18 Advantages and Disadvantages of Diversity in the Workplace (Cultural and Gender)

If you work in a traditional office setting, what is it that makes you feel comfortable while you are there? For a majority of workers in America, they say that they love going to work because of the relationships that they can build with their co-workers. In the past, that meant hiring people from the same background, culture, or ethnicity.

Now companies are realizing that having diversity in the workplace creates a higher level of comfort than having everyone approach situations in the same way. The statistics prove that when businesses focus on creating a diverse environment, there are higher levels of success to find.

• Teams which are racially diverse outperform non-diverse ones by 35%.
• Blind auditions from applications submitted increased the likelihood that a woman would get the open position by up to 46%.
• African-Americans are 16% less likely to receive a job interview invitation when their race is known.
• Teams where there is gender equality present earn 41% more revenue.

Businesses are learning that diversity in the workplace matters. These pros and cons suggest why it should be an emphasis in companies large and small, even if their employees are not always comfortable with the process right away.

List of the Pros of Diversity in the Workplace

1. There is greater predictability with workplace assignments.
Diverse teams give a business the opportunity to assign tasks based on the strengths of each person. There is no longer a requirement to guess at who might have the most experience that is relevant to a project. Mangers who focus on diversity can put together many different parts to assemble a puzzle that works cohesively together. Each person with the appropriate experience drives the team forward, allowing more innovation and productivity to occur throughout each day. This design also means there is a greater level of job satisfaction present, which means less turnover.

2. It supports a stronger economy at every level.
Diversity in the workplace creates a structure that encourages all parties to be involved in the labor force. It is an open invitation to become active because the individual experiences and education that one can provide are treated with genuine value. From an organization standpoint, this creates more opportunities to fill open positions because there is a more significant pool of applicants from which to choose. On a societal level, this focus creates a stronger economy at all levels, from the local community to the international import/ export market.

3. Workplace diversity creates more valuable employees.
When there are specialists working on their greatest strengths within the workplace environment, then it gives the business an opportunity to cross-train workers on new disciplines. This advantage would not be possible if everyone was trained to do the same thing. It is a structure which allows workers to continually grow during their career, developing new skills that can take them up the chain of command higher. It is a process which also improves cultural awareness, additional innovation, and multiple ties to the community that create mutually beneficial successes.

4. It gives a company more access to the specific talent they require.
When there is diversity in the workplace, then there are fewer restrictions on the criteria for hiring a new worker. Managers can focus more on the elements of education and experience as they fit into the current structure of the company instead of trying to find someone who fits a specific personality profile to match everyone else. Those who are responsible for hiring can focus on finding the best person for the job, using skill as the primary driver of success, and that approach eventually lifts everyone to higher levels of success.

5. Diversity in the workplace encourages company growth.
Research from Glassdoor shows that two out of every three workers in the United States wants to join a team that is focused on diversity. 57% of employees want their company to prioritize this approach in their workplace. