Equal opportunities: Why diversity and inclusion pay off


What is meant by the terms diversity and inclusion?


Diversity: Reflecting social facts in the workforce

The concept of diversity in organizations refers to the (sociodemographic) differences among people in an organization on grounds of:

  • observable characteristics for example gender/gender identity, age, ethnicity or physical disability and
  • non-observable characteristics like education, sexual orientation, religion/worldview, cognitive abilities and social background characteristics.


Inclusion: Empowering employees from all walks of life

Three aspects have to be considered when organizations genuinely want to foster an inclusive work environment (Downey et al., 2015; Mor Barack, 2017):

  • Enabling all employees to take part in decision-making processes.
  • Granting access to relevant information networks.
  • Assuring a high level of participation and involvement.

D&I management

… is the strategic coordination of practices that bring a diverse society into the organization and ensures that all employees, no matter how “different” they may be, feel included.


„For me, diversity and inclusion mean equal opportunities. That is, regardless of a person’s ethnic background, religion, gender, or age – everyone must be given the same opportunities. At the same time, diversity should be consciously perceived and used, because heterogeneous teams have better problem-solving skills and innovative strength.”

Theresia E. Pircher, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, PORR AG


Good Arguments to implement D&I management

To establish veritable D&I management, organizations should highlight the economic
advantages as well as addressing employees’ wants and needs:

Map - Hintergrundbild

The business case stresses the economic benefits from a diverse workforce, e.g., increased creativity and innovative power or adapting to a diverse clientele. Research findings indicate that D&I management can increase sales revenue, invite more customers, and generate a greater market share (Herring, 2009).

However, the impact of D&I management on the bottom line is considered rather multicausal and often mediated by psychological variables. For this reason, the organizational context, as well as employees’ wants and needs, must always be considered when establishing D&I management.




The justice case emphasizes the social responsibility of companies to treat all (prospective) employees equally and to enable them to develop their full potential.

Even though the dichotomy of business and justice is often emphasized, our findings clearly show that the two cases are interdependent in that economic rationales and resources pave the way for a company’s involvement in social justice issues.





Effects of diversity & inclusion

  • Increased identification with the company: An inclusive work environment (Hwang & Hopkins, 2015) and a supportive work climate (McKay et al., 2011) have a positive impact on employee commitment and job satisfaction, which consequently reduces turnover rates. 
  • Loyalty: If employees identify with their company, an inclusive work environment can positively influence their loyalty to the company.

--> Only when D&I management is perceived as authentic does it have a positive impact on employees. 


So far, only 38% feel a sense of belonging to their organization and 45% consider their organization to be authentic, so it is not surprising that only 53% are loyal to their employer.

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.