4 Steps to Diversify Your Workforce

4 Steps to Diversify Your Workforce. Hands in different colors form a circle together.

Hospitals and health systems across the nation are engaging in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Workforce diversity is a vital component of these efforts.

Research has shown many benefits of having a diverse workforce, including higher productivity, retention, employee satisfaction and better clinical outcomes. So, what kind of progress is the field making on building a diverse workforce, implementing strategies to diversify the workforce and investing in career development for diverse groups to retain staffing diversity?

A recently released survey report from the AHA Institute for Diversity and Health Equity, “DEI Data Insights: Workforce Diversity in Hospitals and Health Systems,” shares findings, case studies and resources that can aid hospitals in taking actions to accelerate their DEI journey.

Statistics from AHA’s 2024 DEI survey. 61%: Respondents who currently have workforce diversity strategies in place at their hospitals. 72%: Respondents who said they provide access to front-line worker to explore pathways for career advancement.

The report, based on findings from a 2022 survey of more than 6,200 AHA members, is the second installment of a five-part series exploring DEI efforts in the field and is designed to provide benchmark data to compare against results from future surveys. Other survey results will explore:

  • DEI strategy
  • DEI leadership and governance
  • Social drivers of health and equitable care
  • Data collection

How to Diversify Your Workforce

1 | Invest in diverse talent pipelines.

Nearly two-thirds (61%) of respondents said they have a workforce diversity strategy in place. Of this group, more than half (53%) noted their primary strategy was investing in diverse talent pipelines.


Talent pathway investments are essential strategies to achieve workforce diversity. For many underrepresented groups, entry into fields of study and professions must be brokered by personal relationships or targeted programs. In many cases, these individuals’ social and professional networks are often restricted to limited opportunities due to structural racism and biases. Strategic investments in programs that seek to remedy these biases are significant opportunities to advance equity and improve quality.

2 | Focus on training and career development programs.

About one in five respondents (21%) are concentrating on this issue, followed by local hiring (13%) and professional recruiting (10%). Word of mouth and personal referrals were rarely reported (2%).


Hospital leaders are encouraged to increase investments in professional development opportunities as a diversity strategy. Still, many from historically underrepresented groups are often the first and only people in the roles they occupy. The learning curve for these positions is often steep with little guidance. Professional development in the form of management coaching, mentoring and sponsorship can help to preserve mental health and mitigate the effects of “weathering” — deteriorations in health resulting from cumulative socio-economic disadvantages.

3 | Provide access to hospital front-line workers to explore pathways for career advancement.

This was the most commonly reported policy/practice (72%) followed by evaluating policies to eradicate disparities and promote equity in the workplace (63%).


Helping underrepresented groups to see a path forward in their careers by connecting with front-line clinicians and other positions can help them crystalize their own professional aspirations and begin to explore training and other opportunities to excel in the organization long-term.

4 | Document your DEI plan.

The most common demographic groups for which hospitals and health systems reported having a documented plan to improve representation included the C-suite, management, physicians, nurses, other clinical staff and support staff. These groups were racially or ethnically underrepresented, followed by women, veterans, people with visible disabilities and LBGTQ+ individuals.


Diversifying the workforce takes targeted efforts. Hospitals must take specific actions to fill gaps in diversity, but first there must be an appreciation for the benefits of a diverse workforce. The data reveal an opportunity for hospitals to develop targeted interventions to build pathways and pipelines for military veterans, visibly disabled and LBGTQ+ members of communities to increase diversity in the workforce.

Learn More

The IFDHE report highlights a wealth of learning opportunities on DEI issues, including:

  • A podcast featuring experts from Kaiser Permanente and Mass General Brigham discussing the innovative workforce approaches they use to give clinicians the resources and skills they need to thrive professionally and personally.
  • The Strengthening the Health Care Workforce toolkit explores how a diverse workforce that understands the culture, issues and needs of local patient populations can result in better decision-making about how to serve those communities.
  • Two honorees featured in the AHA Quest for Quality Prize — Main Line Health and University Hospitals — showcase how equity is embedded throughout their organizations with their approaches to care for patients and their employees.

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