What Makes an Organization Inclusive? Organizational Practices Favoring the Relational Inclusion of Ethnic Minorities in Operative Jobs
33 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2008
Date Written: November 9, 2008
Organizations are today becoming increasingly aware that minority employees commit and perform to their potential only if they feel accepted. After almost two decades of diversity management failing to deliver up to its promises, they are turning to inclusion as a new approach to manage diversity more effectively (Childs, 2005; Kettleborough, 2005; Mehta, Chen, Garcia & Vella-Zarb, 2000). While diversity management has mainly focused on supporting minority individuals, inclusion shifts attention to creating an organizational context in which everybody feels an insider. However, inclusion has to date been little researched.
Most diversity studies have investigated outcomes such as intergroup conflict, minorities' promotions, mentoring relationships or group functioning. While inclusion or the degree to which an employee is accepted and treated as an insider by others in a work system (Pelled, Ledford & Mohrman, 1999b: 1014) is plausibly related to positive outcomes, these studies have not explicitly examined this concept, either as an outcome or a mediating variable. The little existing research focusing on inclusion (e.g. Mor-Barak, 2000; Mor-Barak & Cherin, 1998; Pelled et al., 1999b; Roberson, 2006) has started to develop this concept by formulating the first definitions, identifying indicators to measure it, and drawing some insights into inclusive practices. However, to date, no study has empirically researched what precisely makes an organization inclusive.
The aim of this study is to increase our understanding of the notion of inclusion and to explore which organizational practices increase the inclusion of ethnic minorities in operative jobs. These latter represent the largest part of ethnic minority employees on western labor markets (cf. Huffman & Cohen, 2004; Miller, 1987; Ode & Veenman, 2003; Rydgren, 2004; WAV, 2005). Yet, they have been neglected by the existing diversity research which has steadily privileged higher educated samples in managerial and/or professional jobs (e.g. Ely & Thomas, 2001; Ibarra, 1995; Nkomo & Cox, 1990). We empirically investigate the inclusion of ethnic minorities in operative jobs in four Belgian organizations, which participated in a larger government-funded research project on diversity management in the period 2002-2004. The study uses a qualitative case study methodology, a particularly suitable approach for building theory (Eisenhardt, 1989; Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007; George & Bennet, 2004; Yin, 1984).
The paper is organized in five sections. First, we position our study in the existing literature. We discuss how previous studies have dealt with the concept of inclusion and develop, based on the existing literature, three types of organizational practices that we expect to influence relational inclusion. Next, we describe our methodology. We then provide an overview of the levels of relational inclusion in the four organizations under study and inductively identify indicators of relational inclusion. Based on cross-case analysis, we subsequently identify which specific organizational practices appear to play a crucial role in creating relational inclusion. In the discussion, we present our main contributions, the implications of this study for both diversity theory and diversity management, and reflect on its main limitations.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation