In the first blog in our MSc Research Series on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), we hear from Alex ‘Jazzy’ Jasiulek, MSc Organisational Behaviour student in LSE’s Department of Management. Learn more about Jazzy’s dissertation and his motivations behind researching EDI.
Why I chose to research EDI
I have previous experience working professionally in social justice-oriented charity organisations. In the aftermath of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement which challenged (particularly anti-black) police violence, the ante for action was, and remains, high.
While student research is a small contribution, I felt it was important for me to support anti-racism efforts in what ways I can and help inspire future research in this area both in academia and among practitioners.
My research question and the method I used to explore it
My dissertation was entitled: “Critical Employee Perceptions of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Exploring the BLM Movement’s Impact on Organizational Practice”
My research explored the shifts in employee perceptions in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and Black Lives Matter actions that followed. Subjects were organisational EDI ‘champions’ that had demonstrated passion and experience advocating for EDI strategy at their organisations. There is limited academic research overlapping organisational behaviour with sociology in the management context, which my research aimed to address.
I chose a qualitative approach to allow participants to share in their own words their experiences and how those experiences could point towards larger organisational patterns in the EDI space. Given the sensitive and sometimes traumatic nature of these experiences, I took great care in how I approached these conversations informed by coaching ethics. Ultimately 17 participants across the US and UK were included. Some of the selected participant demographics were as follows:
- Gender: 65% Women, 30% Men, 6% Non-Binary
- Race: 60% People of Colour, 40% White
- Sexual Orientation: 76% Heterosexual, 18% Queer, 6% Self-Describe
- Tenure: 25% 0-2 years, 47% 2-5 years, 30% 5-10 years
Some of the thought-provoking findings that practitioners should be aware of
- I found that organisations can underestimate the impact of social contexts on their operations and employees’ perceptions. To help this, I recommend scenario planning for different societal ‘shock’ events which directly impact employee groups involved in decision-making.
- Perceptions between individuals vary greatly. However, it was striking how reactive EDI plans that focused largely on Black employees stimulated negative reactions from other marginalised employee groups. EDI strategies should be taliored to employee needs holistically, and perceptions of injustice may arise when an impacted group is left out of redress efforts.
- The concept of Human Resources broke open for many companies during this period. EDI has become a vehicle for employee voice and wellbeing without articulating the bounds of each portfolio of work. For EDI strategies to lead to desired outcomes, companies need clear understandings of which tactics are used for which end. I recommend taking an inventory of all explicit and tacit activity under this umbrella to ensure proper scope.
- The surveyed organisations have in general avoided significant discussions and investments in equity. Many of these organisations have inequitable logics deeply embedded in their operations particularly, around preferred educational credentials and which kind of work is rewarded. Employees are highly attuned to matters of relative justice (although the strength varies between individuals). When employees notice this inequity it can lead to lowered motivation and departure intentions. Companies who aren’t serious about sharing power and opportunity with employees will likely see their EDI work fall flat.
Some ideas for future research based on the study I conducted
As organisations start to resource their EDI work more intentionally, there will be so much interesting data! Of course, a tragic aspect of this work is that the mere presence of EDI resources alone will not guarantee positive outcomes. There will be many failures and it’s up to researchers to study organisations over several years to learn what conditions make some companies successful and others not. One of my key hypotheses (though not original) is that equity is the key ingredient to EDI and organisations that succeed in redistributing resources, opportunity, and decision-making authority will see better returns on their EDI investments.
My advice for others looking to study EDI
EDI data is usually highly sensitive and not always for rational reasons. Here are two key research design learnings I found:
- Choose a simple research design that makes it easy for people to participate and sidesteps organisational gatekeepers that may deem your research risky.
- Demonstrate the reciprocal value your research brings to the individuals and organisations that participate. Don’t let this be a favour – give back with your research!