As anyone responsible for developing and implementing DEI strategies will be aware, perceptions of how your team or company are performing are just that – perceptions. They are subjective, partial and personal – still valid, of course, but not the whole picture. With this comes the risk that we learn the wrong lessons and draw the wrong conclusions.
That is why the Diversity Study Group places such importance on data. Rigorously collected, drawn from a wide range of sources and contributors, and robustly analysed, good data can provide far more accurate insights of where we find ourselves as a team, a company or an industry.
However, data for its own sake isn’t enough. It’s important that we know what we are looking for and why we are looking for it.
As a sector, we know that we have an image problem, with those already working in maritime, and for those on the outside looking in (or not looking in our direction at all). This makes it hard to encourage those at the start of their working life that the maritime sector will provide them with a rewarding career that aligns with their values. Similarly, we face a challenge in persuading the next generation of industry leaders to remain in the maritime sector, when they might be tempted by career opportunities elsewhere.
The data we can collect about our industry can also make a big difference to our ability to communicate how we are changing and the progress we are making on building more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces.
The difference this data can make is even more important at a time of a global talent shortage, ashore and at sea. We urgently need to attract a broader range of talent than before; talent that is comfortable with change, technology and fast rates of progression. Rather than simply say ‘trust us’, data can demonstrate change. For example, our DSG data from last year’s Annual Review showed a huge lack of gender and ethnic diversity at senior levels. We need the data to tell us if that is changing. If it is, we have a positive message to share, both to existing employees and also those who may consider joining our industry in the future.
Put another way, we are past the point where good intentions are enough. All our industry stakeholders expect and increasingly require greater transparency, and trusted data is an important building block of transparency.
Of course, sourcing the right DEI data also requires you to first consider what you want to know and why. This is why it is so important to give careful thought to the purpose of your DEI strategy and what you hope to achieve.
For companies, this data will provide business leaders with access to objective insights relating to their most important asset; their employee base. Effective DEI data management supports the delivery of the strategic aims of the business, as well as identifying areas of progress and areas which may require further attention.
DEI data is also a helpful tool in responding to employee pressure for change. It is clear that younger generations of employees in particular require more transparency in order to evaluate an organisation as a potential employer, as well as assessing their current employer. Human sustainability is playing an increasingly important role in their evaluation and decision-making process. What’s more, rather than asking them to take your claims on face value, data-driven evidence of what you can offer to a current or potential employee will be far more persuasive. After all, actions speak louder than words. It will also help you to make a far more compelling case for supporting their career development and progression, in the short, medium and long-term.
Finally, at a time of talent scarcity, every organisation can benefit from more proactive employment attraction and retention strategies – something that the maritime sector has historically not been particularly good at. Building up a bank of DEI data that gives you a true picture of the make-up of your team and their needs, preferences and priorities can be a significant asset when it comes to succession planning.
Beyond the benefits to the organisation, we shouldn’t lose sight of the difference it can make for every individual. If we can ensure that our decision-making is guided by the data and we develop more inclusive strategies as a result, it will create the exciting possibility that everyone in the organisation will be able to contribute, flourish and fulfil their potential.
For an exclusive first look at the results of the 2022 DSG Annual Review, register now for an online presentation from Heidi Heseltine and Jenny Barrow. ‘DSG Annual Review 2022 – DEI data for the maritime sector’ will take place at 0930 UK time on 30th November. Sign up here