The right thing to do or the smart thing to do? How communicating moral or business motives for diversity affects the employment image of Dutch public and private sector organizations

Wiebren S. Jansen*, Charlotte Kröger, Jojanneke van der Toorn, Naomi Ellemers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Many organizations have diversity statements in place in which they publicly declare their appreciation of and commitment to workforce diversity. These statements can either contain moral motives (e.g., “diversity reduces social inequalities”), business motives (e.g., “diversity enhances innovation”), or a combination of moral and business motives. In a desk study involving 182 Dutch organizations, we found that (a) private sector organizations more often than public sector organizations communicate business motives, (b) that public and private sector organizations are equally likely to communicate moral motives, and (c) that public sector organizations more frequently than private sector organizations communicate a combination of moral and business motives. Next, we used an experimental design to examine the causal influence of communicating different diversity motives on organizations' employment image (i.e., perceptions of organizational morality, competence, and attractiveness) among prospective employees (n = 393). Here, we used a scenario in which a healthcare organization was portrayed as either a public or a private sector organization and communicated either only moral motives, only business motives or a combination of moral and business motives for diversity. We found that for a public sector organization communicating moral instead of business motives for valuing diversity induced a more favorable employment image. For a private sector organization, there were no differences in employment image depending on the motive communicated. Together, these two studies shed new light on the role of diversity motives in establishing a positive employment image.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)746-759
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number7
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

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