How to overcome diversity challenges in the workplace

by | Jul 8, 2024

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In today’s interconnected world, workplaces are more diverse and dynamic than ever before. Embracing diversity in an organisation has been shown to offer significant benefits. However, fostering a truly inclusive workplace is easier said than done.

No matter the type or size of your organisation, you’re likely to encounter many challenges on the path to achieving inclusivity. This article explores these challenges and provides actionable strategies to overcome them.

Common diversity and inclusion challenges

Unconscious bias

Everyone has a preconceived notion about the world around them, it’s how humans process their environment and learn how to interact with others. But sometimes those biases unconsciously affect the way people act towards others.

This commonly manifests in biases in decision-making processes for hiring and promotions. Decisions that are made because of someone’s personal identity instead of their capabilities can perpetuate inequality and prevent organisations from fostering an inclusive environment. For example, a hiring manager’s gender bias might cause them to assume that men are more suited for leadership roles. Or they might favour candidates who share similar interests or backgrounds to themselves.

Lack of inclusive policies

Progress can’t happen in an organisation that has inadequate diversity and inclusion policies. In fact, a lack of inclusion policies signals to the employees that the organisation doesn’t care about diversity.

Worse yet, policies can inadvertently discriminate against employees, whether it’s intentional or not. For example, policies that prohibit certain hairstyles can be discriminatory to certain racial, ethnic or cultural groups. Having strict working schedules may not be inclusive of parents with young children, people with disabilities, or certain religious groups.

These kinds of policies prevent minority groups and people with additional needs from being able to work to their full potential.

Lack of inclusive leadership

Inclusive leadership is characterised by an approach that fosters positive interactions and promotes openness for every member of the organisation. Leaders are influential and if the leaders themselves are not outwardly showing an effort to be inclusive, no diversity initiatives will work.

These are several behaviours that inclusive leaders should demonstrate:

  1. Awareness: Being aware means that you understand yourself and your surroundings. It involves acknowledging and reflecting on any biases you may have and actively implementing strategies to ensure they don’t impact your decision-making. Awareness also means that you recognise people’s differences and know how they shape your team.
  2. Accountability: As an inclusive leader, you should know that your actions and decisions significantly affect others. Take accountability for your actions, especially if you’ve made a mistake, and commit to doing better as you go forward.
  3. Openness: Being open means that you can freely share your ideas with your team and encourage them to do the same. An inclusive leader creates an environment where their team is not afraid to share their opinions and where everyone feels involved and respected.

Strategies to overcome diversity and inclusion challenges

To overcome challenges to diversity and inclusion, organisations need to take specific steps, and it’s essential for employees at every level to be fully involved. Just like with any other strategy, organisations must plan, implement and evaluate their diversity and inclusion strategies for them to work.


Planning usually starts at the top of the organisation with senior managers taking the initiative to create and commit to a strategic plan. These plans need to be detailed and communicated clearly to every employee.

Develop diversity and inclusion policies

Devise clear diversity policies that are inclusive of every member of the organisation. The policies should define the key terms of what diversity is, outline what behaviours the organisation deems as acceptable and what behaviour is prohibited. They should also outline a process for resolving diversity-related issues.

Align the policies with the organisation’s values

If an organisation’s policies are aligned with their values, it sends a message to current and potential employees that inclusivity is at the core of the organisation. This means that anyone who works in that organisation is expected to behave accordingly and that deviations from the policies are not tolerated.

Build employee resource groups (ERGs)

ERGs are voluntary groups that are built by and for the employees of an organisation. They mostly work to create a diverse and safe space for minority groups with common identities. For example, groups may be formed around ethnicity, sexuality, or physical ability. These groups provide a space for employees to connect and advocate each other. They can give employees a voice and address any pressing issues regarding inclusivity.


Without proper implementation, your policies are just pretty words on paper. Here are some steps to properly implement your strategy.

Provide diversity and inclusivity training to line managers

Because line managers are directly involved with other employees, their actions affect employees tangibly. Diversity and inclusivity training can help managers better understand their own unconscious biases and enable them to lead by example.

Managers are also directly responsible for building a safe environment for employees to work in. Employees who feel that they’re psychologically safe are more likely to work more productively because they’re not constantly worried about their wellbeing in the workplace.

Provide flexible work arrangements

Organisations should consider the needs of its employees, whether it be providing the option to work from home, having robust parental leave policies, offering flexible work options, or providing accessible facilities for employees with disabilities. Flexible work arrangements ensure every employee has the opportunity to participate fully in the workplace.

Monitor progress

Organizations can only gauge the effectiveness of their diversity and inclusion strategies through regular monitoring. Ensure your policies are upheld, and that issues are addressed promptly. To monitor progress, look at:

  • Employee retention rate: A higher retention rate suggests that employees are happy to work in your organisation and they feel a sense of belonging.
  • Pay equity: A difference in salary for men and women may indicate your organisation is treating employees unequally.
  • Demographic data for hiring and promotions: Demographic data can reveal insights about your hiring practices and whether unconscious bias is having an impact.

Evaluation and feedback

Ensuring your diversity and inclusivity practices are impactful is a continuous process, it’s important to frequently evaluate your initiatives and request feedback from the people who are most affected by them.

Organisations should gather feedback from employees to identify which policies are working, and which are not quite hitting the mark. Feedback can be gathered through anonymous surveys, 1-on-1 meetings, or team meetings. This allows employees to communicate their perspectives, experiences and satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with the organisation’s initiatives.

What’s next?

Overcoming diversity challenges in the workplace is a big endeavour that requires a strategic and comprehensive approach. But it’s critical work. By ensuring your workplace has robust diversity and inclusion policies, and that you’re monitoring the impact of your policies over time, you can create a truly inclusive environment where every member feels valued and empowered to contribute to their fullest potential.Here at Herrmann, we believe that a safe and inclusive workplace is essential for your organisation to thrive. Our approach empowers businesses to use Whole Brain® Thinking to improve workplace diversity and culture for lasting impact. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more.

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