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Data-Driven DEI™ Case Study: Altera (acquired by Intel)

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Historically, companies have employed the use of data-driven assessment tools to not only identify DEI focus areas, but also to create innovative approaches to change. Along these lines, Altera (now a part of Intel), an engineering firm out of San Jose, CA employed the Whole Brain® Thinking and Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument® (HBDI®) to positively impact their diversity and inclusion (D&I) goals.

Around 2014, Anne Griswold, a director of Learning and Leadership and certified practitioner of Whole Brain® Thinking and HBDI® partnered with Altera’s D&I team to implement deliverables around diversity awareness and address D&I concerns raised by the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) regarding their lack of diverse representation in many areas of the business.

As they looked at the data to address the challenge raised by the EEO, increase awareness and reduce implicit bias they revealed many areas of concern including recruitment, talent acquisition and sales. Using Whole Brain® Thinking and the HBDI® assessment as a part of the data analysis they were able to reveal the depth if the implicit bias in hiring. The data illustrated hiring managers displayed a pattern of hiring “like minded” candidates. In many cases, that resulted in hires who were more like themselves and not necessarily “qualified candidates.” This revelation highlighted fractures in the company’s collective mindset and ultimately exacerbated attempts to hire and retain diverse staff.

Griswold’s team reviewed the Whole Brain® Thinking and HBDI® assessment results relative to D&I and provided Altera leadership with baseline information to chart the effectiveness of proposed D&I initiatives. They looked at both the entire organization and the sales organization.  The most interesting outcome of the analysis was the suggestion to look at D&I from a novel perspective. Instead of using just the EEO’s typical gender, ethnicity and orientation variables as metrics, because the geographic area did not have the candidate pool to choose from, the team suggested using “diversity of thought” as an additional baseline factor that could be measured. The belief was that if it were possible to use Whole Brain® Thinking and the HBDI® to increase awareness of bias, educate hiring managers in Whole Brain® Thinking framework for interviewing and change mindsets, the outcome would organically lead to more diverse hiring practices and more organic D&I efforts. This led Griswold to create Whole Brain® Thinking hiring practices, manager training and leverage the phrase “return on intelligence (ROI)” as a moniker to capture the value delivered to organizations when they leverage the power of cognitive diversity.

The Whole Brain® Thinking model is a metaphor for our thinking preferences. We all have a whole brain and can access all the functionality, but Whole Brain® Thinking and the HBDI® assessment allows us to make distinctions around our thinking preference.  This model recognizes the intersection of two different processing specialties and highlights, through the HBDI® assessment, where individuals get their energy and tend to focus.  The specialties reflect a left brain (convergent, logical/rational thinking) and right brain (divergent, intuitive/creative thinking) intersecting with the cerebral cortex system of the brain (abstract/theoretical thinking) and the limbic system of the brain (concrete/realistic thinking). This ultimately results in the Whole Brain® Thinking model following four color- coded quadrants, one for each cognitive system:

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The HBDI® assessment measures thinking preferences according to the Whole Brain® Thinking model. Included among the results are the extent to which a respondent demonstrates a single dominant thinking preference (i.e., one quadrant) or a multi-dominant thinking preference (i.e., two, three or all four quadrants).

“During my tenure at Altera, we needed more D&I (equity was not a factor at that time) because data confirms diverse perspectives within an organization improve business outcomes. However, it was an engineering firm staffed mostly with white males who overwhelmingly displayed a left tilt, high blue quadrant or blue/green quadrants.  People, in general, usually have multi-dominant characteristics and can fall into HBDI’s blue/yellow, blue/green and sometimes even red dominance quadrants. Our data-driven strategy took pre- and post HBDI® assessments of Altera staff, beginning with leadership and sales.  Twelve months later we analyzed the data to determine if there was a notable shift in the teams and in mindset – that reflected more ‘diversity of thought’ across the organization.”

Research also uncovered a disturbing pattern of candidate attrition after the 90-day probation period, often citing poor performance and “bad fit” as just causes for termination. Once again, using Whole Brain® Thinking to thoughtfully develop more accurate job descriptions - inclusive of soft skills requirements, (i.e., communication and team collaboration capabilities) managers had a greater probability of hiring more suitable candidates with desirable, triple and quadruple dominant qualities. Another action step employed was instituting affinity groups, or employee resource groups (ERGs), to increase retention of diverse, quality candidates that proved viable. All the leaders of these groups and many of the ERG teams were educated in Whole Brain® Thinking to continue to use and build a common language around diversity awareness based on our thinking preferences.

According to Griswold, acting with intention to transform Altera’s D&I challenges using the Whole Brain® Thinking and the HBDI® as data-driven assessment tools, reaped the following results:

  • Recruitment and hiring practices went from consistently onboarding “like us” candidates to creating a pipeline of candidates with multiple and diverse preferences.

  • The organization overall – nationally and internationally – adopted a diversity mindset which transformed behaviors resulting in less workplace discord.

  • Whole Brain® Thinking became a common language.

  • The sales team saw an increase in new hires with improved retention rates and a decrease in post probation terminations.

  • The sales team was able to use the data to demonstrate diversity of thinking and the shift from more “like me” to a diverse team profile.

  • Diversity awareness and the ERGs expanded which improved employee experience and overall satisfaction as measured in the Annual Organizational Survey.

  • The sales team became more leadership focused, eliminated many outsourced efforts, and utilized in-house talent more efficiently, resulting in a significant reduction in operating costs.

“The experience at Altera, and effective deployment of data-driven, innovative, D&I strategies taught us a major lesson: Optimizing talent by understanding diverse thinking preferences leverages the return on intelligence (ROI), and demonstrates how D&I is a crucial business imperative.”

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