15 Years of Research and Evidence-based D&I

Hard or soft facts? Snapshot or long-term trends? Which type of information are you using in your D&I work? What counts in social media and at conferences (cool images, crisp cases, or surprising figures) might not be what helps you to take the most effective decisions. Take a look at our summary of our 20 research projects.

Different forms and phases of D&I research

When Diversity Management started to develop in Europe (in the mid-1990s), it was clearly a necessity to do explorative research. Hence, as pioneers, it was a natural activity for us to launch our practice research series. Later, research became a vehicle for us to make our work grounded, robust and enduring. Therefore, we added a second category of studies, which were less dependent on personal opinion or perspective. This led to our content analysis research series which focused on different areas of Corporate Communication.

Finally, we saw a need to integrate the larger body of research from around the globe. Our secondary research into the business case for Diversity evaluated the existing evidence about the added value of (well-managed) Diversity.

Primary Research: Practice Surveys

Our primary research into D&I business practices started as an initial analysis of how companies in Europe defined and approached diversity. It then evolved into a series of studies, from general to specific: In the beginning, we focused on the cornerstones of Diversity Management (breadth of the topic, expected benefits, programme designs, barriers). Later, we looked into more specific elements (e.g. Work/Life Balance) before we identified new aspects that were not covered before (e.g. the organisation of Diversity Management and Innovation in D&I). With this survey approach, we were able to identify current perspectives as well as trends in D&I at all times. However, the nature of the data (anecdotal, perceptional, opinion-type) did not allow us to derive robust insights. We therefore added a second, more robust type of research.

Primary research: Content Analyses of Corporate Communication

While Diversity Management had a default internal (workforce and policy) focus, it was also obvious that organisations would want to turn their D&I work into benefits by communicating their commitment, activities or achievements and/or by extending their Diversity management to customer-related areas such as marketing or advertisement. This was the guiding idea for two types of research projects we launched: One that analysed marketing activities as they relate to diversity in the marketplace or the labour market. The second category focused on how blue chip companies communicated diversity in their corporate reports.

Over the years, an increasing body of research was produced by more and more academic and non-academic institutions. At the same time, the need to be more specific about the business case for D&I, led to our third research category. We combined the two trends and created a new research segment.

Secondary research: (International) Business Case Reports

With a meta-study design, the Business Case Report series accumulates the findings from empirical studies from around the world. Our unique approach was based on the idea to include a check on validity and reliability, so that only robust studies were included in the reports while surveys were excluded. Hence, most studies presented in the IBCR are based on data analysis or scientific experiments. However, due to the mostly academic nature of this type of research, the studies have a strong focus on specific aspects while they will typically not provide an overall evaluation of the business case for D&I. Therefore, we included additional macro-economic studies which provide an indication that positive effects actually accumulate on higher levels or in larger systems.

To best of our knowledge, our IBCR series is the only one of its type anywhere in the world.

Over 20 years of specialised work in D&I, all of which was innovative, international and based on evidence, we wanted to make sure that the insights would get applied in the practical work of international organisations. Hence, where and when it made sense, we created models to consolidate insight and make it applicable at the same time.

Research-based D&I models

In the practice arena, research can and should be used to help improve D&I strategies and their implementation. Our first model has become famous for its outstanding value in working with business leaders: The Propelling Performance Principle. Other models describe gender diversity and related dynamics or Unconscious Biases. The latter shows the areas, interdependencies and levels where biases create unwanted effects related to Diversity. We also have developed models for the strategic implementation of Diversity and for Diversity-related change. These models are also presented in the book “Diversity & Inclusion”, by Michael Stuber, which is already in its third (revised and updated) edition.

Continuous development

In all of the areas, the topic of D&I continues to change and develop. This is both reflected by our regular analysis (including Corporate Reporting and Business Case research) as well as in the new topics that we cover with our studies. We are looking forward to exploring new areas with new partners. While we are committed to innovation and hence constantly looking for new perspectives to take, we also see the value in applying recurring research methodologies in order to track changes over time.


To receive your free copy of our overview of 15 years of D&I research, simply send us an email: office@european-diversity.com