How to develop a D&I management strategy


D&I management should enable executives and employees alike

Successful implementation of the D&I strategy requires an inclusive and competent leadership style. In addition to training and mentoring programs, issue-specific networks and gamification elements such as competitions (e.g., D&I awards) can encourage employees to actively participate in D&I management. Empathic interpersonal communication, active listening, and the judicious use of humor may persuade skeptics of the benefits of D&I initiatives.


Map - Hintergrundbild

Enabling executives:


  • Successful implementation of the D&I strategy requires an inclusive and competent leadership style.

  • As not all managers have all the necessary characteristics, D&I management needs to enable executive personnel to acquire the appropriate (leadership) skills.

  • Based on the D&I vision and policies derived from it, managers should be trained in how to lead and communicate with diverse employees properly.

Enabling employees:


  • Executive personnel must allow employees to become involved in D&I initiatives and to play an active role in maintaining and improving them.

  • Managers should also allocate resources such as time (e.g., holding team meetings on D&I topics), and access to D&I-relevant information and expertise.

  • Developing individual competencies among employees: Trainings help to raise awareness of the benefits of a diverse workforce. Employees will learn skills on how to deal with diversity and difference in an unbiased way.

  • Empowering all interested employees so that they have the opportunity to network and share ideas.



 „I would say that without the board’s commitment, such efforts are doomed to fail. I've been working in this field for 14 years now, and in those years, I've reported three times a year to the Group’s executive board to discuss the latest figures, data, and facts on diversity. To me, that’s key to success. Unfortunately, an executive board regularly putting diversity on the agenda is not a matter of course for many companies.”

Ursula Schwarzenbart, Head of Talent Development & Diversity Management, Daimler AG


Persuading skeptics of the benefits of D&I initiatives

  • Listed companies have introduced quotas to meet their legal obligations and D&I goals, which are intended to ensure the representation of women at the management level or the inclusion of members of ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.
  • Such quotas, however, can lead to a “white male backlash”, which usually occurs when white, well-educated men who are equally qualified feel discriminated against or marginalized.

  • To successfully cope with the “white male backlash” phenomenon, D&I managers are advised to invest in D&I-related training and to seek sincere dialogue with those who feel at a disadvantage. Empathic interpersonal communication, active listening, and the careful use of humor may convince skeptics of the benefits of D&I initiatives.


Further topics:


Key findings of the study

  • Potential: The study suggests that communication professionals see digital nudging as an interesting and promising method to increase the effectiveness of communication activities. Learning about digital nudging could be useful even if the method can’t be applied by communication professionals directly.
  • Application possibilities: Most interviewees hadn’t yet implemented digital nudging themselves. But the interviewees identified the following applications as particularly promising:
    • Supporting digital transformation
    • Encouraging learning and development as well as knowledge sharing
    • Increasing compliance behavior, especially regarding cybersecurity
    • Improving employees’ health and well-being

  • Challenges:  The applicability of digital nudging depends on whether the organization uses digital platforms that allow for customization, if there is leeway regarding corporate design, and whether ethical concerns can be sufficiently addressed.



The research project was led by Prof. Dr. Sabine Einwiller and Daniel Wolfgruber, University of Vienna. It is divided into four sub-studies:

  1. Literature review of scientific, management and organizational studies on diversity management and communication. Besides that, the research team analyzed literature from other fields like business ethics or sociology.
  2. Semi-structured interviews with 84 employees with and without various diversity characteristics in Germany and Austria. The aim was to investigate employees' experiences with D&I-related measures and communication and which organizational communication influences the inclusion/exclusion of employees.
  3. Online survey of 1,000 employees: The aim was to find out to what extent an organization's handling of and communication about D&I issues influence employees' identification with the organization. In addition, the research team investigated, how the behaviors of fellow employees change.  
  4. Semi-structured interviews with 20 D&I experts in Austria and Germany to draw a holistic picture of the status quo of D&I management: reasons for establishing D&I management, conception and implementation of communication measures as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Companies that participated in the semi-structured expert interviews – a selection:

Research team

The research project was conducted by Dr. Sabine Einwiller and Daniel Wolfgruber at the University of Vienna from 2020 to 2021:

  • Dr. Sabine Einwiller is the professor of Public Relation Research at the Department of Communication at the University of Vienna.
  • Daniel Wolfgruber, M.A. is a research associate in the Department of Communication at the University of Vienna.