7 Challenges of Workplace Diversity (And How to Overcome Them)

Categories: Advice for HR Professionals

Gone are the days when a single race, sex, or religion ruled workplaces. Nowadays, professionals from all walks of life are driving companies to new heights, revolutionizing workplace diversity greater than ever before.

A study shows diverse organizations have a 2.5 times higher cash flow per employee and are over 35% more productive—a testament to the benefits of inclusivity. Couple this data with the increasing globalization and prevalence of remote setups, and diversity is making jobs more accessible for working parents and people with disabilities worldwide.

However, a diverse workforce can present unique challenges for HR. If left unchecked, these problems might negate the benefits of workplace diversity.

This article discusses the challenges of workplace diversity and tips to manage them effectively.

7 Workplace Diversity Challenges and How to Solve Them

1. Language barrier

Fostering a diverse workplace means zero preference for specific nationalities. Yet, such a policy creates language barriers between employees who speak different tongues. If your employees cannot comprehend specific details and instructions, your company’s diversity may become more of a liability than an asset.

Break language barriers down by forming a consensus on a common language. English, for instance, is the world’s most spoken language that effectively bridges people of different nationalities. Moreover, you can organize learning sessions for your employees to get familiar with each other’s key terms and phrases.

2. Different communication styles

Employees from varying backgrounds may find it challenging to connect and communicate with each other, not just because they speak different languages.

This problem presents itself in multiple dimensions. First, younger staff often prefer services like Slack for correspondence, while older workers favor traditional modes like email or SMS. Moreover, generational differences in speech may also surface. Baby boomers, for instance, might find it difficult to understand Gen Z slang. 

Second, communication styles vary across cultures. For instance, Filipinos are indirect communicators in contrast to the direct communication style of Westerners. 

Accommodating preferences is critical to satisfying your employees’ needs. The best way to navigate this challenge is by raising awareness about these differences with your employees through learning sessions.

3. Us-and-them mentality

Diversifying your workforce may cause estrangement between certain groups. For example, on-site management might make decisions that exclude their offshore or remote colleagues. This us-and-them mentality creates a rift between employees who are supposed to be on the same team, leading to infighting.

Your employees must realize that the company needs to unify to function effectively. You can facilitate diversity training sessions to help educate your staff about inclusiveness and ease work-group tensions. You can also collect feedback to further understand how to improve workplace harmony.

4. Cultural insensitivity issues

Gathering employees from different social and geographic backgrounds may cause cultural misunderstandings. While some people are deliberately insensitive, others may act similarly due to ignorance.

In this case, promoting cultural sensitivity and awareness can minimize offensive comments. You can create spaces or particular schedules to accommodate certain religious traditions in your workplace (e.g., Muslims’ Salah times). Go further by making meeting attendance optional, especially for offshore employees from different timezones.

When combined, tiny adjustments to accommodate diversity make your organization a more inclusive space for everyone.

5. Discrimination between employees

At first, it can be tough to manage intimidation between employees. Tensions between different religions, races, and political beliefs may result in discrimination. Dealing with these issues before they worsen is critical since, other than being socially unacceptable, victims of discrimination may serve lawsuits against your company.

While it’s essential to nurture free speech, creating a policy regulating conduct for local and offshore workers minimizes the risks of prejudice. A zero-tolerance discrimination policy is critical to maintaining a harmonious workplace without prejudice.

6. Inequitable decisions

There may be cases when inclusive policies don’t cover every employee. For instance, switching to the latest technologies may be well and good for younger employees, but your older employees may not appreciate this decision. Another example is forcing everyone to go to the company Christmas Party when not everyone is a practicing Christian.

These situations show inclusivity as a continuous effort to improve your company’s work environment. During these circumstances, it’s important to gather feedback from your team. Knowing what approaches work for them can give you an idea of what policies to adjust and create.

Ultimately, being transparent about your changes and adjusting them according to responses can help you make more equitable decisions for your staff’s well-being.

7. Difficulty in reaching a consensus

Having a diverse team means your employees could have conflicting perspectives. While it promotes open communication and innovation, non-stop discussions can delay important decisions.

To solve this issue, consider adjusting your management style by creating a committee representing workplace groups (e.g., sexes or work setups). Then, have the committee attend company meetings and deliberations to allow everyone to contribute to their workplace’s operations.

Create an Inclusive Workplace for On-Site and Remote Workers

Workplace diversity is an essential step toward the future of human resource management, although it’s not without challenges. After all, you’re bringing people from various backgrounds together, so some might inevitably clash due to their differences.

It’s crucial to address diversity issues before they worsen. Inclusivity and sensitivity seminars for on-site and offshore workers are a great start to educating your team on proper workplace etiquette. 

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