The changing face of diversity

The changing face of diversity

Joe Colihan

Kyle Lundby

| /dəˈvərsədē,dīˈvərsədē/ |  The state of being diverse; variety.  Diversity in the workplace refers to variety of backgrounds, experiences, thoughts, and styles in a workplace.

In June, in an article entitled “Diversity, inclusion, and engagement in the workplace,” Schulzetenberg & Colihan (2018) reviewed some research showing lower levels of job satisfaction and engagement among cultural minorities as related to majority groups.  There is some evidence for this disturbing trend (e.g., Hofhuis, Van Der Zee, & Otten, 2012).  As a possible direct consequence, voluntary attrition rates appear to be higher for minority groups as well.


While many U.S. businesses have made good progress in increasing diversity of their teams when it comes to gender and ethnicity, inclusion is a much tougher nut to crack.  Until your people feel a sense of belonging, their performance, commitment, and contributions to team effectiveness will be limited.  This theory of constrained performance has been found in educational and organizational settings.


For this reason, many initiatives focused on diversity have evolved to include inclusion.  At the 2018 SHRM Diversity & Inclusion conference in Atlanta, many lines of research were explored, including the power of inclusion to build team cohesiveness as well as the devastating consequences bad behavior and the secrecy around it that quickly becomes corrosive.  The recognition of these truths among a growing segment of the population was evident at Google recently, where employees all over the world staged a walkout in protest at the discovery of a hush payment to a former executive accused of sexual harassment (Leidke, 2018).  


The study of implicit biases, less than obvious operating stereotypes that can be seen in differences in reaction times to consonant and dissonant word pairs, holds great promise to improve the human condition.  Furthermore, interaction with ‘others’ and the exploration of otherness can help bring us closer to judgments based on character and actions rather than nonsense. 


Inclusion research has also crept into the job interview.  What for years seemed a logical effort, to hire those well suited to an existing corporate culture, is now under the microscope as a possible source of bias (Hennigan, M. & Evans, L., 2018).  Indeed, the idea of avoiding the mistake of hiring only those “similar to me” has been recognized, but trying to match personalities hired to corporate culture is still commonplace.  Nevertheless, the idea of hiring to add to your culture rather than simply to reinforce it is taking hold.  This is at the heart of inclusion, not propping up the old culture, but building toward a new one.


Recently, Mikel Marzofka hosted a fabulous MPPAW panel on Diversity & Inclusion with Doug Molitor, Kyle Lundby, and Andre Hennig (Molitor, Lundby, & Hennig, 2018).  Lundby presented the results of efforts to build community and belonging among culturally diverse university students.  Founded upon the understanding that individuals gravitate toward those who are perceived as similar, and that true understanding develops over time through deep and meaningful interaction, Dr. Lundby and his colleague Paula Caligiuri, Ph.D. have partnered with several universities to reduce students’ reliance on stereotypes and to promote an inclusive university community (Caligiuri, DuBois, Lundby, & Sinclair).  Key to the process is that students are paired up with culturally dissimilar partners.


Over several weeks, the students work with their partners (in and outside of class) on series of assignments.  Each of the assignments are specifically designed to promote a progressively deeper understanding of one-another.  So far, the results are promising.  Pre-post measures and anecdotal evidence (from students and faculty) indicate that the process promotes greater understanding, sense of community, and commitment to the institution.   


Sense of community = one of the pillars of wellness.


Whether the goal is to attract, retain and engage the very best talent, or to foster an innovative and creative sprit, organizations have long held the belief that workplace diversity is good for people and good for business.  More recently, understanding of the importance of belonging for performance and well-being has been established in educational and work settings, putting inclusion right in the heart of organizational health.




Caligiuri, P., DuBois, C., Lundby, K., & Sinclair, E. (in press). Fostering International-Domestic Student Integration Through an Intervention to Increase Cultural Agility. Journal of Comparative and International Higher Education


Hennigan, M. & Evans, L.  (2018).  Does Hiring For 'Culture Fit' Perpetuate Bias?

Two HR experts debate the issue.


Hofhuis, J., Van Der Zee, K. I., & Otten, S. (2012). Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal Comparing antecedents of voluntary job turnover among majority and minority employees. An International Journal European Journal of Training and Development Journal of Economic Studies, 33(6), 735–749.


Leidke, M.  (2018).  Google bows to worker pressure on sexual misconduct policy.


Molitor, D., Lundby, K., & Hennig, A.  (2018).  I-O and the World of Diversity and Inclusion.  Panel discussion hosted by Mikel Marzofka at the October meeting of Minnesota Professionals for Psychology Applied to Work.


Shulzetenberg, A. & Colihan, J.  (2018).  Diversity, inclusion, and engagement in the workplace.


Society for Human Resource Management.  (2018).  SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference & Exposition.  Atlanta, GA.