Why Diversity Messaging Matters

Diversity can be a very valuable thing.

Organizations with more diverse employees tend to be more successful. They hold greater market share. They have more customers, more sales, and higher profits.

 

Executives realize this.

  • 95% believe that a more diverse workforce will make their company more innovative
  • 84% say that problems with diversity lead to employee turnover
  • 72% are consciously focused on creating a culture of diversity and inclusion

 

But what impact do different diversity programs actually have?

Should we focus on how everyone is equal? Should we acknowledge and celebrate differences?

New research shows us how the results can be, well, diverse.

Why messaging matters

The effectiveness of any program depends on how effectively its intentions are communicated.

Employee engagement, productivity, and loyalty don’t automatically improve just because a program is in place.

Positive changes only happen when employees think that a program will be effective and beneficial.

 

What do diverse employees want to hear?

A recent series of studies found that different types of messaging can have very different effects.

 

Equality and fairness

Employees that are farther in the minority (they make up a small percentage of the organization) are most concerned with equality and fairness. That’s what they want to hear about.

 

Celebrating differences

Employees that are at least moderately represented (they make up a more substantial percentage of the organization) are most concerned with acknowledgment and celebration of differences. That’s what they want to hear about.

 

In the context of many organizations today, members of racial and ethnic minority groups tend to be father in the minority, whereas women (particularly white women) are at least moderately represented.

  • Members of racial and ethnic minority groups tend to be more concerned with equality and fairness.
  • Women tend to be more concerned with acknowledgment and celebration of differences.

 

The researchers tested 2 types of diversity messaging to see what would happen.

  • The diversity program focused on equality and fairness improved job performance, but only among members of racial and ethnic minority groups.
  • The diversity program focused on celebrating differences improved job performance, but only for non-minority women.

 

Then the researchers looked at diversity messaging in 151 major US law firms, and compared to job turnover over time.

  • The firms with messaging focused on equality and fairness had lower turnover, but only among members of racial and ethnic minority groups.
  • The firms with messaging focused on celebrating differences had lower turnover, but only among non-minority women.

 

Diversity can be valuable, but there is no 1-size-fits-all solution.

You need to find out what your employees really want. Perhaps it’s time to start asking.

 

 

 

Image credits: David Lofink, Tsahi Levent-Levi

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