A Climate for Inclusion & Diversity: Evidence that Being Inclusive Pays Off

Topic(s): diversity, gender, job attitudes, job performance
Publication: Academy of Management Journal (December, 2013)
Article: The Benefits of Climate for Inclusion for Gender-Diverse Groups
Authors: Lisa H. Nishii, Ph.D.
Reviewed by: Mary Alice Crowe-Taylor, Ph.D.

Question: What does being inclusive mean for organizations?

Answer: Less conflict, less turnover, and the ability to harness the benefits of workplace diversity.

THE BENEFITS OF INCLUSIVE ENVIRONMENTS

The big picture insight gleaned from Lisa H. Nishii’s study on “The Benefits of Climate for Inclusion for Gender-Diverse Groups” is that the advantages of gender diversity in work groups can be realized, and conflicts mitigated, in an inclusive environment.

In this research, inclusion means all employees are treated fairly, are valued and weigh in on core decisions. Also, there is a shared commitment to incorporating diverse cultural identities in order to harness a broad range of insights and proficiencies.

MEASURING CLIMATE FOR INCLUSION

Another question this study answers is, “How do you measure your organization’s climate for inclusion?” Until now, research has not been able to measure inclusive work climates, because a scale for comparison did not exist. This research presents and utilizes a valid and reliable scale created and tested by the author.

Specifically, Nishii’s scale measures three dimensions: fairness of employment practices, integration of differences, and inclusion in decision-making.

Items measuring Fairness of Employment Practices asked employees about the fairness of reviews, compensation, employee development and promotion. The dimension of Integration of Differences items asked about employees’ comfort level with “being themselves,” whether people’s differences were respected and appreciated, and if employees often shared and learned about each other as people. The third dimension, Inclusion in Decision-making, asked about whether employee input was sought, valued, and used to redefine work practices.

The author also reports on actual use of the scale. More than 1300 employees in 100 departments of a biomedical company completed the “Climate for Inclusion” scale, as well as answering questions regarding conflict and satisfaction in their departments. Department turnover was assessed 6 months later. Findings showed that the more inclusive work departments experienced less conflict between members, greater satisfaction, and less turnover.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Conflict and turnover tend to occur in diverse work groups for many reasons. The diversity is key to fueling insight and creativity, so reducing the conflict is vital for organizational health. Being able to measure your Climate for Inclusion is a leap towards solving the diversity-conflict relationship.

In terms of additional real world applications, the author points out that her research reinforces the notion that department managers play a key role in creating inclusive climates. The variation between different departments’ Climate for Inclusion scores showed that the department managers’ abilities to level expectations and set clear non-bias norms markedly effected relationship and task conflict in the work groups.