When it Comes to Diversity and Inclusion, Does Being the Best Place to Work Matter?

This notion of the best places to work is getting plenty of attention these days in the human capital space. NASA was hailed as the best place to work in the federal government for the last 3 years by the Partnership for Public Service based on its Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings. Google made Glassdoor’s 2015 Best Places to Work List in the USA and UK.

While NASA and Google bask in the glow of their best places to work status of “be like us,” their inclusion narrative says everything is lily white and all right. According to the latest data from the Office of Personnel Management, males make up 64.7% of the NASA workforce and whites constitute 73.7% of NASA employees. Google according to their latest Equal Employment Opportunity-1 Report did not fare much better. At Google, males compose 79% of their workforce and whites represent 72% of their total employees.

My agency has gotten on the NASA bandwagon as well. To borrow the 1992 Gatorade marketing pitch starring Michael Jordan, “I want to be Mike,” my agency is repeating this refrain, “I want to be like NASA.” The following report is certainly a feather in the cap of this follow the leader approach to job contentment.

According to a 2014 Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) study, NASA, Google and my agency may be on to something by delinking job satisfaction from diversity. The report’s findings found that:

• Diversity of abilities, backgrounds, viewpoints and concepts drive positive results.
• Transitioning from a completely male team or female staff to a mixed gender organization improved income by 41%.
• Job satisfaction was much lower in a mixed gender workplace.

Essentially what the authors of this report, Sara Ellison and Wallace Mullin are saying is while gender diversity can make an organization more productive it simultaneously reduces job satisfaction.

The study which focused on a large USA white collar organization, confirms that social capital in the shape of things like trust, collaboration and job happiness, trump inclusive workplaces who are trying to recognize and embrace differences.

The die has been cast. Should an organization pursue a diverse workplace guaranteed to produce high results and revenue, or should a company chase a less diverse place of work for the sake of job satisfaction?

Ellison says the jury may still be out and more research should be done on this issue that should go beyond the examination of one organization. Maybe they should look at Google which defies one of the findings of the MIT study regarding diversity driving positive results and high revenues. They are making tons of money without racial or gender diversity. Who said to be profitable you have to look like your customer. Google has put this notion to rest.

Are there any real surprises here? We have known for a long time that a knowing and doing gap for inclusion exists. People like the concept of diversity and inclusion more than they like the reality of diversity and inclusion.

We can continue to play this game of the blind leading the blind by following the examples of the NASAs and Googles of this world with their high job satisfaction and low inclusion rates, or we can start building inclusive workplaces where folks are both satisfied and fully accepted regardless of their differences.

Is job satisfaction and inclusion mutually exclusive? If we listen to NASA, Google and MIT, the answer may be a resounding yes.

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Mark Hammer

Richard, you’re gonna love this British paper that just showed up in the current issue of Public Administration Review: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/puar.12308/abstract Seriously.

The abstract: “Theories of workforce diversity in the public sector assume that organizations that are more representative of the population they serve are more likely to foster an inclusive work climate in which individuals from different sections of society can thrive. The authors examine this assumption by studying whether gender and minority ethnic representativeness are related to perceptions of inclusiveness and the experience of discrimination and bullying within U.K. civil service organizations. Findings suggest that gender representativeness and minority ethnic representativeness are both associated with an inclusive work climate, with each aspect of representativeness positively related to higher perceptions of inclusion and lower levels of discrimination and bullying. The theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.”

richard regan

Great source. Just another counter intuitive argument when it comes to diversity and inslusion. You would think more differences in the workplace would mean more conflict and if managed haphazardly, would translate into more discrimination complaints and more bullying, The goal posts keep moving.

Jeff Bolognese

The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey also includes an Inclusion Quotient which parses out questions in the survey related to how employees view their agencies in terms of being fair, open, cooperative, supportive, and empowering. NASA also rated first in the overall IQ index, and also in each of the sub-categories. How does that align with your question about job satisfaction and inclusion being mutually exclusive? I don’t deny the statistics you quote about how male and white NASA is, but you also make is sound like NASA doesn’t care about working toward having those demographics more closely match society. From my experience, that is not the case and I would argue that the fact that the agency embraces diversity and inclusion as an important component of mission success is one of the reasons why they continually rate at the top of the Best Places to Work survey.