Dear Jasmar: “What do you mean by evidence?”
Updated: Mar 16, 2021
You say we should use evidence to change how we work in inclusion and diversity. I read reports and see statistics on inclusion and diversity in news articles. What do you mean by evidence?
Great question. There’s a lot of info and stats out there – it’s overwhelming! And it’s hard to know which evidence is high-quality and worth using for your inclusion efforts. The last thing we want is to spend time and money on a solution that backfires or has no benefit.
But, let’s face it. This is the common approach out there! We read an article that confirms our beliefs, and quickly accept the findings as true without checking the source. We copy best practices from our competitors or leading companies, just because they seem successful. And we ignore qualitative (non-numeric) information to focus only on quantifiable “hard” information like objective performance quotas and representation metrics. As an inclusion professional, you want to avoid all of this and find the best evidence for your projects. But how?
First, recognize that evidence-based inclusion relies on four sources of high-quality information:
expert judgments, and
Inclusion practitioners today are increasingly using the first two: organizational data and listening to stakeholders. This is great and we encourage finding ways to make this even more impactful! For example, simply showing majority group data first (for example, 95% of leaders are able-bodied) can increase leadership buy-in. And, demonstrate you’re truly listening to what stakeholders want and need by engaging them in solutions through a design thinking approach.
And yes, listen to the experts – but be skeptical. Many self-described experts are anything but. Not all opinions, even from experts, are an “expert judgment”. You must treat experts as a source of information and equally assess the quality of such information by ensuring that their approach matches your needs and vision.
But, how well are we leveraging scientific evidence? Scientific evidence is the most difficult to access and understand. Yet, it has the most potential to transform our inclusion practices. These sources of information are created by professionals who have invested their careers at generating knowledge so that it can be applied to enhance our lives and systems in which we live in. For example, high-quality research using controlled experiments shows that diversity awareness training can affect leaders to treat their subordinates of colour worse and mostly changes the behaviour of existing supporters of diversity. Imagine if we’d known this before spending $8 billion in diversity training (not to mention the high cost of disengagement associated with ineffective training).
So, in a nutshell, use multiple sources of information, but get critical about what you hear and read to separate high-quality work from their lower-quality counterparts. You can learn how to do this through short, affordable courses, checklists, research assessment tools, or apps. You can also stay up-to-date on relevant research through sites like ScienceForWork.
Good luck and keep me posted!
Let’s Make Inclusion Stick!
The Jasmar Group is a behaviour change consultancy that helps organizations build team belonging, culture, and performance. Our solutions are evidence-based and designed to drive faster progress towards diverse and inclusive workplaces.
Interested in a new approach to building a diverse and inclusive workplace? Contact Sylvia Apostolidis, President of The Jasmar Group at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-262-2779.