How to raise the bar for reporting on diversity & inclusion in federal agencies

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Diversity and inclusion are a primary goal in all federal agencies. Guided by Management Directive 715 (MD-715), a set of guidelines provided by EEOC outlining how to implement equal employment opportunity programs under Section 717 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, agencies must report annually on the results of these efforts.

Because of the frequency of these reports and the standardized processes, it’s easy for their purpose to get lost in the day-to-day process of reporting. This guidance, however, is designed to standardize reporting on diversity and inclusion efforts in government, and subsequently identify the barriers that arise in different situations. These reports are delivered to EEOC every year, ensuring all agencies are engaged in improving diversity and inclusion, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the goals of these reports are being met.

The Current Status of D&I According to the Federal Diversity Report

The most recent Federal Equal Opportunity Recruitment Program Report to Congress, released by EEOC to summarize the findings from MD-715 reports collected at each agency, showed that minority representation in the Federal Government did not change between FY 2015 and FY 2016. As a whole, minority representation was only 21.1%, with a slight increase in representation of women at 35.3%.

In analyzing these results, there’s a stark difference between public and private work sector diversity and inclusion rates. For example, in 2016, white males made up 36.1% of the overall workforce in public and private institutions. In the Federal Government, the Federal Diversity Report showed that this demographic represented 66.4%, and in the Senior Executive Service (SES) specifically, it represented 78.8% of the total workforce.

This gap has become a point of focus for HR executives and senior decision makers throughout federal agencies, and according to Bill Valdez, President of the Senior Executives Association, it’s a culmination of three distinct issues:

  1. A lack of a link between mission and programs
  2. Inability to explain ROI of diversity and inclusion efforts
  3. The lack of rigorous and analytics basis of D&I programs

For agencies struggling to go beyond basic MD-715 reporting each year, the third point in particular is a major issue. Lacking the resources and tools needed to complete reporting quickly and accurately, and in turn perform in-depth analysis of the results, HR specialists in these agencies struggle to identify and act on the most impactful triggers creating barriers to diversity.

Addressing the Gaps in the Current Diversity and Inclusion Reporting Process

If reporting and subsequent analysis have such a significant gap, what can agencies do to address them? Most agencies have limited resources to go beyond surface level evaluation of the reporting results each year. Easily identifiable barriers can be singled out and acted upon, but what about less easily identifiable issues? Without more powerful analytics, it’s either too cumbersome or too meticulous to dig deep enough to label all of the triggers that lead to barriers.

This is where technology-supported barrier analysis that considers position and grade-level, duty station, agency size, and other key factors is so valuable. By using a statistical lens to develop a visual representation of required MD-715 tables, some potential barriers reveal themselves more easily. Agencies using technology to aid in barrier analysis will find that more potential barriers are flagged for further investigation and have a stronger level of confidence that all of the critical barriers were identified.

In support of the reporting processes today, technology-supported barrier analysis extends the resources within the diversity and inclusion team. Diversity solutions, often a combination of technology and services, bring in seasonal help that extends capacity when its needed without carrying additional overhead. They pave the way to addressing Valdez’s issues regarding ROI and in improving analytics for D&I programs.

The stagnant diversity rates in federal agencies are a challenge for HR teams throughout the Federal Government. While EEOC’s MD-715 guidelines provide a framework and a good first step to address them, better analysis with technology support can help specialists go one step further in improving representation and achieving the goals of their diversity and inclusion initiatives.

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We help federal and state agencies to improve their operational efficiency, make better data-driven decisions, and empower State and Federal Governments to improve the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of HR operations to manage the “Hire-to-Retire” lifecycle. From consulting and staffing services to operational and analytical software, we have continued to add innovative and cost-efficient solutions that foster a highly productive and fulfilled workforce for our federal and state clients since 1990.