What are the challenges of diversity in the workplace and how to mitigate them?
- Omer Usanmaz
- January 23 2024
Diversity in the workplace has become the new normal, with organizations becoming inclusive of talents worldwide. The Human Resources (HR) departments are caught in the whirlwinds of diversity initiatives and bridging diversity barriers in workplaces is still a concern for many organizations. However, it has its benefits and challenges. With the remote and hybrid working gaining momentum after the pandemic, the amount of time employees spend for work has increased. The more time employees spend with one another, the more differences and indifferences they might start to realize within each other. If their communication is not channeled correctly, conflicts will arise and affect the workplace adversely.
Though workplace diversity can bring a lot of growth to the organization by increasing the talent pool, nurturing a broader mindset, and revenue, it can be challenging to manage a diverse organization if one is not prepared well. Please read this blog carefully to understand the challenges of workplace diversity and work around ways to mitigate them and utilize them for the betterment of the workplace.
While the concept of workplace diversity sounds exciting and engaging, it cannot be accessible in reality. A lot of sensitive subjects and topics will need to be handled carefully. Policies and procedures will need to be revised to suit the minority groups. If they are not handled well by the top management, the whole scenario of diversity can even make the organization upside down, affecting the quality of work and tarnishing the name. Decision-makers need to be well-informed of the potential issues they may face so that they can be ready with strategies to combat them and ensure diversity initiatives take account of:
Cognitive diversity: Cognitive diversities are disparities owing to race and culture, education and class, developmental disabilities, personal experiences, skills, and so on skills. While the differences can help produce a constructive outcome to arrive at the best solution, these differences should be encouraged only moderately.
Demographic diversity: Demographic diversity involves differences in gender diversity, racial diversity, ethnicity, and age. However, this type of diversity can create a rift amongst employees due to indifferences and preconceived notions against those whom they find different. Conflicts based on demographic diversity can be deep-rooted and require careful tactfulness to avoid low productivity and company morale.
Challenges to Workplace Diversity
While 57% of employees think their organizations should be more diverse, region and age diversity is still problematic in most organizations. There are cases where workers who belong to the minority group may have to silently bear the power and influence within the organization. Here are a few challenges to make a note of and take precautionary steps toward building a positive inclusive culture in your diverse organization:
1. Communication barriers
An inclusive environment means more employees speaking different languages. Though there are bilingual employees to overcome language barriers, communication between team members can be time-taking to comprehend and understand. Many potential employees may have immense skill and knowledge but might have learned the subjects in their local language. English, though considered universal, is not the first language for many.
Language barriers can even create misunderstandings and cause issues because of ineffective communication. Failing to understand job-related tasks and instructions can affect the productivity and efficiency of a team to perform well.
An organization that plans to include diversity efforts should formulate strict policies for communication between employees. The gender discrimination and age gap should not be a reason for employees to misbehave or dominate others. Mainly, when employees communicate in their local language, it may be challenging for others to understand. Using certain slang words or a particular language can cause disparity and leave out those who are not proficient in that language.
For instance, female employees and male employees may have communication issues when they don’t communicate politely or use swear words or notions that hurt. It could lead to misunderstandings and can turn into verbal attacks. Younger employees may be sometimes addressed disrespectfully by the older generations. Communication issues like these can turn up at any time. Employees who have a friend circle with their existing colleagues can also have misunderstandings outside of work, which can affect their professional life.
Steps to overcome communication barriers with different inclusion efforts:
- Make workers (black workers, Hispanic workers etc.) follow a simple language for commonly communicating with their peers and superiors. Inculcate appropriate workplace communication skills and policies in employees to avoid miscommunication.
- Hire bilingual employees or train managers to be bilingual. Bilingualism increases competitive advantage significantly to include having employees with advanced skills and abilities, primarily if the organization focuses on growing internationally.
- Give time for new hires to adjust. The management needs to give the time and support for your new hires to adapt. As for the experienced new hires - give them a chance to adapt to the new environment first before expecting them to follow all the norms perfectly.
- Encourage workers to ask questions or have doubts. They need to understand that it’s better to ask than make mistakes on critical tasks. If they are hesitant to ask, they will remain uncertain about how to proceed with the everyday tasks, which may be counterproductive.
2. Handling different perspectives
Diverse employees will have different creative ideas and ways to solve a problem as they are from different cultural backgrounds. Multiple ideas can always be a boon for business leaders in choosing the best strategy to work on. Multiple ideas can thus add value to the quality of work in keeping what is needed and discarding what is not. On the other hand, it can be difficult to conclude one idea among the best. Selecting one among different perspectives might mean disappointing others who might have come up with better ideas. Too many perspectives can also hinder the timelines for completing tasks and productivity. Innovative ideas that go unnoticed can be demotivating for some workers and may even discourage them from sharing their ideas in further discussions.
Steps to overcome multiple perspective issues:
- Select a group of high-performers who will encourage every idea, provide feedback and decide on the final selection. If a decision cannot be made, the group can even introduce polls to identify the best idea.
