Workplace diversity is a hot-button issue. It can refer to gender diversity or racial and ethnic diversity as well as diversity based on sexual orientation, age and ability. You may have required your employees to undergo diversity training or have gone through it yourself to address diversity issues in your workplace.
Diversity problems in the workplace can stem from bias or prejudice. They can also arise from a lack of understanding of other cultures and belief systems. Businesses can utilize diversity training, mentorship and creative hiring strategies to create more inclusive workplaces for employees and customers alike.
Understanding Workplace Diversity
Workplace diversity refers to hiring and retaining employees from a wide variety of backgrounds. It's important for legal reasons as well as more practical ones. For example, in the 1990s and 2000s, multiple financial companies paid large settlements to former employees to settle sex and race discrimination lawsuits. Newer cases have been decided in favor of the plaintiffs discriminated against because of disability, gender and even pregnancy. Discrimination against employees due to race, religion, ability, sex and age are illegal.
Diversity does more for your workplace than make it compliant, though. A study by researchers at North Carolina State University and Portland State University found that more diverse workplaces were able to develop two more products over 10 years than less diverse workplaces. Although two more products over 10 years may not sound like a lot, it does add to the company’s bottom line.
A study by McKinsey and Company found similar results. Companies that ranked highly in gender, ethnic and cultural diversity were more likely to have above-average profitability than companies with less diversity.
Examples of Workplace Diversity Issues
Workplace diversity issues can arise in many situations. A workplace with a diverse range of ages, for example, may experience tension between workers of various generations. Millennial employees, for example, may prefer a more collaborative approach to work, while Baby Boomers tend to be more reserved. This can lead to communication conflicts.
Another example of a diversity issue in the workplace is the inclusion of disabled employees. Disabled employees may experience challenges in how their managers and co-workers perceive them. They may also face accessibility challenges in workplaces that aren’t prepared to accommodate their needs.
Workplaces with employees from other cultures may not be aware of the norms and expectations of workplaces in the United States. For example, employees from more reserved cultures may not feel comfortable filing a grievance or complaint if there is a workplace issue.
Resolving Workplace Diversity Issues
Resolving workplace diversity issues takes dedication and focus. Offering diversity training can help, although research from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research shows that voluntary diversity training has better results than mandatory diversity training. Diversity training should also include non-management employees as well as managers.
Mentoring is another way to help resolve workplace diversity problems. Mentoring builds relationships between junior and senior employees. It can help underrepresented employee groups learn how to progress and be promoted to higher positions. A formal mentoring program can help connect these employees to the mentorship they need.