tools can scan open ended-responses but can’t offer new insights about what those responses mean.  They cannot, in other words, help employers listen deeply to their employees.

Understanding what employees need and want is critical to effectively addressing existing gaps and building a lasting DEI culture. Yet, until now, the available tools have been incapable of capturing some of the most nuanced — and most important — aspects of employees’ experiences.

DEI and the Employee Experience

One reason DEI initiatives fail to show desired impact over time is that they are siloed away from the overall Employee Experience. In reality, many DEI touchpoints are at the heart of this ever-evolving experience. Identifying DEI gaps, generating insights, and taking action to remedy them  is better management of the Employee Experience. When employers deeply understand employees’ actual sentiments related to DEI, they are better equipped to ensure a positive experience overall.

Employees’ expectations give you critical insights into their experiences. Open-ended comments give DEI practitioners an unfiltered view of those expectations, revealing the issues that your people really want you to be aware of while providing insights that the organization didn’t anticipate. By comparison, quantitative surveys can identify some needs, but only through specific questions asked within a limited framework defined by survey creators.

Quickly diagnosing and resolving problems before employees begin to disengage is increasingly important to EXM, but few resources for employee sentiment analysis can keep up with the fast-evolving workplace landscape.

 To better understand this concept, consider a dictionary-based text analysis tool built with terms input before March 2020: it would have been nearly useless as new issues and terms emerged due to the upheavals of the pandemic.

Segmentation also must be ever more nuanced. There will always be value to segmenting employee responses by DEI categories such as gender, location, job level, region, tenure, and age. But while quantitative responses can show differences among groups, it’s the open-ended comments that reveal why those differences exist.

BlueML, a unique EXM-based comment analysis solution, reveals meaningful insights such as:

  • Hidden DEI subgroups’ sentiment within conventional demographics.
  • True meaning beyond simply positive or negative sentiment.
  • Recommendations within comments, viewable by DEI subgroups.

These are the sorts of revelations that help make significant advancements toward effective DEI,  programs that truly listen and respond to employee wants and needs, while improving EXM overall.

Thriving in Change

Deeper listening is a pillar of companies that are resilient and agile. Becoming stronger, and thriving in the face of change, becomes possible when everyone in an organization is heard clearly. It requires tapping into a diversity of outlooks; as there’s too much at risk to miss perspectives.

It takes an appropriate employee listening technology to reveal the nuances in employee sentiments and needs that, in turn, reveal critical cracks — and strengths — in the organization itself.

Older technologies leave too much information on the sidelines. Nor are they effective enough at uncovering gaps in the ability to tap into all of an organization’s diverse talent. On the other hand, Machine Learning technology can be very useful in the drive for DEI and can identify deficiencies in processes resulting from a lack of diversity among decision makers.

What’s more, attaining resilience requires identifying equity and inclusion gaps to ensure people are willing, able, and motivated to share their insights and talents. Research from McKinsey and Leanin.Org, for instance, showed that Black women felt more excluded at work, and more reluctant to share their thoughts on racial inequity. Open-ended comments also reveal threats and challenges to inclusiveness and belonging, which can manifest in issues like burnout. Such gaps point to a critical need for intervention to address a significant source of organizational fragility.

And those interventions can happen as needed. The days of doing an annual engagement survey, analyzing months later, then making blanket decisions for the entire organization, are outdated. Instead, the modern organization is constantly assessing, analyzing and acting in order to accelerate improvement.

Empowered DEI Leaders

As organizations embrace the value of DEI, the ranks of Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) or Diversity Program Managers (DPM) are growing quickly.  Furthermore, what’s on the horizon is the recognition that an empowered head of diversity is also critical to organization resilience and agility.

BlueML allows both new and seasoned DEI leaders to have visible, quantifiable insights and to make recommendations immediately. Whether new to the role, or just ready for a new approach, fast, actionable insights are important for responding to rapidly changing circumstances. Natural language processing (NLP) with advanced AI reduces time spent following up to clarify or analyze root causes of quantitative survey responses.

When DEI roles are created or enhanced amid external upheavals, other technologies take too long to produce results. Diversity leads usually don’t have weeks to deploy, analyze and clarify survey results to identify important aspects of emerging threats.  Antifragility requires giving you the capacity to clarify and find root causes of negative employee experience sentiments faster than focus groups will allow.

In turn, a well-equipped diversity director using BlueML can empower autonomous teams. Every manager now has the insights and recommendations for how exactly to strengthen their own teams in the face of unexpected challenges.

The Elusive Measurement: Inclusion

Over the past two decades, the business world has developed fairly standardized tools for measuring diversity. However, as inclusion emerged as an important workplace goal, human capital management (HCM) software lacked meaningful inclusion indices. Survey questions inherently limit and influence responses; they obscure information. Text-only reading of open-ended comments cannot capture the true meaning of an expression; they can’t identify inclusion and exclusion.

NLP with BlueML, however, mines open-ended comments for less tangible sentiments. Those are then quantified, becoming inclusion data that generate business insights. BlueML’s custom weighting gives deeper meaning to the index.

BlueML is the first human resources-trained machine learning technology that allows you to gauge employee sentiment with unmatched speed, accuracy, and certainty. It’s the natural language processing tool purpose-built to analyze within an HR context to foster DEI. To date, nothing else compares.

DEI categories aren’t fundamentally different from other HR categories. The challenge is to find patterns in employee responses that identify issues such as burnout, mental health, and physical health. BlueML’s machine learning technology overcomes those challenges. Purpose-built for DEI, BlueML helps you quickly process open ended comments from any source.

Applying BlueML for DEI

Deeper listening only makes a difference when employees know they’re being heard. You can use BlueML to discover what people want and expect–within a matter of minutes. From there, implementation allows immediate impacts.

BlueML gleans insights about any stage of an employee’s experience:

  • Cull recommendations from internal data, as well as from hundreds of thousands of additional insights already built into the machine.
  • Identify opportunities for pulse feedback tied to world events, internal training, and other DEI-related content.
  • Clarify quantitative survey responses.
  • Improve the quality of future quantitative surveys.
  • Gain rapid insights with single-question queries that avoid survey fatigue.
  • Drive collection action with clear start point.
  • Understand the nature of the recommendations: more, less, same, change?
  • Determine skills, roles, and accountabilities for people at different touch points, from hire to retire, to ensure successful implementation of DEI initiatives.

Begin by sharing powerful insights across an organization with compelling reports for stakeholders at every level. The qualitative-turned-quantitative data are now available to build new benchmarks, or to test existing ones. Armed with new DEI data, autonomous teams can make agile decisions so employees feel a difference right away, one that aligns with their sentiments. From fast actions to longer initiatives, you can keep all stakeholders engaged with accessible dashboards.

Explorance’s Consulting Services Team is a resource to help you keep those stakeholders informed and educated as you bring BlueML into your organization. Consultants can also assist you or your DEI team with data collection and analysis, gleaning recommendations, or generating actionable reports.

“Companies need to meet employee needs, but most importantly employee expectations.”  —Samer Saab, CEO of Explorance

Making a real, positive impact on employees’ lives means delving into sensitive, emotional topics. People’s feelings are harder to capture. But once captured, they’re harder to dismiss than a number alone. They’re based on something much deeper.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog post, as we trace the importance of DEI buy-in.


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