The promise of diversity management for climate of inclusion: A state-of-the-art review and meta-analysis

Some studies link a diverse workforce to positive individual, team and organisational outcomes, others fail to paint such a rosy picture. What distinguishes between the two? 

Put simply – is diversity, without inclusion, enough?

In seeking to answer this question, recent research conducted by Professor Michàlle E. Mor Barak and associates from the University of Southern California focused on exploring the connections between organisational diversity efforts (diversity management and an inclusive culture) and individual work-related outcomes for employees (such as job satisfaction, commitment to the organisation and retention) for human service organisations specifically.

Ultimately it was found that, although diversity alone is associated with both beneficial and detrimental outcomes, diversity management efforts that promote a climate of inclusion are consistently associated with positive outcomes. Increasing diversity within the workforce is essential, but insufficient for creating inclusive organisations.


This study aimed to explore the relationships between diversity characteristics (both visible abd invisible) and individual, work-related outcomes and examine the relationship between diversity management efforts that create a climate for inclusion and organisational outcomes.


The research team performed its study by using a set of criteria to identify articles related to diversity in the human services field. In total, 30 studies published in the last 20 years were selected, which amounted to a sample of 496,740 workers in human service organisations. The researchers then applied a theory-based, conceptual model to analyse the data and identify the findings outlined below.

Visible diversity characteristics included gender, race and age, while deep level diversity characteristics included education and tenure.


The findings of the research were categorised into two groups: (1) relationships between diversity characteristics and work related outcomes, and the; (2) relationshipbetween the perception of diversity management efforts and work-related outcomes.

Relationships between diversity characteristics and work related outcomes

Overall, the findings concerning the relationships between various diversity characteristics and work-related outcomes were mixed, including:

  • Men and younger employees were less likely to report beneficial work outcomes (note: in human service organisations men are more likely to be under-represented except of the most senior levels, hence this is unlikely to be a generalisable finding across non- human service organisations)
  • Employees with less education were more likely to report beneficial work outcomes
  • Employees with less job tenure were less likely to report beneficial work outcomes

Relationship between the perception of organisational diversity efforts and work-related outcomes

In contrast to the findings on diversity characteristics, the results concerning the relationship between the perception of organisational diversity efforts and work-related outcomes were conclusive: increasing diversity within the workforce is essential, but insufficient for creating inclusive organisations.

Specifically, the research found that perceptions of organisational diversity efforts were positively related to beneficial outcomes and negatively related to detrimental outcomes. Based on nine correlations derived from six qualified studies, the average correlation between perceptions of organisational diversity efforts and positive work outcomes was .42, indicating a positive relationship.

This suggests that if an employee perceived that their organisation was building a climate of inclusion and active in diversity management, then they would experience better work outcomes.


Reflecting on their findings, the researchers suggested that there were three key, practical implications for management practitioners:

  1. Management for inclusion is a dynamic and cyclical two-step process: The first step is to hire a more diverse talent pool. The second is more proactive and involves the creation and implementation of policies and procedures that promote diversity and ensure that all individuals feel included and valued.
  2. Assessment for a climate of inclusion is essential to initial diagnosis and indicators of progress: There are several measures of diversity and inclusion that have been used in research and by practitioners (see, for example: Mor Barak, 2014; Mor Barak et al., 1998 Nishii, 2013; Roberson, 2006). These measures can be effective tools to provide an initial baseline for how inclusive the organisation is and can inform steps on how to improve.
  3. Diversity management and inclusion is important area for individuals at all levels of the organisation to focus on: From Board members to management and employees, involvement across the organisation will influence the perception of organisational diversity efforts and which may influence the likelihood that employees will experience better work outcomes.

While this study is limited to human services organisations, the overarching message is clear and provides learnings for management across all industries: diversity without inclusion is not enough. Creating an environment where all employees belong and feel valued for who they are is critical to achieving the benefits associated with diversity.

For more information about this article contact Andrew Vitaliti.  To read this article go to Michàlle E. Mor Barak, Erica Leeanne Lizano, Ahraemi Kim, Lei Duan, Min-Kyoung Rhee, Hsin-Yi Hsiao & Kimberly C. Brimhall (2016) “The Promise of Diversity Management for Climate of Inclusion: A State-of-the-Art Review and Meta-Analysis”, Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance, 40:4, 305-333,


Mor Barak, M. E. (2014) Managing diversity: Toward a globally inclusive workplace (3rd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA:

Mor Barak, M. E., Cherin, D. A., & Berkman, S. (1998) Organisational and personal dimensions in diversity climate:
Ethnic and gender differences in employee perceptions. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 34, 82–104.

Nishii, L. H. (2013) The benefits of climate for inclusion for gender diverse groups. Academy of Management Journal, 56, 1754–1774

Roberson, Q. M. (2006). Disentangling the meanings of diversity and inclusion in organizations. Group & Organisation Management, 31, 212–236.

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