Equality, diversity and inclusion data tool – commonly asked questions

This webpage provides answers to some commonly asked questions about our EDI data tool and how to use it. If you have any other questions or feedback please email research@housing.org.uk

Jump to 

Section one: About the data tool 

Section two: How to use the tool

Section three: How to use the data collected to improve EDI within your organisation

Section one: About the tool

What is the EDI data tool?

The NHF’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) data tool allows housing associations in England to compare how diverse their workforce is to the communities they serve, based on characteristics of population in stock location.

The Excel based tool allows housing associations to plug in their data to compare workforce to population in stock location, executive to staff and board to staff for all nine protected characteristics and socio-economic background. You can also compare your customer data to population by stock location.

We first launched the tool in the spring of 2021, and it was used by hundreds of housing associations to better understand the diversity of their workforce.

We asked members of the NHF to submit their completed tools (including any data gaps) to us. We received responses from 174 housing associations which enabled us to build a national profile of the workforce of housing associations in England and how this compares to population in stock location. We published our national and regional reports in December 2021: National Housing Federation - How diverse is the housing association workforce in England?

We’re repeating our EDI data collection this year and need you to help us build an accurate picture of diversity across the sector.

Please save your Excel file with your organisation’s name and send your completed tool to admin.team@housing.org.uk by 5 June 2023.

After analysing the findings we will launch the results at the National Housing Summit on 11-12 September 2023.

What is different about the 2023 version of the tool?

The 2023 EDI Data Tool retains a similar structure and look to the previous version. However, we have made some improvements to the functionality. These include automatic calculation of staff figures in the Executive and Board tabs, calculation of percentages excluding don’t know and prefer not to say and a space on each tab to allow people to add notes.

For the majority of questions within the updated tool, we have used Census 2021 data to tell us the characteristics of the population by stock location. The census provides a picture of all people and households in England and Wales and using this data ensures the tool is as accurate and up-to-date as possible.

We have also adapted the wording of some questions to be in line with the latest census results and to ensure we’re asking them in a way which generates the best answers from respondents.

Questions that remain the same as the previous iteration of the EDI tool:

Questions that have changed for 2023:

  • Sex and gender are split so we have separate questions under each category.
  • The answer options under the Ethnicity category have been updated with the categories taken from Census 2021, and the question is now based on the harmonised standards.
  • The disability category has been updated and now consists of two questionswhich the Office for National Statistics has found prompts the most accurate response rate.
  • Questions in the categories of marital status and living arrangements, religion and sexual orientation have all been updated slightly in line with Census 2021.

Please see the Notes tab on the EDI data tool for further information about how we have designed each question and the data sources used for comparison with population by stock location.

We are continuously looking at the terminology we are using to ensure the tool is as inclusive as possible, whilst also enabling us to benchmark against existing data about the characteristics of the wider population. We welcome any feedback about how we could improve future tool iterations, please email research@housing.org.uk.

Why should we use it?

We know from the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Housing Association Staff in England insight review that “the starting point (for change) is data. We need to know where we are in order to know where we want to be and measure our progress”. The EDI tool has helped hundreds of housing associations to better understand their workforce diversity, and how representative they are of their local communities. This has enabled them to target change and work towards creating the most inclusive and diverse workforce possible.

By better understanding the diverse characteristics of the population in stock location and how our workforces compare to them, housing associations are forming a solid foundation for ensuring our leadership is diverse, and that our workplaces embrace equality.

Contributing your organisation's data to our sector-wide report also allows us to understand how the national picture is shifting over time and is a powerful commitment to increasing inclusivity.

Should we use the tool even if we’re a small organisation and are pretty sure we’re representative of our residents?

Yes, the tool may give you new insights that you previously weren’t aware of and will allow you to benchmark progress over time rather than rely on assumptions. Eventually, we would like to see as many housing associations as possible using the tool to develop a standardised sector-wide approach to the collection of EDI data.

We would also value as many organisations as possible, of all sizes, to share their data back with us to help us build an accurate picture of diversity across the housing association workforce and, in turn, our recommendations for the sector.

How will you use the information we provide?

The anonymous data you submit to us through the tool will be aggregated with other data submissions from members to build a national and regional picture of diversity across the housing association workforce. We will not be publishing data about individual housing associations.

Please note, we will not use data collected in the ‘Customer to workforce’ tab of the tool in our analysis, this part of the tool is for housing associations to use if you wish to compare the characteristics of your workforce to your customers, or your customers to the population.

Are there any data protection issues?

As the data controller, you must ensure data collection and processing complies with Data Protection regulations.

Our EDI tool is designed to prevent the submission to us of identifiable information and therefore the data is shared with us in an anonymous form. Data for each characteristic are aggregated within separate data tables to prevent re-identification of individuals.

However, we recommend consulting with your data protection lead to check the way you collect and share new data, or re-use existing data, is done in a compliant manner.  If there are any concerns with our EDI tool in this regard, then please contact us via research@housing.org.uk.

What are the data sources for the population and stock data?

