Diversity in the Workplace – What Are the Barriers and Benefits?

In our last blog, we looked at what Workplace Diversity is, as well as the absolute minimum a business needs to implement in relation to diversity (such as acknowledgement and fulfilling its legal requirements). Creating a truly diverse workplace takes time, effort, and patience. Therefore, it is important to identify the many benefits that can be brought about in creating workplace diversity, but also the current barriers in bringing this about.

 

Benefits of Creating Workplace Diversity

Creating and catering to a diverse workplace can bring about many advantages:

Strong recruitment pipeline         

The marketplace is becoming very competitive in recruiting and retaining talented workers – improving your workplace and workplace culture is the first step in attracting and then retaining talented and invaluable employees. One of the key items in having great workplace culture is embracing and promoting diversity. When talented individuals understand that their differences, their unique set of skills, their culture, will be valued by your business then they are more likely to want to work in your company.      

Increased productivity       

Diverse employees can bring more ideas, processes and a broader range of skills. They can also offer their advice through their diverse experiences and perspectives, leading to holistic ideas, more informed decision making and better outcomes, leading to increased potential for increased productivity

Increased creativity            

Differing perspectives and solutions to problems, gaps or requirements through various cultures and backgrounds can lead to a range of creative ideas and solutions. You can leverage your employee’s personal experiences and cultural upbringing to form new ideas and fresh perspectives that can help your business improve that you might never previously have considered1

Positive Reputation           

Companies who create a diverse workplace are often perceived as better employers, embrace all backgrounds and treat their employees fairly. A fully diverse workforce sends a strong message to employees and candidates that your organisation is accepting of all and is therefore an employer of choice2

Customer Retention         

Through building a strong culture in your workplace supporting diversity, and promoting this to the wider community, the more likely you will gain support and good PR from the wider community. Also remember that the more diverse your team is, the better equipped they will be in connecting with a wider range of customers3.

 

Diversity has been proven to benefit companies financially. McKinsey and Company’s “Diversity Matters” report confirmed companies that created diversity financially outperformed others who were not4. To operate a successful and profitable business, it is therefore vital to implement a diverse workforce.

Having a diverse workplace is not an overnight process – it is achieved through time, effort and incremental change. Current barriers within the workplace will also hinder progression, so it is important to understand and identify these barriers.

 

Creating Diversity in the Workplace – What are the Barriers?

McKinsey and Company’s “Diversity Matters” research report noted that employers who introduced diversity changes within their company sometimes encountered resistance or a lack of change from employees. Why? Here are some of the reasons:

  • Some of the employees had what is called “unconscious” biases (biases they weren’t aware that they had) and open biases. These biases were so deeply rooted within the individual employee, practiced knowingly and unknowingly on a regular basis, that it became deeply rooted within the organisation’s culture
  • The leadership team either didn’t support or encourage change
  • The leadership team did not create commitments and guidelines on diversity, nor direct or guide employees consistently on these requirements
  • Lack of information on the benefits of creating diverse workplaces, and
  • The company provided one-off diversity awareness training (committed, continuous training required to bring about change)
  • The third party delivering the training did not ensure the material was tailored to suit the particular issues in diversity, nor delivered in a way that was easily grasped by the audience4.

 

What about the employees already within the business encountering diversity issues? Evans and Chung’s 2007 research report pinpointed different ways they were being marginalised within the company:

  • While diversity was built into the policies of the company, there was a lack of support in actually making room for diversity
  • Failure by the company (from leadership down) to make allowances for diverse views, opinions, ideas and needs
  • The company made general assumptions in how to tackle diversity issues and make allowances for diversity
  • Employees with diverse backgrounds were isolated from the team/group, or required to work independently in order to avoid diversity issues, and
  • The company created an appearance of recruiting diverse people, possessing a diverse team without actually creating a diverse environment6.

 

Understanding the benefits as well as the barriers in creating diverse workplaces will prepare you in creating change within your business. It also helps to identify whether your business really has diversity or not. So how can you take the first steps in creating a truly diverse workplace? This will be covered in our next blog “Improve Diversity through Effective Policies and Actions”.

 

  1. https://abilityoptions.org.au/about-us/news-events/blog/5-benefits-of-diversity-in-the-workplace accessed 26 Aug 20
  2. https://lawpath.com.au/blog/what-is-diversity-in-the-workplace accessed 26 Aug 20
  3. https://abilityoptions.org.au/about-us/news-events/blog/5-benefits-of-diversity-in-the-workplace accessed 26 Aug 20 et al
  4. Hunt, Layton, Prince, “Diversity Matters” report, McKinsey and Company, February 2 2015.
  5. Hunt, Layton, Prince, “Diversity Matters” report, et.al, page 15.
  6. Evans and Chun, “Coping with Behavioural and Organisational Barriers to Diversity in the Workplace”, CUPA-HR Journal, Vol. 58, No. 1, 12-18.