Skip to main content

Cultural Diversity in Management in the Public Sector

Diversity and Inclusion at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management

Cultural Diversity in Management in the Public Sector

A government institution is a reflection of society. However, in an increasingly diverse society, cultural diversity within government agencies, especially in senior management, does not automatically increase. These organizations often face obstacles that hinder the advancement of employees with culturally diverse backgrounds.

Rijkswaterstaat (RWS), the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, is an inspiring example of a government institution addressing this challenge. As an executive government organization responsible for infrastructure and water management in the Netherlands, they recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion alongside their technical and ecological tasks. RWS aims to diversify its workforce and partnered with Neurofied to investigate and address the underlying dynamics of cultural DEI.

This case study highlights the approach, findings, and recommendations of this project. You’ll discover how a government organization strengthened its role as a leader in promoting cultural diversity and the steps your organization can take to achieve the same.

RWS logo EN Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management
Rijkswaterstaat RWS case study by Neurofied - Cultural Diversity
RWS DEI Case Study Neurofied deliverable 1 -Cultural Diversity

Research and Approach to Cultural Diversity

We adopted an integrated approach, utilizing both qualitative and quantitative research methods. This included an extensive literature review to gather insights and best practices from scientific research on diversity and inclusion in organizations. We conducted a series of in-depth interviews with a broad range of stakeholders within the organization, including management, HR professionals, and employees from the target demographic.

These interviews provided insights into the personal experiences and perceptions of employees and valuable information about the existing organizational culture and its impact on cultural diversity and inclusion in management. Additionally, a quantitative network analysis was performed, offering insights into the social networks within the organization and how they influence the advancement of culturally diverse employees.

Findings and Interventions for Cultural Diversity

The literature review, in-depth interviews, and network analysis provided a clear picture of the cultural diversity and inclusion dynamics within the organization. Twelve key factors were identified that play a crucial role in influencing the advancement and representation of culturally diverse employees in higher positions. These factors include aspects such as assessment and selection criteria, the impact of social networks, and perceptions of leadership and professional growth.

Based on this analysis, we developed an integrated intervention strategy specifically aimed at addressing the identified barriers. This strategy includes 12 core initiatives, such as:

  • Broadening recruitment methods to reach and attract a more diverse talent pool.
  • Standardizing promotion procedures to ensure consistency and objectivity in advancement decisions.
  • Rewarding inclusive leadership to encourage leaders to actively contribute to a diverse and inclusive work environment.
  • Mitigating implicit biases to reduce unconscious prejudices within the organization and promote equal opportunities.
RWS DEI Case Study Neurofied deliverable 2 - Cultural Diversity

Conclusion and Next Steps

The biggest challenges in diversity and inclusion lie in ensuring broad organizational engagement and successfully integrating interventions into the existing corporate culture. The focus is on clear communication, involving all levels within the organization, and remaining flexible in adjusting the approach based on insights and feedback.

For organizations serious about making progress in cultural diversity in management, it is important to develop a strategy that fits their unique workforce and situation. This case study provides practical tools and demonstrates how to strategically and research-based create an inclusive and diverse work environment. A workplace where everyone has the opportunity to realize their full potential.

A selection of our proud clients

Neurofied clients: Tesla, Adidas,, KLM, KPN, KWF, UNSense, NRC, essent, deloitte, abn amro, tele2, Novo Nordisk, ANWB, Johnson & Johnson, RWS