Boosting Organizational Performance Through DEI Practices

photo of people near wooden table

Sabharwal, M. (2014). Is diversity management sufficient? Organizational inclusion to further performance. Public Personnel Management, 43(2), 197-217.

Incorporating Inclusion into Diversity Management

Many organizations are realizing the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Laws are put into place to ensure that there is representation and equal opportunity for all individuals to advance professionally. Even with laws in place to guide organizations, the way that top management implements DEI within their organization may determine the effectiveness. DEI goes beyond having a visually diverse organization. Organizational leaders must help create an environment of inclusion, which recognizes their employee’s full potential.

DEI People of Multiple Colors


Researcher Meghna Sabharwal (2014), seeks to answer two questions, (1) do managing diversity efforts improve performance? And (2) what inclusive behaviors should organizations exhibit to enhance performance? Sabharwal collected data from a survey of Texas public managers for this study. Participants were senior level employees, supervisors, and lower managers. Performance was measured by perceptions of employee’s overall quality and skill level. There were 198 participants 39.4% were male, 70.4% were White, non-Hispanic, close to one-third of the participants were from underrepresented groups. Now, you may be thinking, if I have DEI policies in place then shouldn’t that make my employees feel included? This article would argue that DEI policies are not enough to create an inclusive environment and diversity management is not enough to truly enhance workplace performance.

Diversity Management

Ivancevich and Gilbert (2000), define diversity management as β€œthe systematic and planned commitment by organizations to recruit, retain, reward, and promote a heterogeneous mix of employees”. Diversity management might include some of the following areas: mentoring programs, succession planning, family-friendly programs, alternative work arrangements, and so on. One of the issues that has come from some of these programs is the perception of preferential treatment or favoritism being shown towards those who utilize the resources. For example, some single mothers might be given work arrangements to balance their work to home life and because of that they are labeled as being on the β€œmommy-track” and therefore may be taken less seriously. The issue clearly is not the policy in place that gives working mothers the accommodations they need to have a job and raise a child, it is the organizational environment that is not inclusive of those who may require different arrangements. So, the first finding from the article is that diversity management is good but does not equal an inclusive organizational environment.

DEI People with Hands In Middle

Organizational Inclusion

What is organizational inclusion and what makes it different from diversity management? Gasorek (2000) described inclusion as the achievement of the following: β€œhow employees and their ideas are valued and utilized; how people partner within and across departments; how current employees feel that they belong and how prospective employees are attracted to the organization; how people feel connected to each other and to the organization and its goals; and finally, how the organization continuously fosters flexibility, choice, and diversity”. This suggests that there needs to be a shift in focus from an overreliance on policies and structural changes to creating an environment that promotes inclusiveness.

One of the most important steps to take when creating an inclusive environment is having leadership that is committed and supportive of the differences among their employees whatever they may be. Hiring a diverse workforce and saying β€œlook my organization is inclusive” is not going to give you the outcome you are looking for, in fact it could actually be counter-productive in some cases. Your employees have a lot to contribute and regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, background, sexual orientation, etc. organizations should seek to eliminate the barriers that are inhibiting their employees from reaching their full potential. For example, let’s say you go to the grocery store and buy a gallon of milk, but you pour out half because you only needed half a gallon. It’s a waste! Organizations could be wasting the valuable skills and unique experiences of their employees by not including their ideas and perspectives. Utilizing different perspectives could give your organization a competitive advantage and increase the quality of work output (Benedick et al., 2010; Miller, 1998).  The second finding of the article is that an inclusive organizational environment helps to boost employee performance.

With that finding comes the question, β€œhow do I create an inclusive environment?” Sabharwal found that much of the current literature suggests that an inclusive environment that boosts employee performance can be created in a few ways…

  1. Willingness to engage in positive interaction
  2. Building a vision and active strategy for inclusion
  3. Information sharing
  4. Recognition of employee contribution
  5. Creating a sense of belongingness among employees
  6. Open communication 

Putting Findings into Action

From the research, Sabharwal found that organizational performance is the most efficient when 1.) diversity management is coupled with support from leaders and 2.) when employees are empowered in making decisions. Additionally, it is important to note that although having policies that recognize and support individual differences in the workplace is important, it does not always lead to an inclusive organizational environment.  To create the most productive workforce, diversity management and an inclusive environment should be present. The leaders of the organization should create an environment that empowers its employees to contribute to the organization beyond their day-to-day tasks, to voice their opinions, share their ideas, and reach their full potential. 

Ready to take action? Here are some starting points.  

  1. Dedicated leadership is a must. For policies to be implemented and organizational cultures to change, top management has to be dedicated to making it a part of the organization. Your organization’s leadership are the role models, and they should be setting the example that everyone else is to follow. 
  2. Inclusive behaviors should reach all levels of the organization.

Inclusive behaviors can be demonstrated by leadership, but it does not stop there. Leaders should empower employees at all levels to demonstrate inclusive behaviors. 

  1. Employees should be empowered to create an inclusive environment.

Employees should be empowered to contribute to the culture of inclusivity. Encourage them to share their ideas on how the organization could better reach the goal of being inclusive. 

  1. Individuals should be a part of the decision-making process.

When employees get to have a say in decisions that affect their work and the organization that they work in, they feel valued, they feel heard, they feel respected, and they feel included. 

Author: Cassidy Jordan

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