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5 Challenges to Achieving Diversity in the Workplace

Workplace diversity is discussed quite a bit nowadays, so it's important to understand what it is, why it's necessary, and what challenges your organization may face during the process of achieving it. Simply put, workplace diversity refers to the individual differences that employees may have. This can include several things that make up a person’s identity, including race, religion, gender, veteran status, sexual orientation, and age.

There are several good reasons to increase the diversity in your organization. For one, it can significantly boost your bottom line: A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that companies with a higher-than-average level of diversity enjoy 19% higher innovation revenues than their less diverse counterparts.  Also, diverse companies are able to capture new markets 70% more than companies that aren’t diverse. The Boston Consulting Group found that organizations with highly-diverse management teams earn 19% higher revenues than companies with less managerial diversity. Research from Forbes found that 56% of companies that make over $10 billion in annual revenue strongly believe diversity in their organizations has driven innovation.

Also, diversity makes employees happier—and happier employees are more productive and creative. Happiness on the job is so significant to workers that 58% of them are willing to accept a pay cut to work in an environment that makes them happy.

With these benefits in mind, it only makes sense that companies should create a solid diversity recruitment plan to increase the number of employees from underrepresented communities in their organization. However, this can be easier said than done. Continue reading to find out how some challenges to achieving diversity in the workplace can get in the way of your D&I goals

What Are the Main Challenges to Achieving Diversity in the Workplace?

Increasing the diversity in your organization has clear benefits, but you have to be realistic because you will face challenges along the way. The following are some of the common ones you may encounter when working to achieve diversity in the workplace.

1. Communication  

Having teams from diverse backgrounds presents a great opportunity for companies to increase their innovation, but there is also the opportunity for major communication challenges to occur—particularly if you have employees from countries where English is not the primary language. This means language barriers need to be addressed for everyone to communicate with each other effectively.

But even when workers speak the same language, there can still be issues with communication. Americans, Britons, and Australians may all speak English, however, there are many differences in how these cultures use the English language. Also, if your employees are all from the United States, regional language differences can sometimes create challenges when communicating.  

2. Slow Progress

Deloitte reports that 69% of executives believe diversity is a vital issue. At first blush, that sounds great—until you realize that most of these executives may not actually have time to implement any diversity and inclusion initiatives in their company. In fact, 41% of company managers are simply too busy to address diversity, so making headway on a D&I plan can be extremely difficult.

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3. Wage Discrepancies

If you're bringing in new employees from various underserved groups but you don't address any wage discrepancies that exist at your company, it's going to be challenging to keep those workers. A lack of wage equity can be a huge barrier towards achieving diversity in an organization, so it's imperative to audit salaries to ensure all workers are being paid fairly. Also, you want to look at whether or not there are fair opportunities for all employees to move up the ladder within your company. If these things are not addressed, becoming a more diverse organization will prove difficult because you will have a revolving door of good talent coming in and out.

4. Not Enough Representation in High Places

New employees from underrepresented backgrounds need to know that they’re accepted and understood at your organization. This will be more challenging if they don't see themselves represented at your company—particularly among management. Diversity should start from the top, so it's important to have executives who are members of the underserved communities you're trying to target. Not only will this help new hires feel more comfortable, it can also open up more opportunities for them. For example, executives may take a liking to an employee and decide to informally mentor them, which can give them a leg up in their careers. However, people have the tendency to want to help those who are a reflection of themselves, so workers from underserved groups may not get that opportunity if there aren't people from their communities represented in the company. 

5. Retention

Keeping good talent is always a challenge, and if you don’t address equity and inclusion shortfalls at your company, retaining talent from underrepresented communities will be especially difficult. Also, there’s another side to this coin to consider. Sometimes in an effort to become more diverse, companies may actually keep talent because they are members of a group they want represented in their workforce. Keeping employees who are not performing to your standards just because of their identity alone can derail your D&I goals every bit as much as losing the good employees. 

Implementing a D&I plan is a great way to reap the benefits of diversity in your workplace. But it's important to keep in mind that you may face some challenges along the way. It’s good to know what to expect and create strategies for combatting these challenges so you are more likely to reach your goals.

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