Biggest Hurdles to Building a Diverse Workforce (and How to Overcome Them)

By Ashutosh Jha → Last Updated on Tuesday, October 12, 2021
Diversity and inclusion aren't just corporate buzzwords, they're key issues of importance as socially responsible initiatives that are also critical for a company's success. When studying how employee engagement and diversity affect performance, Gallup revealed that the combination of gender diversity and engagement resulted in significantly higher financial performance (46 to 58 percent). A report by Deloitte found that 69 percent of executives believe diversity is an important issue.

We could list stat after stat, but the key isn't just to talk about it, it's to make it happen. If your business is struggling to do so, it could be harming productivity and your bottom line, or even creating an environment that leads to discrimination cases being filed against it.

If you want your organization to be successful, here's how you can overcome the biggest hurdles and build a truly diverse workforce.

Misunderstandings Between People from Different Cultures

When you have employees who come from different cultures, it's a great way to bring new ideas to the table with various perspectives, but it can also lead to misunderstandings. For example, if you give someone a thumbs up or pat them on the back, it can be seen as offensive in certain cultures. If you have an inclusive workplace that helps employees feel confident that their team members respect those differences, they're likely to give others the benefit of the doubt.

Be sure to create an environment in which team members welcome feedback and the opportunity to learn when they've done or said something that could be offensive. Taking advantage of teachable moments can help everyone learn to do their part, ensuring diversity and inclusivity.

Communication Problems

When hiring a group of diverse people in a primarily English-speaking environment, it can be difficult for those who don't speak English as their first language.

Even if their English reading and writing skills are strong, they may still be practicing to communicate verbally as it can be difficult, especially when nuances and slang are involved. They may feel ostracized and pressured to try and make a good first impression by contributing in a meeting, for example, but don't feel confident enough to speak up. These individuals may be left out of the conversation, and meeting leaders often don't make the effort to understand and recognize what the issue is.

Managers in this situation should acknowledge language barriers while providing guidelines for more inclusive meetings and encouraging employees to feel safe enough to speak up. Encourage those whose first language is English to speak more slowly and clearly, and avoid slang.

Biases and Stereotypes

As you work at diversifying your team, you may uncover biases. Unfortunately bias, prejudice, and stereotypes can be ingrained which means overcoming them not only takes a willingness to change, but humility.

If an employee doesn't feel comfortable with a coworker, is skeptical about their ability or perhaps would hesitate to put them in front of a customer, it's important to ask why. The answers will quickly reveal if there is an unconscious bias, discrimination, prejudice, or stereotype behind it, or, if there is truly a legitimate reason.

If there isn't a legitimate reason, it's essential to handle the situation quickly before it causes divisions at the company as it will interfere with your goal of building a more diverse workforce. Some employees might start looking for a new job while candidates might not want to work for your company.

Unwillingness to Change

If your business has been rather homogenized, with most employees coming from similar backgrounds, it's natural for some to resist change which means trying to implement diversity initiatives might be a battle. With good leadership, persistence, and an explanation of the values of diversity, that resistance can be overcome.

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Ashutosh Jha

Ashutosh Jha is a professional blogger, Blog and IT Consultant. He writes about Blogging, SEO, Making Money, Internet Marketing and Web Design.
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