The vast majority of data in the 2023 EDI Tool on the characteristics of the population is drawn from Census 2021.

Stock data is drawn from The Regulator of Social Housing Statistical Data Return (private registered provider stocks and rent in England), from the stock information by local authority table.

Further information about the data sources can be found on the Notes tab of the EDI tool.

The tool's data spans quite large geographical areas, are there any plans to collect the data at a more granular level?

As the NHF serves all housing associations in England, the lowest geography we can go to for a national tool (and still make it user friendly) is local authority. We do not currently have plans to release a tool at a lower geographical area. 

Section two: How to use the tool

How do I access the tool?

You can access the tool via our website: National Housing Federation - EDI data tool.

It is behind a member login - if your housing association is a member of the NHF then all you do is register with your work email and it will recognise you as belonging to a member organisation. You can then login and download the tool. As it is Excel, you can work on and save the spreadsheet offline.

How do I use the tool?

The tool contains notes explaining how to use it and where the data comes from. We have also produced a step-by-step guide to completing the tool, which can be accessed on the website.

You will need to make sure your stock data by local authority is correct (it is based on any Statistical Data Return to the Regulator of Social Housing, currently 2021/22) and input your workforce numbers by characteristic.

The tool allows you to record where you don’t know characteristics, or where staff have declined to provide this data.

When completing the tool:

  • Please add the actual numbers (rather than percentages) of your staff/executive/board, the percentages will be calculated automatically from the numbers you enter.
  • Make sure that all staff/executive/board numbers total the same across all characteristics. If you don’t know information, be sure to record as ‘Don’t know’ rather than leave it blank. Even if you have gaps in the data, this is still important to understand, which is why there is space for ‘don’t knows’ in all characteristics.
  • For the workforce by characteristic tab, please include your executive in your staff count, but exclude your board. Please pull out the separate figures for executive and board in the relevant tabs, where you can then compare them to staff.

How do I submit my data to NHF for sector-level analysis?

For the data collection exercise, as a minimum, we would like you to complete as many characteristics as possible for ‘workforce by characteristic’. We would also like you to complete as many characteristics as possible for ‘executive to staff by characteristic’ and ‘board to staff by characteristic’. These are important to complete as these show diversity within key decision-makers in the sector.

If you don’t hold data on certain characteristics, be sure to mark ‘Don’t know’ rather than leave it blank.

Please save your Excel file with your organisation’s name and send your completed data tool to admin.team@housing.org.uk by 5 June 2023.

Following our June deadline, the team will aggregate the data submitted to build a national and regional picture of diversity across the housing association workforce. After analysing the findings, we will launch the results at the National Housing Summit event on 11-12 September 2023.  

Please note that we will not publish any data linked to specific housing associations, findings will only be at a national or regional level.

What do we do if we don’t hold EDI data about our staff?

We’ve provided a list of questions for you to ask staff about their diverse characteristics, you can use this to collect the necessary data.

What do we do if we hold EDI data about our staff but not our board?

It’s important to have EDI data from your board members. The insight review showed us that diversity at board level is an important factor in creating an inclusive culture and shaping a more diverse workforce. We would encourage you, therefore, to collect this information in the same way you do with your staff.

Are intermediate or student accommodation excluded from the tool?

The tool only includes stock information from the Statistical Data Return for registered providers, as submitted to the Regulator of Social Housing. This does not include care home, market rent, or student accommodation. You can check your stock data within the tool and, if incorrect or not showing the complete picture, correct it within the stock tab of the tool (be sure to select 'No' in cell C4 of the 'Stock' tab when you do this). When it comes to deciding what stock to include when editing, we would suggest it should be any property that you either own or manage.

Do I still need to change the stock data if the data included within the tool is very close to our actual stock data?

We suggest that you add the correct stock data if there is more than a 5% difference between the number of homes reported by the SDR and the actual number of homes you have.

Is the information we submit for a particular period in time?

You can update the tool with your most recent workforce data and, as you can save and edit it offline, you can update as and when you require. We suggest that it would be useful to review on an annual basis, though you could review more regularly if you wish. The best practice is for Executive and board members to review diversity data at set intervals (at least annually) as part of their governance of diversity strategy or action plans.

Within the ethnicity section, is that all to be populated or just everything above the headline total area?

The ethnicity data is split by headline categories (White, Mixed/multiple ethnic groups, Asian/Asian British, Black/African/Caribbean/Black British, Other ethnic groups) and the more detailed categories within these headline totals. Therefore, please populate both.

Within the ethnicity section, is that all to be populated or just everything above the headline total area?

Within the ethnicity section, is that all to be populated or just everything above the headline total area?
The ethnicity data is split by headline categories (White, Mixed/multiple ethnic group, Asian/Asian British, Black/African/Caribbean/Black British, Other ethnic group) and the more detailed categories within these headline totals. Therefore, please populate both.

Should we be collecting data for occupants not named on a tenancy agreement?

We suggest the customer data should be any tenant on the tenancy contract, but if you would prefer to use any person living in the household then you can do so.