3. Aligning diversity with organizational goals
Introducing an inclusive workplace needs dedication and sincere effort to consider all aspects before implementing it. One cannot just declare in a day that it will be an inclusive work environment for diversity and expect everyone to be supportive of achieving the organization’s goals. As there are no rules and regulations that you can copy from another organization, you should devise your plan and strategies by sitting with your leaders for multiple discussions. Every company needs to focus and pay attention to formulating a way of working, communicating, and conducting employees aligned with the organization’s objectives and goals. The diversity practices you try to implement must align with goals to deliver good outcomes in terms of team member performance and long-term success.
Don’t feel the need to implement the policies because other organizations follow them. Diversity practices need careful consideration before they are implemented wisely. For instance, if there is an existing diverse workforce, would it be good to create a framework or improve the existing guidelines? Perhaps you might need to focus on other aspects which might have been included in the newly recruited workforce and take off outdated norms entirely.
Steps to overcome goal alignment issues:
- Conduct surveys and collect feedback to identify your organization’s gaps, so you know where it stands. Obtain necessary information to update skills and resources to be more inclusive and accessible.
- Conduct weekly or monthly meetings to revise and restructure goals. Otherwise, you may make false conclusions and waste your time on diversity programs that have little to no significant or positive impact.
4. Conducting training
Diversity will also mean breaking down silos. Workers need to be helpful and cooperative with each other, and it starts with the leaders of the organization and organizational culture. When leaders don’t come out as tactful or consistent, it will create chaos within the organization. For the organization to be successful, the different units and teams in the organization should be well-performing. Leaders might handle these units or teams. Depending on their attitudes, managers can positively or negatively influence the outcome of these implementations and the team members on how they are carried out. Here is where training is essential for the management to be invested.
Many upskilling, leadership and management training have helped thriving organizations mold their workers. It has helped organizations to encourage employees to develop the right mindset towards ethnic diversity, understand the company’s diversity goals, understand the importance of being a part of a diverse workforce, and how their interaction with other peers should be. Micromanagement and training performance can say a lot about each individual and what they should work on. Leadership training can conduct quizzes and team activities that pose scenarios on how they might act and behave when a situation arises.
Steps to overcome compatibility issues:
Hiring agencies or companies that offer diversity training can be an excellent step to making your workers more aware of the best practices during the hiring process. Many such agencies are equipped to utilize data and reports to communicate the importance of building relationships and networks. It is helpful for organizations who don’t have an internal team to offer diversity training and require experts for customized solutions and support for your organization.
5. Overcoming bias
People tend to become biased whenever there are decisions to be made. Most humans make decisions based on emotions, beliefs, and intuition rather than facts or logic. Making emotional-based decisions or judgments can be very frustrating for oneself and can cause harm to others. Especially when there are internal conflicts, assigning and working together may be strained. Distrust and dishonesty will prevail when employees don’t openly communicate with each other when there are indifferences. Blaming and name-calling might also arise when they focus on what others should do rather than what they should improve on. “We are not the same, so we can’t work together” or “They are lower to me” are some biased thoughts that need to be addressed immediately in one-to-one discussions.
Workers need to constantly be reminded of the best intentions for themselves, others, and the company. Leaders should follow the same and encourage others to practice emotional maturity and lead by example.
Steps to overcome cultural differences and unconscious biases:
- Celebrating all functions and events can bring harmony between people from all races and religions to make them feel included.
- Dedicated training to address bias issues can go a long way to overcome indifferences or have a basic understanding of how to best deal with them.
- Hiring managers need to be very careful while dealing with workers from different sections of society or professional backgrounds. Additional inclusion training for employees can educate them on the culture of diversity. Job offers should clearly state the importance of an inclusive work environment that will prompt job seekers to be initially alert before joining the company itself.
- Communicate the benefits of workplace diversity and values. Resistant employees will eventually leave if they can’t follow the values that the company promotes. If you’re concerned about losing potential employees to diversity issues, remember that quality employees are not about work accomplishment alone but in nurturing others. Potential employees can be malignant if they value their own beliefs more than the company culture, company policies, and company values.
Diversity Implementation Challenges
Implementing diversity in the workforce looks easy when other organizations are implementing it, and you see them prospering and realizing the benefits of diversity. But are you aware of the groundwork that might have gone behind building up a diverse workforce? It is natural to face challenges along the way while you implement them. Like any new concept that might take its course to take its place, diversity is also good to incorporate, provided you take care of the mentioned challenges and take care of the proper steps to overcome them. There are plenty of ways to implement diversity, and there’s not one single diversity plan that one should always stick on. Each person will have their idea of diversity and how it should work. Senior decision-makers can always try to enforce diversity that is feasible and acceptable to the majority of the workforce.
The top management has an essential role in implementing diversity. Senior executives and managers should set aside quality time to discuss these matters and create a more diverse and inclusive atmosphere for better employee engagement and reduced employee turnover. They should cater to their duty towards devising strategies for an inclusive workforce while keeping expectations on their team members for performance and quality of work.
Starting a mentorship program... Please look at Qooper!
"Out of the box, it has everything you need to get a mentorship program off the ground. It is easy to implement, easy to use, has an intuitive user interface and great customer service."
Schedule a Demo