Matthew Urwin | Feb 23, 2023

Diversity management is a blueprint for building a diverse organization that takes steps to attract people from different backgrounds and implement inclusive policies.

Putting a game plan for managing diversity into practice largely depends on managers and their willingness to boost diversity. In addition to managers, the CEO and HR department are key players who can impact diversity at a company.


What Is Diversity Management?

While a diverse management team is a group of diverse individuals leading an organization, diversity management, or managing diversity, is another thing entirely. It is a term describing the act of building and managing a diverse team.

Successful diversity management comes with upsides: In recent years, companies with more diverse executive teams have outperformed ones that lack gender and ethnic diversity.

Diversity Management Definition

Diversity management describes an organization’s deliberate effort to plan and implement changes to its systems and practices of managing people, so that the potential benefits of diversity are fully realized.

Because diversity management is enforced from the top down, diverse leadership teams are crucial for fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace. These employees may better display the leadership skills — such as empathy and an inclusive mindset — needed to design policies that speak to more diverse candidates and accommodate their unique circumstances. With diverse leaders guiding DEI efforts, a company can transform its culture at every level and establish diversity and inclusion as essential to its identity.


Why Is Diversity Management Important?

Diversity management can develop a company culture where employees feel more engaged and have the resources to advocate for themselves. This improves the overall employee experience

Effective diversity management can also enhance productivityretention, job satisfaction, recruitment and hiring. One report from As You Sow shows that there’s a correlation between financial returns and management teams that have Black, Indigenous and people of color on them.

A company’s track record with diversity could also impact its ability to recruit and retain talent. A Glassdoor survey from 2020 revealed three-fourths of employees and job seekers identified diversity as an important factor when considering job offers and potential employers.

To set themselves up for success in the long run, companies must take concrete steps to cater to a more diverse workforce.


Free Guide: Racial Equality in the Workplace

DEI experts offer solutions to create a radically inclusive workplace.


Types of Diversity Management

Some companies have hired diversity and inclusion coordinators or chief diversity officers to prioritize and drive DEI action plans, which includes helping leaders manage diversity.

Other companies try to manage diversity efforts by creating a volunteer DEI committee with several employees from across the company. A committee has the benefit of brainstorming ideas from several different diverse minds rather than expecting one professional to know everything DEI-related. 

Here are some diversity management approaches that can be used to foster an inclusive workplace for everyone.


1. Intranational Diversity Management

Intranational diversity management involves managing a workforce within a single national entity, including both citizens and non-citizens who have migrated into the country. 

To bolster intranational diversity, companies can recruit people of color and members of other marginalized groups. Visiting places like historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) is a great way to find potential candidates within underrepresented groups.      


2. Cross-National Diversity Management

Cross-national — or international — diversity management refers to managing a workforce that contains citizens from different countries. While this can include migrants seeking work within a country, a common example of cross-national diversity is an international company with branches in multiple countries.   

This scenario could become more complex as remote work enables employees to work across a broader geographic range. Companies that foster cross-national diversity must remain up-to-date on the laws of the countries in which their employees reside.

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How to Implement Diversity Management Strategies

Attracting and recruiting diverse candidates is a core part of building a diverse team. Review your recruitment marketing materials and consider which candidate personas you are targeting with your careers page, job boards, social media recruiting efforts and other recruitment platforms. Make sure you’re resisting the urge to overemphasize culture fit, which can allow unconscious biases to run rampant within your recruiting process.

Diversity Management Steps

  • Appoint a leader for your DEI strategy
  • Collect diversity data
  • Create job listings that encourage diverse applicants
  • Pair new hires with mentors
  • Provide a list of available employee resource groups (ERGs)
  • Proactively approach diverse candidates for leadership training sessions
  • Build a diverse leadership team
  • Prioritize inclusion programming
  • Implement diversity and inclusion training

From a legal standpoint, you should also establish clear non-discrimination, zero-tolerance and non-harassment policies and enforce them so your employees feel safe and are comfortable speaking out at work. The bottom line is, if your employees don’t feel included, or worse are harassed at work, they won’t stay with your company.

Below are a few more initiatives you can follow to form the foundation for a more diverse and inclusive work culture.


Seek Out Diverse Leaders

Managing diversity begins with appointing a diversity leadership team that will be responsible and accountable for ensuring a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy is created and executed across all departments.

This first step is crucial because diverse leaders may find it easier to mentor diverse talent. They may also have a better understanding of the challenges and issues less senior employees face and are more likely to support a diverse culture that welcomes people of different backgrounds.

Yelp is an example of the cultural shift that results from taking extra steps to attract a diverse workforce. Previously, Yelp’s sales organization looked for applicants for its management development program by asking folks to raise their hands if they met the minimum threshold for sales production and tenure.

“There are many reasons qualified people don’t put themselves forward, and often those who weren’t tended to be women and, or, people of color,” Miriam Warren, Yelp’s chief diversity officer, said.

Yelp now sends a letter to all who have met the minimum thresholds and asks if they would like to apply for the management development program. Additionally, Yelp’s sales leaders reach out to those who qualify but haven’t applied and encourage them to take the next step.

