EEOC Executive Leadership Conference Wrap-Up
Last week Management Concepts facilitated a workshop on data visualization at the EEOC Executive Leadership Conference. It was great to see so much interest in the topic since organizations are faced with more data than we sometimes know what to do with. Because we process graphics much faster than text (60,000 times faster) , creating visuals to convey information in the data is critical to making the most of the data you have.
I wanted to share some key takeaways based on themes that resonated most in the workshop discussions.
- Make one key point per visual. Good data visuals help communication be clearer and more efficient. Limit yourself to one key point per chart—this makes your point obvious and avoids the risk of your message getting lost in the visual, which is what you’re trying to avoid by summarizing the data visually in the first place.
- Use the right chart type for the point you want to make. Different chart types effectively convey different messages. For example, if you want to compare two data sets, use a bar chart or bullet chart to show progress toward a goal or budget. For the EEO space, this could include progress toward placement of at-risk employee demographics, or progress toward grievance cases resolved.
- Use relevant metrics and be transparent. Metrics such as pay by gender and total charges are meaningful, but they’re always only part of the picture. Qualify what’s behind the metric and the context for the data. For example, EEOC publishes litigation and charge counts. Observing that charge and litigation count in a particular category has decreased or increased is only part of the picture. Workforce growth or culture factors can shape whether problems are more or less likely to occur, so be sure to explain the narrative around the data.
- Be tuned in to the audience’s expectations and manage appropriately. The objective of using visuals is to communicate data effectively, so if your audience is expecting to see the data in a specific format or chart type, don’t stray too far from that even if you’re trying to improve the accuracy or effectiveness of the chart. The best chart is the one your audience understands, so it’s a chart used in a regularly released report, for example, consider modifying an existing charts rather than wholesale replacing them with a new one that may fall short of expectations.
- Use colors with reserve. Your agency may have a color palette typically used in formal presentations or reports, but this doesn’t mean you have to use it in your charts. Most of the time, the chart elements and axes sufficiently communicate the quantitative information, and black or gray ink is sufficient. Colors can convey qualitative distinctions but aren’t precise for conveying quantitative information. They also can have unintended meaning—red, for example, is often interpreted as negative; yellow, as requiring caution.