Stephanie Creary, Research Advisor

Stephanie Creary leads DEI study that reveals how management practices can improve workplace culture

July 2, 2021


Center for Positive Organizations (CPO) Research Advisory Board member Stephanie Creary is the lead researcher on a recently published study titled “Improving Workplace Culture Through Evidence-Based Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Practices.”

Creary and her fellow researchers, Nancy Rothbard and Jared Scruggs, aimed to understand how companies defined five key concepts — diversity, inclusion, belonging, equity, and respect. The researchers then examined how organizations implemented practices related to those concepts and measured whether those practices were effective. The resulting study reveals evidence-based management practices to improve workplace culture.

“Our research focused on examining the relationships between DEI practices and the workplace experiences of working adults distributed across different industries in the U.S. reveal(s) that having access to DEI practices can be influential, especially in the experiences of people of color at work,” the researchers write. “Of the seven categories of DEI practices included in our study, Managerial Involvement, Workplace Policies, and Mentoring and Sponsorship are among the most influential practices in that they consistently drive many of the outcomes we studied.”

The researchers also offer practical tools to help middle managers improve workplace culture.

“We focus our recommendations on middle managers’ actions for three reasons,” the researchers explain. “First, our findings suggest that middle managers are central to employees’ experiences at work. Second, insights from corporate diversity experts suggest that companies continue to find it difficult to implement DEI and talent strategies — and that the onus of this work falls on middle managers, who are often uncertain about their role or see DEI work as not being part of their core job functions. Third, while the unprecedented environment of COVID-19 makes recruiting new talent challenging, though not entirely improbable, it is important for leaders including middle managers to broaden their mindset from recruitment to recruitment and retention.”

The research, conducted between September 18 and January 2021, was funded in part by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and DiversityInc. DiversityInc and Moody’s also provided financial support that contributed to the development and dissemination of the report. More than 30 diversity, talent, and analytics experts and 6,600 working adults around the world participated.

Creary is an Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Pennsylvania.