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June 13th, 2021 · 5 min read

How to overcome challenges of diversity in the workplace

Written by: Rocio Alvarez

challenges of diversity in the workplace

Barriers to diversity in the workplace

  • Unconscious bias
    What makes workplace DEI particularly challenging to address is that many harmful behaviors exist at an unconscious level. This might include unfair or untrue ideas about the competency of an individual based on characteristics such as their age, gender, sexuality, culture, race or educational background among others. These unconscious biases help to perpetuate an inequitable status quo, which then can seep into all aspects of the company culture and negatively impact the overall work environment.
  • Microaggressions
    A microaggression is a subtle, sometimes unintentional derogatory comment or gesture. Although anyone can be a target of microaggressions, these insults are commonly targeted at people from marginalized groups. Over time, these subtle negative behaviors can lead to conflict and contribute to a hostile work environment.
  • Workplace inequity
    When discussing diversity and inclusion in the workplace, equity is often overlooked or misunderstood. Having an equitable work environment means recognizing that every employee has varying access to resources and some individuals may require additional support to take advantage of opportunities within the organization. If some team members don’t feel that they’re on the same level playing field as others, it can be detrimental to your greater diversity and inclusion efforts.
  • Lack of diverse representation
    People want to see others like themselves reflected in all levels of a company to trust that they have a viable opportunity to advance and believe that their employer values diversity. If the majority of your leadership team is homogenous, it can send a message to those who don’t fit the mold that reaching that level of leadership is unattainable to them.
  • Lack of inclusion
    Inadequate inclusion efforts have the potential to alienate anyone who does not already fit the culture of a company. This can lead to disengaged employees and ultimately, stagnate organizational growth.

    On the other hand, inclusive businesses are 1.7 times more likely to be leaders in innovation and can earn 2.3 times more revenue per employee. 

How to overcome challenges of diversity in the workplace 

  • Proactively address barriers to education inequity
    Many leading organizations are leveraging workforce education to support diversity, equity and inclusion progress. By providing employees with access to quality education, you empower all team members to reach their full potential and earn the credentials and/or skills needed to grow with your company. This leads to a more equitable and inclusive work environment and can generate key business outcomes such as improved retention.
  • Think beyond DEI training
    By now, most companies have implemented some form of diversity, equity and inclusion training. Although it can be a powerful tool for generating awareness around key DEI issues, training alone is not enough to foster lasting organizational change. Instead, consider integrating training with another initiative, such as a mentorship program. This allows employees to have a dedicated time and space to have open and honest conversations with their colleagues about their learnings.
  • Evolve your hiring practices
    Hiring places a major role in furthering DEI within an organization. And although hiring for diverse talent is likely already a major priority for your talent acquisition team, it’s important to remember that your diversity recruiting strategy should never be static.

    For example, many businesses have shifted to a skills-based approach to hiring that prioritizes past experience and competencies over degree requirements. This allows you to recruit from a wider pool of qualified job candidates that may not have had access to quality education or followed a traditional path to education.

    Additionally, be sure to keep a pulse on the latest diversity-specific job boards and talent initiatives that can help your team connect with a wider pool of diverse job seekers, such as OneTen
  • Integrate DEI into company culture
    Although advancing DEI is a responsibility that falls on all members of the organization, it starts with company leadership. The most diverse organizations view DEI as more than just a series or policies or people programs. Instead, the standard is set by the everyday behaviors and actions of the people in leadership and the work environment that they cultivate.

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