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Research Questions

  1. What type of operational and strategic advantage can a diverse workforce create for UK and US Armed Forces?
  2. What are some of the opportunities to harness operational and strategic advantages associated with different diversity characteristics (e.g. gender, age, neurodiversity)?
  3. What options are there for the UK and US Armed Forces to leverage the advantages that can be gained by employing a diverse workforce?

In an evolving strategic environment, the Armed Forces need to effectively leverage all available advantages, including those stemming from their workforces, to maximise strategic and operational effectiveness. To support this effort, RAND researchers conducted a study to examine the opportunities for leveraging workforce diversity to enhance military effectiveness.

The study comprised a large-scale literature review as well as semi-structured interviews with subject matter experts and practitioners from the UK and United States to produce three outputs. Firstly, the study provided a framework to help guide the UK and US Armed Forces in their assessments of links between different kinds of diversity and military effectiveness, and how these links may be better leveraged in future. Secondly, the study team developed six vignettes illustrating the framework in relation to various operational and strategic requirements identified by the UK and US Armed Forces. Lastly, the study identified key implications and options for the Armed Forces as they consider leveraging the various operational and strategic advantages provided by diversity.

The study findings show that there are significant opportunities for leveraging workforce diversity to enhance military effectiveness across a wide spectrum of Defence activity. These opportunities cumulatively position diversity as a strategic enabler for the UK and US Armed Forces.

Key Findings

The UK and US Armed Forces can leverage diversity in three key aspects

  • Enhancing organisational capacity for innovation, adaptation and quality of decision-making.
  • Fostering external legitimacy, enhancing ability to project influence and improving engagement with partners, allies and other domestic and international audiences.
  • Improving the Armed Forces' ability to attract, retain and foster skills needed to address current and evolving national security imperatives.

Diversity-related opportunities may best be maximised through recognising specific strategic priorities and requirements

  • Identifying and operationalising the opportunities associated with diversity starts with characterising the strategic environment and associated strategic priorities shaping workforce-related requirements of the UK and US Armed Forces.

There are opportunities for the UK and US Armed Forces to further elevate diversity as a strategic enabler for military effectiveness

In order to operationalise diversity-related opportunities, the Armed Forces need to consider:

  • How diversity can be effectively enabled through recruitment.
  • How a diverse workforce can be effectively managed and rewarded.
  • How the Armed Forces can continuously build their organisational capacity for effectively leveraging diversity.


  • Align ambition for leveraging diversity with addressing any barriers to inclusion.
  • Further improve how diversity is enabled through recruitment, including by considering greater flexibility in military accession policies, leveraging diversity of recruiters, and fostering partnerships with civilian employers.
  • Strengthen the ability of the Armed Forces to effectively reward and provide recognition to a diverse workforce.
  • Build capacity across the Armed Forces, including through identifying how to effectively operationalise and support different diversity networks and harnessing good diversity management practices from beyond Defence.

Research conducted by

Funding for this research has been provided internally by the RAND Initiated Research (RIR) programme. The research was conducted by RAND Europe.

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