2018 Update: Overview of D&I Research

From practice research to the in-depth evaluation of scientific studies: the bandwidth of explorations in the D&I field is remarkable. Content analyses and evidence-based models (D&I value-chain, unconscious biases) provide particularly robust insight to understand what help to both move the needle and generate benefits.

Conducting research into D&I and evaluating existing studies from leading institutions from around the world – the combination of primary and secondary research ensures to generate a healthy and relevant mix of insights. The European Diversity Research Compendium has just been updated with two new studies that were completed in 2017: A pan-European comparative study of D&I practices in Europe and the latest content analysis of 75 European Blue-Chips including country and industry-specific analyses. An update of our evidence-based model for unconscious biases is forthcoming.

3 different types 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 well-grounded, robust and enduring. We hence added a second category of studies, which were less dependent on personal 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 has since evaluated hundreds of studies about the added value of (well-managed) Diversity.

2018 update: primary practice research

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: From the cornerstones of Diversity Management (breadth of the topic, expected benefits, programme designs, barriers) to topic foci (e.g. Work/Life Balance) and innovative aspects (e.g. organisation of D&I or innovation in D&I). This research approach allows us to identify long-term trends in D&I in an unparalleled way. In 2016-2017, another unique study was added to this category: A pan-European comparative analysis of D&I within and across country clusters.

2018 update: D&I in corporate communication

While Diversity Management used to have an internal (workforce and workplace) focus ‘by default’, it quickly became obvious that organisations want to turn their internal successes into external benefits. In order to achieve this, they started to communicate their commitment, activities or achievements and/or to extend D&I to customer-related (marketing or advertisement). Both is covered by dedicated research approaches: One that analyses marketing activities as they relate to diversity and one that focuses on how blue chip companies communicate diversity in their corporate reports. The latest content analysis, published in 2017, provided a new quality of insight into country and industry differences as a as a holistic view on 75 top companies from across Europe.

Evidence on the business case for D&I

Applying 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.

2018 update forthcoming: research-based D&I models

In the practice arena, research can and should be used to help improve the effectiveness of D&I strategies. Our model describing D&I as a value-creation process is outstandingly well-perceived with business leaders: The Propelling Performance Principle. Other models describe gender diversity and related dynamics or the dynamics of different types of Unconscious Biases. The latter has received particular attention as it explains unwanted effects of biases in the D&I area and allows to design specific ways to mitigate these. An update of this model – through the integration of latest research findings – is upcoming in 2018.


To receive your free copy of our 2018 compendium of D&I research, email us at office@european-diversity.com