Diversity and inclusion

Diversity issues in the workplace

Diversity is an important part of creating a productive workplace culture. However, achieveing a diverse workplace can be challenging.


Published on 

March 14, 2019

Updated on 

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Workplace diversity can come in all shapes and sizes including differences in age, gender, race, religion and education level among others.  These differences can make a company strong, particularly if they are representative of the target customer or consumer base at large. However, they can also cause conflict among employees. In addition, studies have shown a lack of diversity within corporations and other organizations, specifically at the top level.

Research has shown that those companies with higher levels of diversity outperform those with lower levels. In fact, numbers released by McKinsey show that companies with a diverse workforce are 35 percent more likely to earn revenues above the industry average. Additional research done by the Boston Consulting Group showed similar results. Their study found that organizations that had more diversity also saw innovation revenue that was 19 percentage points higher than companies with a less diverse workplace.

It is important for your company culture to help promote the positive elements of diversity at your workplace. This means, teaching and training employees to respect differences and to communicate effectively with one another.

Types of Diversity Issues to Look Out For

Although most modern organizations are aware prejudice in their workforce should not be welcome or tolerated, there are a variety of issues that can become diversity problems if they are not actively sought out. These include:

Respect. Everyone at the company should be respected and treated with dignity regardless of their background, gender, or lifestyle preference.

Ethnicity/culture. Today’s marketplace is a mixing pot of individuals from different countries, cultures and backgrounds. They all have something unique to add to their workplaces.

Gender. Employees should be treated equally regardless of their gender. This goes deeper than pay equity. Many women in the workforce have several issues that can hinder their ability to contribute to their full potential in an organization.

Age. This type of discrimination can severely harness the opportunity that organizations have to grow and adapt to industry changes. These issues can include stereotypes of younger works as lazy and not able to offer insight because of their lack of experience. However, it can also work against older employees who may be close to retirement and are seen as no longer relevant to the organization.

Disability. Diversity in the workplace needs to include those with disabilities. While they may have physical or mental limitations, they still have something unique to offer.

Tips to Create a Diversity-friendly Workplace

Even if your organization has not had any problems with diversity issues or conflicts, it is important to communicate your company policies to employees and to help them understand the benefits of diversity.

Here are a few ways that you can help develop a diversity-friendly workplace.

  1. Training. All levels of employees at your organization should be required to take diversity awareness training. These are courses or workshops that can help individuals understand the issues around diversity in their workplace. It can also give your employee tools and skills to understand one another and handle conflict in a positive way. This type of training is essential to create a welcoming workplace.
  2. Update your policy. Every organization should have a clearly defined policy about behaviors that will not be tolerated. This policy should address what harassment behaviors look like and what employees can do if they feel they are being harassed. If you do not currently have a policy, it is a good idea to have one crafted and shared with employees. For those organizations that do have a policy, it is important to review it periodically and update it, if needed.
  3. Be flexible. To create a diverse workplace some accommodations for employees may need to be made. This includes offering your employees things like special days off in recognition of religious holidays or, for those with disabilities, accessible workplaces and breaks that allow them enough time to deal with medical or mobility issues.
  4. Have an assessment. Some organizations can overlook prejudices or diversity problems in their workplace. This is why it is a good idea to have an external party come in and conduct an assessment of your company. These reviews can reveal any hidden issues that may have been missed by those inside the company.
  5. Don’t neglect discipline. Organizations who have a clearly defined policy that outlines those behaviors that won’t be tolerated in the workplace should also have disciplinary procedures for employees who disregard the policy.

Mentoring in a Diverse Workplace

Differences can become a hindrance to any workplace mentoring programs as it can directly impact the quality of connection a mentor and mentee have. However, it doesn’t need to be difficult. By being aware of the unique needs and expectations of each participant the mentor-mentee match can be customized to create a growth opportunity for everyone involved. Mentoring software can help make the best mentee-mentor match based on criteria defined by the program manager.

Yet, the participants do not have to be identical for the match to be successful. In fact, research has demonstrated that some differences between a mentor and mentee can lead to better learning experiences.

One of the best ways to ensure a successful mentor-mentee match is to use a mentoring software program to create the match. It is also advised that each participant is given some training, which can offer them some tools they can use to develop a good working relationship with one another.

Creating a Positive and Diverse Workplace

Diversity in any organization should be welcomed and celebrated. Research has shown that diverse workplaces outperform those organizations that lack a high level of diversity in their employees. Companies can help overcome conflict caused by differences in race, age, gender, religion, education level and more. From offering diversity awareness training opportunities to developing and updating policies that relate to diversity such as harassment. It is important that everyone, from management down to support staff, work to fight prejudices that can cause conflict and hinder the unity and productivity of the organization.

About the Author

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Learn how to run a diversity-focused mentoring program with our DE&I mentoring handbook.

This handbook will cover how to run a mentorship program specifically designed for DE&I initiatives. If you're a mentor or mentee, this handbook provides helpful tips for uncovering and addressing biases and unique experiences.