“This small tweak changed the leadership bench almost immediately,” Warren said. “This program serves as a pipeline from salesforce to management. Given that the sales department represents at least half of our workforce, this was an opportunity to have a real, wide-ranging impact, and the results are starting to show,” Warren explained.


Make Diversity and Inclusion a Company-Wide Objective

Consider that Yelp created a diversity task force to prioritize and address systemic changes needed across the company. Enlisting the entire company to make DEI a company-wide priority has been the greatest success at Yelp in managing diversity, said Warren.

“From individual contributor training to our ‘Continuing the Conversation’ series for senior leaders and their direct reports, employees at Yelp, regardless of their title or tenure, can see in big and small ways our commitment to the work,” Warren said. “It shows up not only in training and recruiting, but also in the vendors whose products we send in our employee care packages, the speakers we invite to present, the way we celebrate and amplify local business owners through community events, the language we use, and the way we treat one another.”

Some of the task force’s initiatives include recognizing the company needed to address offensive clients and prospective clients who use racially charged or other abusive language in their communications with Yelp employees. The task force also reevaluated its diversity training program and concluded it had more work to do. As a result, it introduced a mandatory, company-wide training program on systemic racism and institutional bias, Warren said.


Create Diversity Management Trainings and Resources

Enforcing diverse and inclusive practices is bound to fail if leadership and employees don’t have a strong grasp of what DEI means. To remedy this issue, companies should hold mandatory DEI training sessions for all employees. Topics to cover include uprooting unconscious biases, supporting Black employees, addressing barriers like the glass ceiling and sharing strategies for combating other forms of discrimination like ageism

While a DEI team can coordinate trainings and learning events, they may not be the most qualified when it comes to teaching DEI best practices. Collaborating with a third-party DEI specialist gives more credibility to events and ensures company leaders aren’t simply interpreting diversity and inclusion in a way that’s convenient for them. 

In fact, company leaders should be part of the audience listening to a DEI expert. Making sure top executive leaders are in attendance may encourage the rest of the workforce to take these learning sessions more seriously.


Establish Diversity and Inclusion Goals and Metrics

It’s important to look at your current metrics and then set goals based on the areas your team needs improvement. There are a number of different diversity metrics you can track, but these are some of the most pressing questions to consider:

  • Does your company represent the diverse population at large?
  • How diverse are each of your teams and departments?
  • How diverse is your applicant pool?
  • How diverse are the candidates you actually hire?
  • Are the promotions you dole out going to a diverse pool?
  • What is your retention rate with diverse employees?
  • Is there a pay gap between white employees and diverse employees holding the same job?


Evaluate Your Diversity Management Program 

One way to measure the success of a diversity management program is to hold your company accountable to the quantifiable goals you’ve set. Perhaps you have a goal of increasing the number of women and people of color in your company by a certain percentage within two years. Or maybe you plan to establish more equitable pay practices to ensure all employees are fairly compensated for the work they do. 

But determining the success of a diversity management program goes beyond hitting quotas and target numbers. Leaders and managers should share frequent surveys soliciting feedback and advice from employees. If employees complain about specific practices or express negative feelings, then the DEI team still has much work to do. 

Achieving numerical goals means nothing if diverse employees feel unwelcome or unsupported in their work environment. Prioritizing the well-being of all employees is key to creating a diversity management program that allows employees across a range of backgrounds to flourish at your company.


Diversity Management Best Practices

Prioritize an Inclusive Work Environment

According to Warren, some people don’t quite understand that diverse populations need diverse solutions — it’s not one size fits all.

“What’s often overlooked is that we all have intersectional identities,” Warren said. “Approaching the work with an intersectional lens allows us the opportunity to connect more broadly and deeply and gives us a much better shot at belonging for everyone.”

To help your team better understand one another’s differences, implement regular diversity and sensitivity training programs. You can do this by researching diversity and inclusion experts in your area to provide consultations, or they may even conduct the training themselves.

It’s important to note that training should not be a one-off activity. You must have regular training and education programming around diversity and inclusion to ensure your team is always informed on the latest DEI topics. This will also ensure all of your new hires are brought up to speed no matter when they join your company.

Further ReadingHow to Become an Inclusive Leader: A Step-by-Step Approach


Manage Diversity Through Recruitment

Consider reaching out to diverse audiences through career fairs at universities with a high percentage of BIPOC students. Also arrange to have employees teach a class or serve as a speaker at these universities, so a rapport can be established with the students for future internships and hiring.

Offer higher incentives for employee referrals of diverse talent than the usual rate for your employee referral program. Also check your careers page to ensure it highlights any diversity initiatives that make your team stand out from others.


Avoid Common Diversity Management Mistakes

A common mistake is using your diversity numbers as the sole metric to gauge the success of your diversity efforts, Warren said.

“Numbers matter, and are one way to assess progress. Other important ways include engagement, sense of belonging, multi-dimensional representation and buy in,” she added.

According to Warren, other common mistakes include focusing on the goal, rather than the steps it takes to reach the goal, and failing to realize that every solution does not have to scale.


Free Guide: Racial Equality in the Workplace

DEI experts offer solutions to create a radically inclusive workplace.

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