Inclusion & diversity

An inclusive public service makes sound business sense.

Diversity and inclusion can contribute to trust, democracy and innovation when the public service workforce represents the society it serves. Different perspectives and experiences within the government workforce can help to limit groupthink and cultivate a culture where new ideas can surface. In addition, it can increase public service quality by providing public services that reflect and satisfy the specific needs of minority communities.

Strategies to promote diversity and inclusion can also strengthen trust by demonstrating the government´s commitment to core public values such as fairness, transparency and impartiality, and ensuring representation of society. This may increase employee engagement leading to greater efficiency and productivity.

Read on for more information on how the OECD and its Members are working to strengthen diversity and inclusion the public service.

Key Issues

Diversity and inclusion strategies often focus on increasing the number or proportion of public servants from diverse background and on cultivating an organisational culture of inclusion and respect for individuals’ differences.  The OECD works with governments to develop diversity and inclusion strategies that:

  • Address persistent behaviours and biases: Changes in organisational culture cannot be achieved without seeking to modify attitudes and behaviours at all levels of the organisation. Policy interventions based on behavioural sciences have aimed to responsibly “nudge” inclusive views and behaviours in public sector organisations.
  • Develop inclusive leadership competencies: Leaders set the tone for a culture of inclusion and establish psychological safety to empower employees to contribute at their full potential. Inclusive leadership can be promoted in competency frameworks, recruitment, performance management, and training and development programmes.
  • Leveraging data and evidence to inform and monitor diversity and inclusion strategies: Data and evidence is essential to monitor the impact of diversity and inclusion strategies and inform decision-making. This can include administrative data, data from employee surveys, or specific analytical tools (i.e. “inclusion indices, diversity trackers, etc.”) to support benchmarking or examine particular groups or processes.
  • Establishing governance mechanisms for more effective and accountable diversity and inclusion strategies: Governance mechanisms that balance a top-down with bottom-up approach help ensure accountability for results while also ensuring that the concerns of employees are continuously reflected in policies. This can include establishing diversity committees or champions to ensure commitment from leadership, while creating opportunities for employees to provide feedback and access to recourse mechanisms.

Principle 3 of the Recommendation on Public Service Leadership and Capability calls on governments to ensure an inclusive and safe public service that reflects the diversity of the society it represents, in particular through:

  • Publicly committing to an inclusive, and respectful working environment open to all members of society possessing the necessary skills;
  • Developing measures of diversity, inclusion and well-being, and conducting measurement and benchmarking at regular intervals to monitor progress, detect and remove barriers, and design interventions; and
  • Taking active steps to ensure that organisational and people management processes as well as working conditions, support diversity and inclusion.


The following additional principles of the Recommendation are particularly relevant and may be used as a guide to enhance inclusion and strengthen diversity in the public sector:

Principle 2: Build leadership capability in the public service.

Principle 11: Develop a long-term, strategic and systematic approach to people management based on evidence and inclusive planning.

Principle 14: Ensure that employees have opportunities to contribute to the improvement of public service delivery and are engaged as partners in public service management issues.


This composite indicator is based on the principle of the Recommendation on Diversity. It is divided in three sub-indicators, each weighting 1/3 of the final indicator. These sub-indicators measure:

  • a. The diversity of the workforce
  • b. The availability and use of data to track diversity
  • c. The use of tools to develop a diverse workforce


Good practices

UK: In the UK, the behavioural insights unit of the prime minister’s office incorporated findings from its research on unconscious biases in the recruitment process to develop a new software application for assessing candidates based on their talent and features to remove potential bias. 

United StatesThe United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB), using available time-series data, produces the New Inclusion Quotient, an inclusion index by agency. 

FranceThe French Government created the Diversity Label in 2008 which assesses organisation´s human resources processes related to diversity and the prevention of discrimination through an extensive audit process. 

Canada: The Centre on Diversity and Inclusion (previously Centre for Wellness, Inclusion and Diversity) in Canada is a government-wide approach to identify and address barriers and challenges to achieving a diverse and inclusive workplace. 

Australia: The Secretaries Equality and Diversity Council in Australia undertakes in-depth discussion and research  on inclusion, in particular on building inclusive workplaces. It comprises all Australian Public Service (APS) departmental secretaries and two external members who provide insights and experience from outside the APS.


Case studies

Australia: Inclusive Leadership in the Public Service of New South Wales

This case study looks at the leadership challenges of designing and implementing ‘next generation’ diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategies in the state of New South Wales (NSW), Australia. Specifically, it looks at how inclusive leaders in the NSW public sector workforce are building evidence-based approaches to achieving D&I targets, are embedding D&I throughout the employee lifecycle to ensure coherence and broaden the reach of policies, are tackling implementation gaps by “nudging” towards change, and are building sound governance structures that promote accountability for results.

Canada: Building Leadership Competencies on Diversity and Inclusion

The Canadian case study looks at how senior civil servants develop an inclusive culture to achieve better organisational performance and health. These “inclusive leaders” need to have a strong grasp of the changing notions of diversity, the past barriers to implementation, and the skills necessary to translate diversity and inclusion into beneficial outcomes. The case study suggests a range of areas that Canada can explore to build on their strong commitment to D&I agenda, including ways of expanding the diversity of perspective and experience in the public service.



Further reading

A selection of recent reports is available through the OECD iLibrary, many of which provide more context and detail on inclusion and diversity in the public sector:






Working papers