Diversity Management

Diversity Climate & Retention

As society increasingly becomes aware of the value of creating a more diverse workforce, effective diversity management becomes an important facet of Human Resource Management. Moreover, the relationship between diversity and retention is one that should be better understood. However, when considering this relationship, the focus should not merely be on demographics, but on an organization’s diversity climate.

Effects of a Positive Diversity Climate on Turnover

An organization cannot simply hire the “right number” of women and minorities in order create a positive diversity climate. Having demographic variety at some level within the workforce will not, by itself, bring about the potential benefits of a positive diversity climate, such as increasing employee retention. A positive diversity climate is one in which employees feel that all of the characteristics that make them diverse are valued and do not hinder them from advancement. More important, it is a climate in which management actively promotes diversity. Each of these factors greatly influences an employee’s intentions to remain with an organization. For employees, having a positive perception of their organization’s diversity climate is greatly influenced by the employees’ degree of calculative attachment (a favorable perception of the likelihood an individual will attain his goals at his current organization). Additionally, calculative attachment is a good indicator for an employee’s intention to turnover, indicating that employees who feel they can attain their goals with their current organization are more likely to stay. Taken together, it can be expected that the more effort the organization puts into showing an employee he can achieve his long-term goals with the company, the more likely it is he will stay and maintain a positive perception of the organization’s diversity climate.

Extended Benefits

The benefits of a positive diversity climate even extend to the majority group, namely, White men. For instance, they may feel such benefits as a result of the signaling effect. In other words, when White men see that the organization has a positive diversity climate, they are likely to assume that the fairness and equality towards minorities extends in a general way to fairness in most policies and decisions. Since the majority group, White men, can also benefit from a commitment to diversity, managers can effectively argue that diversity initiatives are universally beneficial and not just important for satisfying EEOC requirements. Shifting the understanding of diversity initiatives from a “win-lose” perspective to an integrative perspective should also decrease opposition to the implementation of diversity programs and improve support for such directives. Other factors of organizational decision-making structure and culture, such as pay satisfaction, may influence the efficacy of diversity initiatives. For instance, the relationship between perceptions of diversity climate and calculative attachment are stronger when satisfaction with pay is high. Conversely, when pay satisfaction and supervisor effectiveness are low, any positive assessments of diversity climate can be undermined or even contradicted.

Practical Implications

Demographics-driven hiring practices are not sufficient for retaining minority employees if these employees feel their opportunities and careers in the organization are limited. Therefore, organizations concerned with managing workforce diversity should focus their attention on using an integrative approach that emphasizes understanding and supporting individuals, which ultimately enables employees to gain positive perceptions about their co-workers. Additionally, managers who choose to support or implement diversity initiatives should keep in mind that other factors play a role in influencing turnover intention as well, including pay satisfaction and supervisor effectiveness. In other words, employees’ satisfaction with both their pay and their supervisor should command the attention of those managers who support positive diversity climate initiatives, such that managers put in place appropriate distributive policies and worker assessments account for the effectiveness of these two factors.

Kandace Waddy


This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Kaplan, D. M., Wiley, J. W., Maertz, C. P. (2010). The role of calculative attachment in the relationship between diversity climate and retention, Human Resource Management, 50(2), 271-287.