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Diversity management in the workplace

January 09, 2023
Diverse workers listening to a black businesswoman discussing strategy at meeting.

Diversity is a hugely important topic within contemporary work culture. Whether an organization has a goal of increasing workforce diversity through different hiring practices, or individual employees are pushing for greater inclusion of different identities in day-to-day practices, the best managers of today's workplaces will be familiar with all aspects of creating a diverse workplace.

Professionals working in diversity management are responsible for guiding corporate culture in an appropriate direction to help all workers feel comfortable despite their differences. The end result being not only moral and ethical validation but happier workers who will likely produce better outcomes.

Defining workplace diversity

Diversity is an incredibly broad term that takes on many meanings depending on the context. Diversity encompasses race, gender, age, sexual orientation, education, hierarchical rank, job function and personality– to name just a few of the identifiers that come into play specifically within the workplace. To achieve workplace diversity, all members of the organization must be committed to better understanding not only how they are perceived by retaining these identifying traits but also how others perceive them and the different influences that can affect their interactions. When it comes to diversity management as a concept, the following definition from "Managing Workplace Diversity: Issues and Challenges" illustrates the idea thoroughly:

Diversity is a set of conscious practices that involve understanding and appreciating interdependence of humanity, cultures, and the natural environment; practicing mutual respect for qualities and experiences that are different from our own; understanding that diversity includes not only ways of being but also ways of knowing; recognizing that personal, cultural, and institutionalized discrimination creates and sustains privileges for some while creating and sustaining disadvantages for others; and building alliances across differences so that we can work together to eradicate all forms of discrimination.1

What's important to understand is that organizational diversity is about collaboration and necessitates investment from more than just the person or team tasked with "managing diversity." While this article will suggest tactics for diversity management, producing a satisfactorily diverse environment relies within the responsibility of all team members.

Tips and strategies for leading diversity management in the workplace

  • Accept diversity as a long-term project. Just like individual people don't change overnight, fostering cultural diversity and making organizational changes will take time. There's also not one recipe to follow to produce the results you want or one sensitivity training you can take to become an expert. Embrace the fact that diversity management is a long-haul commitment that requires iterations and sometimes even making mistakes.
  • Get buy-in from the top. For effective diversity management you sometimes need to "manage up." In other words, you need to make sure the leaders across your organization from managers up to executives, understand the goals of diversity management programs. You'll also need to equip these leaders with tools and techniques to practice and embrace diversity within their spheres of influence. Consider creating easy reference materials for how to conduct blind interviews, how to identify their own cultural biases and how to help do their part to create an inclusive workplace.
  • Fight systemic inequality in existing policies. While at this point it's become relatively easy to find examples of inclusive practices for things like hiring diverse talent, you likely won't be able to simply replace your current policy with a new one. Take a considerate look at the policies that exist at your organization where inequity often starts like hiring, setting salaries, evaluating for promotions and even enacting disciplinary measures. Think about the small changes you can make over time to improve them and try to pinpoint the thinking behind them (or blind spots) that lead to their creation.
  • Solicit feedback and take it seriously. One of the biggest issues with employee surveys is that leadership doesn't use their findings to make changes. When it comes to fostering a diverse work environment, the more perspectives you can learn from, the better your policies could be. Similarly, it's important to think about whether you can avoid diversity programs that rely on extensive effort by employees with other responsibilities– especially if the recommendations aren't taken seriously.

Benefits of a diverse workplace

If innovation, profits and engagement are important to your organization, you'll definitely want to invest in building a diverse workforce.

  • Increased creativity has often been attributed to diverse teams because of the range of perspectives and experiences that lend to more out-of-the-box thinking. To backup this thinking, in 2017 Boston Consulting Group found that diversity was a key driver of innovation. They discovered that companies with above average total diversity were able to develop products that better adapted to customer needs, generating 19% more innovation revenue.2
  • Another study found that companies with a more diverse range of board members (more than 30% of board seats held by women or non-white directors, measured separately) saw higher profits than those with a less diverse board of directors.2
  • Drilling down into specifics: gender diversity and racially and ethnically-diverse groups are found to be improve financial performance with studies finding them to be between 20 and 35% more profitable.2
  • A diverse workforce can help increase engagement, especially for those workers who cite diversity as a top value such as millennials. Half of U.S. employees say they want their company to invest more toward diversity and inclusion efforts.2
  • Interested in attracting top talent? In a Glassdoor survey, 76% of job seekers and employees polled said a diverse workforce was an important consideration when evaluating companies and 44% of women say they've decided against pursuing or accepting a job position due to their belief that the organization wouldn't be inclusive.2

Learn how to effectively manage diversity

Marquette University is focused on creating poised and principled leaders that will help build a better future. The online Master in Management program illustrates this mission with its focus on development of skills meant to shape students into mindful leaders of the most important part of every business: the people. Take courses in diversity and inclusion in global organizations, leading people and change, organizational behavior, concepts for ethical business practice and more. If you're eager to take on diversity management as a part of your career, apply now or schedule a call with an Admissions Advisor to learn more about the program.