A badly managed diversity programme can cause as much damage to a company's business performance as ignoring the issue altogether, employers have been warned.
A study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has concluded that while ignoring diversity may be a good way to reduce productivity and performance, making a hash of introducing diversity runs the risk of creating conflict and doing just as much to undermine business performance.
Managers need to work to ensure diversity creates inclusiveness and cooperation, and is becomes more than just a box ticking and employment quotas operation, the institute warned.
Promoting a diverse workforce needed to be as much about focusing on changing working cultures and embracing difference as about recruiting workers from different backgrounds, it added.
Dianah Worman, CIPD diversity adviser, said: "A diverse workforce bringing different people together, with different views, ideas experiences and perspectives can bring real benefits for business performance.
"But managed badly, efforts to improve diversity can have the opposite effect – creating conflict and tension in the workplace," she added.
According to its report, Managing diversity: linking theory and practice to business performance, the benefits of a diverse workforce include better customer focus, better business processes, more innovation and greater learning.
But at the same time managers, if they want to be successful in their diversity programme, need to ensure it does not become blocked by rigid systems or regulations.
Similarly, adopting a "just-in-time" approach may backfire, as it will allow little opportunity to change team structures without opposing existing structures.
Diversity talent must not end up simply being cloned into the existing culture, added the CIPD.
"Measuring diversity will help employers to gain a genuine understanding of their staff, enabling them to understand the problems diversity can trigger, and look at ways to prevent problems from occurring," added Worman.
"Measurement will allow employers to make full use of their assets and motivating them to apply their abilities in the interest of the business."