Articles by Joyce Binder

How do we create diversity?

One Jakarta Post article by M. Taufiqurrahman, presented a clever perception of multiculturalism in Switzerland: "While many countries are stubbornly monocultural and others only turned multicultural recently, Switzerland has throughout its modern history been a melting pot of different cultures.  Traveling through some of the major cities in the country (…) you can see that multiculturalism is truly in the nation’s DNA." In order to support multiculturalism and increase innovation in local and international organisations, diversity management is at the heart of human resources priorities in Switzerland.

According to Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev, companies with more than a hundred employees should upgrade their diversity management system in order to maintain and innovate. The researchers analysed three decades of data from more than eight hundred US Firms and interviewed several line managers and executives. They stated that diversity has started as a mandatory controlling system, implemented in organisations as Diversity Programmes that backfire:

  • Mandatory diversity training intended to reduce bias on the job, which in the end increase anger and resistance;
  • Job tests and performance ratings  that appear to increase instead of limiting bias in recruitment and promotions;
  • Grievance systems that are created to give employees a channel to challenge managers, and in many cases are not very effective.

In their findings, Dobbin and Kalev argued that, “…this kind of force-feeding can activate bias rather than stamp it out.  As social scientists have found, people often rebel against rules to assert their autonomy.” They have discovered that better outcomes are obtained when fewer control tactics are implemented. At first, to be more effective (generate more equality on the job and increase remuneration and innovation) companies should organize college recruitment initiatives and mentoring programs targeting women and minorities.

Secondly, they should increase their on-the-job contact with all groups (women & minorities) within self-managed teams and by rotating management trainees through departments (cross-training). At last, they can promote social accountability by creating diversity task forces and appointing diversity managers who promote inclusive hiring and unbiased promotions.

As a conclusion, these six diversity programmes appear to be more effective to promote sustainable diversity than the previous controlling systems:

  • Recruitment initiatives
  • Mentoring programs
  • Self-managed teams
  • Cross-training
  • Diversity task forces
  • Diversity managers

Inclusion, human innovation and equality need to be constantly reviewed and reinvented as dynamic processes.  In doing so, they are promoted and continuously generated, enhancing engagement and satisfaction in a more diverse workplace.

Learn more about this topic in the Innoversity conference (link)



Dobbin, F. and Kalev, A. (2016), Why Diversity Programs Fail, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2016 Issue (pp. 52-60) []

Groschl, S. (ed.) 2011, Diversity in the Workplace: Multi-disciplinary and International Perspectives, Gower Publishing Company: Surrey-UK.

Lynch, Frederick R. 2002, The Diversity Machine: The Drive to Change the "White Male Workplace", Transactions Publishers: New Brunswick-New Jersey-USA.





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