Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2006

Defining the Attributes and Processes that Enhance the Effectiveness of Workforce Diversity Initiatives in Knowledge Intensive Firms

by Modupe Akinola and David A. Thomas

Abstract

Workforce diversity continues to be a key focus for organizations, driven by globalization of the U.S. economy and the desire for organizations to more accurately reflect the demographic diversity of the US population. Yet, most research on diversity in organizations has focused on the outcomes associated with workforce diversity and not on the processes that can enhance diversity in organizations. We address this limitation by developing a conceptual model and propositions that highlight the attributes of effective workforce diversity initiatives and the process through which workforce diversity initiatives become effective. We focus on knowledge intensive work and argue that in this context, the nature of the work is directly tied to societal stereotypes of underrepresented minorities, making knowledge intensive firms a rich environment to examine diversity initiatives and explore the dynamics that hinder retention and promotion for underrepresented minorities in these firms. We close by discussing directions for future research on workforce diversity initiatives.

Keywords: Diversity Characteristics; Globalization; Employees; Retention; Knowledge Sharing; Research; United States;

Citation:

Akinola, Modupe, and David A. Thomas. "Defining the Attributes and Processes that Enhance the Effectiveness of Workforce Diversity Initiatives in Knowledge Intensive Firms." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 07-019, September 2006. (Revised August 2008.)