What can the Academy Learn from Workplace Research and Practices?
College and university educators may be able to profit from research on effective practices to increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Findings from employee surveys, pitfalls businesses have learned to avoid, and diversity management may be of great interest to educators.
- If diversity is well managed, it can enhance performance and the bottom line.
A report by Tudor (2006) focusing on how diversity affects team performance in the workplace is relevant to productivity and provides lessons on effective management of diversity initiatives. Using data gleaned from a five-year cumulative studies project (1998-2002) conducted at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Tudor notes that “. . . if diversity is well managed, it can enhance performance and the bottom line. If it is not well managed, it can be a drag on performance and adversely affect the bottom line.” (p. 2)
- Diversity, performance, and the bottom line are interconnected.
According to Tudor (2006), researchers examining DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity found that diversity, performance, and the bottom line are interconnected. She notes that
- The 43 publicly traded companies in this year’s  DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity had a 23.5 percent higher return than the S & P’s 500 when measured over a 10 year period.
- The companies that made it onto the DiversityInc Top 50 of 2005 are only 7% of all Fortune 500 companies, yet they generate 22% of the total gross revenue for all Fortune 500 companies. (p.10)
- Companies that manage diversity well use metrics to assess progress and have CEOs that demonstrate strong support (Tudor, 2006).
- Human Resource Managers would like to focus on the bottom line and away from affirmative action (Society for Human Resource Management, 2008).
- Businesses that are known for their inclusive environment have excellent human resource practices that support strong diversity initiatives.
RAND researchers Marquis, Lim, Scott, Harrell, & Kavanagh, (2008) analyzed strategies of 14 large U.S. companies known for their diversity management. The researchers compared the actual practices of eight successfully diverse companies ranked among Fortune magazine’s “50 Best Companies for Minorities” to best practices prevalent in diversity literature. They found that best practices alone may not lead to a high level of diversity. In order to benefit from diversity (e.g., increased job satisfaction, productivity), companies need an inclusive diversity program that is integrated into all areas of the business.
- Some research on business practices indicates that diversity training programs have been shown to have moderate results, at best.
In the first systematic analysis of businesses’ approaches to promoting diversity, Kalev, Dobbin, and Kelly (2006) found mixed outcomes. The researchers studied federal data of 708 private-sector businesses and survey data on their employment practices. They stress that “. . . even the programs that work best have modest effects, particularly for African-Americans who are poorly represented to begin with” (p. 39). The following are the practices studied and findings for each practice.
- Practices designed to moderate managerial bias through education and feedback were found to be the least effective of the three.
- Practices designed to establish organizational responsibility for diversity were the most effective of the three.
- Practices designed to reduce the social isolation of women and minority workers (i.e., mentoring and networking) were found to be moderately effective.
- Federal contractors who are subject to affirmative action statutes had stronger effects from some programs.
Kalev, Dobbin, and Kelly (2006) noted that diversity training and evaluations, networking, and mentoring showed more positive effects when businesses assigned responsibility for their outcomes. Furthermore, diversity training and programs are found be more effective when they are done voluntarily and when there are based on business goals other than those that are mandatory and negatives are stressed (e.g., lawsuits).