Most companies face a series of diversity issues daily. Some might argue that diversity is all about meeting a certain quota for people employed based on gender and race; it’s a whole lot more than that.
The real meaning of diversity
At work, diversity promotes teamwork, respect, and acceptance even if your employees differ by communication styles, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or political beliefs.
There are numerous advantages to having a diverse working environment. Most product and process innovations happen because employees come from different backgrounds and demographics. So, the outcome is often monumental when different minds work toward the same goal. Studies have found that companies that practice inclusion and diversity in the workplace perform better than other non-diverse companies by 15 percent.
But a diverse workplace also comes with its problems. Recruitment experts and HR personnel should know about the different diversity-related issues so they can know how to address and prevent them. So, I wrote this article to prepare you for those challenges.
1. Respect and Acceptance. Respect is a big deal between you and your staff – it’s the critical value that adds to the great atmosphere of a workplace that is successfully diverse. If the team does not accept the various beliefs and culture, conflicts are bound to arise. Those conflicts might even lead to hatred and escalate into violent situations. On the other hand, when your workers accept and respect each other’s differences, they can share ideas and collaborate effectively. Acceptance prevents conflicts and cultivates mutual respect. As the leader, you need to organize diversity training that will help your team members to respect and accept each other.
2. Cultural and Ethnic Differences. As indicated by a New York Times report, only 5 African-American CEOs exist in Fortune 500 companies. Also, a University of Wisconsin study found that individuals with names that sound African-American are about 50% less likely to get a callback for interviews (ref). Tragically, cultural, and ethnic differences are still causing issues at work. This is because some people still hold a bias against individuals with religious, cultural, or ethnic backgrounds that differ from theirs. Such discrimination and bias should not be allowed at work (or somewhere else). You should put internal policies in place with objective and clear guidelines to prevent workers from showing bias. You can handle this issue by organizing diversity awareness and cultural sensitivities events.
3. Different Beliefs. A diverse workplace might experience trouble when the political, spiritual, or cultural beliefs differ. To prevent disputes and conflicts, you need to continually remind your workers that they shouldn’t shove their beliefs down someone else’s throat. They should also keep their personal and ethnic beliefs aside when carrying out their duties and responsibilities at work.
4. Mental and Physical Disabilities. Most times, disabled workers find it hard to move around at work because appropriate facilities such as wheelchair ramps, elevators are not present. Also, service dogs can’t enter some buildings even though special needs workers can’t do without them. Here are some solutions that you can use: Set up a facility to accommodate service dogs at the workplace
- Provide a quiet room for anxious employees to relax when stressed
- Offer other necessary support to your disabled staffs
- Don’t allow anyone to pass derogatory or discriminatory remarks, even as a joke
By providing a comfortable and conducive environment for disabled employees, you will be making your workforce more diverse.
5. Gender Equality. Previously, women were paid not as much as men. Luckily, the Equal Pay Act has fixed that. Now, more women are part of the workforce. Your role as an employer is to remove discrimination that they might face because of their gender. You also need to be fair when it comes to salary, promotions, opportunities, etc.
6. Communication and Language. With a diverse workforce, communication and language are always present. Most times, US companies employee people who speak English as a second language. So, communication problems often pop up. This can result in productivity loss and miscommunication and efficiency. You can bridge this gap by hiring bilingual or multilingual people. You can also provide language training for your workers who can’t communicate well in English.
7. Age Gaps. Millennials are completely transforming the work culture, and by 2025, over 75% of the workforce will be millennials. Those swift changes might be hard for older generations to accept. In more prominent companies, the ages of the employees are usually diverse. Therefore, people in similar age groups often form social circles that might exclude other people. Their thought process can also differ at times. You should maintain effective collaboration and teamwork to help overcome any gap issues.