5 ways utilities can leverage data to build DEI workforces

By Charles River Associates
Matthew Thompson, Jim McMahon, and Quenton Wright at Charles River Associates outline how utilities can draw on data to boost their DEI strategies

Utilities represent one of the least diverse industries in the US today, being 85% white and 80% male, according to a 2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey. The clarion call from policymakers, shareholders, and communities for significant social change has driven many US utilities to create diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals in response.

Charles River Associates has identified five major challenges that may slow or prevent companies from meeting their DEI goals, and techniques to overcome them.

1. Dynamics shaping the diversity of the workforce

Companies often compare a current snapshot of their organisation to competitors or an external industry benchmark to assess progress. These point-in-time comparisons provide a naïve view of an organisation
and offer little insight into the long-term employment patterns or future diversity opportunity. Assessing the flow of people to, from, and within your organization will recognise trends over time to help identify
opportunities to become more diverse.

2. Leveraging data to optimise talent acquisition strategy

All aspects of the employment cycle - recruiting, hiring, promotion, and termination - can introduce barriers to diversity, equity, and inclusion. To effectively create change within an organisation, assessing
how each of these elements affect the workforce is key. Understanding where higher performing, longer retained, and most diverse candidates are sourced can help optimise talent acquisition strategy.

3. Identifying barriers to upward progression

Similar consideration should be given to each stage of the employment lifecycle. Employers on the cutting edge develop data-driven insights from historical lines of progression within an organisation. Modeling
how individuals progress through the organization to build internal benchmarks to measure against actual promotions allows leaders to identify where barriers of upward progression need to be addressed.

4. Losing key talent

Not all turnover is equal. Employers are keen to keep top performers, as well as employees in hard-to-fill positions. Looking at attrition rates by voluntary and involuntary leavers can be particularly informative.
Exit interviews should be used to see if there is a pattern that indicates why a diverse group might be leaving at a higher rate. Alternatively, the utility could more directly measure cultural issues that may
affect inclusion or belonging. Employee engagement surveys, small group listening sessions, or “stay interviews” can be used to capture insights and transform them into data points that allow employees'
views to be understood by leaders.

5. Using metrics to create accountability

Monitoring progress at different organizational, functional, vertical, and geographic levels against internal, external, and attrition benchmarks enables leaders to set focused action plans that maximise the utility’s
return on investment. Metrics tied to the organisational structure hold leaders accountable. Issues may differ by function, geography, and line of business, but ultimately you want to leverage data in ways that
help set focused action plans.

Next steps

Cutting-edge DEI programs are using data to drive strategy. There is an opportunity for utilities to leverage the data they have readily available. The effectiveness of tracking diversity efforts demands
accurate data and sound methodology. This will help facilitate leader buy-in and demand accountability. Tailored benchmarks allow utilities to create appropriate goals and achieve support from all management
levels, which are key to promoting and maintaining diversity efforts.

This column was written jointly by Matthew Thompson, Jim McMahon, and Quenton Wright from Charles River Associates, which is a leading global consulting firm that offers economic, financial, and strategic expertise to major law firms, corporations, accounting firms, and governments globally.


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