Diversity- and inclusion management: planning & enabling


The following model helps to develop the process of a D&I management strategy:


Map - Hintergrundbild

Setting up a D&I management team: To even consider implementing D&I management, the veritable commitment and support of the board of management are required. It is advisable to position D&I management at the interface between HR, CSR, and corporate communications, with a direct reporting line to the management board.




Checking the status quo: The starting point is to analyze the diversity of the workforce, including aspects such as the gender ratio (at the management level), yet also the age structure, the number of employees with disabilities, nationality, etc..


Secondly, all relevant business processes and their underlying conditions concerning D&I need to be examined.


Thirdly, input from organizational members at all levels regarding their perceptions of D&I needs to be assessed by employing systematic “listening” practices.


Finally, it is useful to study the organizational environment.






Developing the D&I strategy: Once all the necessary preliminary work has been carried out, it is important to map out a D&I vision with the associated values and put it into writing in the form of a mission statement and D&I-related policies. This should be done with the involvement of employees at all levels and walks of life.


Besides that, the development of a corresponding communication strategy that bolsters the D&I management strategy and the corresponding measures is important.






Developing D&I measures: The next step is to develop D&I measures to achieve the defined objectives. Setting up a task force consisting of employees who represent the diversity of the whole organization can be very helpful.


In the course of guided workshops and further interviews and focus group discussions, ideas for measures are developed, refined, and checked for feasibility. At this point, the available budget for D&I management plays a significant role in ensuring that the measures can be implemented.




Rollout of D&I measures: Communication plays a significant role at this stage of implementation. By using the most suitable communication channels (interpersonal and mediated) and explaining the implementation of the respective measures in good time and in line with the expectations and accessibility of the target audiences.




“We set up a train-the-trainer program where we trained local ambassadors, inviting managers in particular who were interested in spending two, four, six, or eight hours with their teams working on the topic. Eventually, quite a few departments then took the time to address the topic within their teams. That was terrific!”

Katja Ploner, Corporate Diversity & Inclusion Advisor, Siemens AG



Ingredients of effective diversity & inclusion management:

  • Supporting the corporate strategy
    D&I management sets rules for engagement, promotes skills development and provides resources such as money, time or (accessible) infrastructure for the workforce. The D&I strategy is more effective when it is integrated into the overall corporate strategy and implemented in all business processes.
  • Commitment of the top management & an inclusive leadership style
    Continuous persuasion of and communication with all organizational members are key to engender an inclusive culture over time. Executive personnel in particular should continuously exemplify D&I values in their words and deeds to act as respected D&I role models for employees (inclusive leadership).
  • Setting up sensitivity for diversity at all hierarchical levels by trainings
    The design of D&I measures should be determined by the D&I vision and goals. To get an overview of the problematic D&I issues in the company, a task force composed of organizational members at all hierarchical levels should be appointed - supported by Diversity sensitivity and unconscious bias training.
  • D&I management means listening
    The effectiveness of a D&I strategy and its management hinges on the interaction between the managers in charge and the organization’s internal and external stakeholders. They need to listen to all “voices” and in order to ensure an inclusive organizational culture.



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-sturctured 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.