Creating operational advantage through military diversity

Military personnel meeting in computing facility, photo by Gorodenkoff Productions OU/Adobe Stock

Gorodenkoff Productions OU/Adobe Stock

Advances in technology have made warfighting more complex and the range of skills required more diverse. Researchers examined how increasing workforce diversity may create strategic opportunities for military organisations.

What is the issue?

A lack of diversity in public institutions, including defence and security establishments, is a subject of considerable debate and policy action. But in recent decades, advances in technology and other strategic trends have made warfighting more complex and the range of skills and competencies required more diverse.

Accordingly, many experts argue that today’s militaries should adapt their personnel requirements and recruitment practices to incentivise diversification of the workforce.

How did we help?

Our aim with was to assess what advantages diversity can bring to the Armed Forces as they navigate a changing nature of warfare and strategic trends like the impact of emerging technologies. The study comprised a large-scale literature review as well as interviews with experts and practitioners from the UK and United States.

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.

Additionally, 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.

Finally, the study identified key implications and options for the Armed Forces as they consider leveraging the various operational and strategic advantages provided by diversity.

What did we find?

We identified three main opportunities for leveraging diversity:

  1. Diversity may improve the quality of organisational decision-making, enhance innovation and strengthen the ability of organisations to adapt to a rapidly changing external environment.
  2. Diversity may also help attract unique skillsets to the organisation, with diversity also allowing organisations to enhance recruitment efforts by leveraging representation to attract the best skilled individuals in the field.
  3. Representation through diversity may enhance external legitimacy of the armed forces — both nationally and internationally — as well as amplify their ability to project influence and foster collaboration with partners and allies.

What do we recommend?

We recommend a clear and focused approach to leveraging diversity as a strategic enabler for military effectiveness which will match ambition with overcoming any barriers to inclusion. Despite recent advances in policy and practice, the Armed Forces should further consider

  • improving how diversity can be effectively enabled through recruitment
  • exploring how a diverse workforce can be effectively managed and rewarded, and
  • ensuring that the Armed Forces can continuously build their organisational capacity for effectively leveraging diversity.