Whichever definition of customer you use when completing this spreadsheet, the most important way to accurately measure their characteristics is to be consistent with your definitions.

I need to collect EDI data from my staff and I'm worried they won’t want to give it to us. Are there any examples of how to share with staff what you are doing with their data to offer reassurance?

There will always be individuals who choose not to reveal their sensitive information under any circumstances and this is entirely their choice. However, if people are reluctant to share due to concerns that their data will be misused in any way, there are things that can reassure them. Make it very clear that sensitive data is never accessed to make any decision-making about them at work without their explicit consent (for example they may declare a disability to HR colleagues to access a reasonable adjustment). Information about specific individuals is never used during diversity analysis, only for groups of individuals.

Keep reassuring staff as to how their data will be used. Some organisations, for example, commit to regularly publishing all workforce and resident equality data and explain how the data provided has been used to improve our their organisational practices. Some are also running a series of focus groups with employees from protected groups, to better understand why they are reluctant to provide their equality information.

What is meant by ‘Staff’?

Staff includes all staff for which you have legal responsibility for hiring or who are in companies for which your organisation has direct management of (e.g. direct labour organisations). This includes full-time and part-time staff.

What is meant by ‘Executive’?

Your executive management team who take decisions for the organisation. They will likely hold responsibilities for setting the strategic direction and overseeing management of resources to ensure the organisational objectives are met.

Within most organisations, this would be their chief exec and directors of services (or similar), however, the exact roles that are included may differ between organisations of different sizes and structures.

If it is not clear which roles make up your executive team, it may be helpful to consider how you will be using use the information held within the EDI tool to explore mobility upwards through your organisational structure and where it would be helpful to make a comparison between those below or above a specific level of seniority.

Who should we include within our board figures?

Please include all members of your board, including any executive directors who sit on the board. This may mean that some people are captured in the ‘Board to staff’ tab as well as the ‘Executive to staff’ and ‘Workforce by characteristic’ tabs.

Can you use the workforce tab to monitor your percentage of customer data against the community, as opposed to the tab that measures customers and workforce?

You could use the workforce by characteristic tab to do this, but instead of inputting staff figures, you could input community customer data figures. You would then be comparing customer data to the characteristics of population in stock location.

Is there a dashboard for viewing the data and maybe for data entry? This could be helpful for staff with visual issues.

We do not plan to release a data dashboard, but encourage you to create this yourself using the tool. We have based the tool in Excel because we believe most housing associations will have access to this programme and will be able to use the tool in this way.

Section three: How to use the data collected to improve EDI within your organisation

How can the EDI tool help housing associations to set diversity targets where they fall short of reflecting the communities they are working in?

Understanding where your organisation is currently, particularly in relation to the communities it serves, will help inform plans for the future. As with any business area, targets for improvement need to be achievable and sustainable. It is most important to maintain a commitment to action: it can be easy to feel discouraged if the gap between aspiration and reality appears wide, but maintaining sustainable progress is possible.

The fact that the EDI tool will enable comparisons between the workforce and the diversity make-up of local communities will provide a useful mechanism to set targets. For example, where the ethnic diversity of a housing association’s workforce is 30% and the ethnic diversity of the community in which the housing association operates is 40% - it would be reasonable to set a target to increase the ethnic diversity of the workforce by 10%. It is important to set out a reasonable timeframe to increase the level of representation – i.e. by 2024, the ethnic diversity of the workforce will have reached 40%. The publication of the 2021 census data, early next year, will also enable more accurate comparisons between the make-up of a housing association’s workforce and local communities.

How can I use the results of the tool to improve a culture of inclusivity?

You can use this information to start, or continue, a conversation about diversity in your organisation. Sharing the results with senior decision makers, including your board, is often the first step taken by housing associations after using the tool. You should also consider opening this data out to colleagues across your organisation as well. This transparency can provide a greater sense of collective ownership of diversity issues across the organisation and demonstrate that the conversation is a safe one to hold.

When sharing results, apply appropriate protections to ensure there is no risk of individuals’ sensitive data being revealed (for example, by having at least ten individuals within any demographic grouping).

The NHF EDI tool is likely to improve the quality of equality data among participating housing associations and provide opportunities to share learning and good practice. Having better quality data is fundamental to improving a culture of inclusivity as it will enable organisations to identify gaps, where action needs to be taken and measure progress.

What would good engagement from executive and board members look like in this process?

For the EDI data tool to make an impact, it is important that board members are interested, inquisitive, and accountable for their organisational diversity strategy. With this in mind, the best practice is for executive and board members to review diversity data at set intervals (at least annually) as part of their governance of diversity strategy or action plans.

What’s the role of qualitative data in improving workplace EDI?

We encourage organisations to use the tool as a starting point to look at diversity within their organisation. While it is useful to start with numbers, it should be complemented by talking to your staff, understanding their experiences, and responding to them.

Further questions

If you have a question about the EDI data tool that we have not answered please get in touch and let us know by emailing research@housing.org.uk

Who to speak to

Joe Waters, Public Affairs Manager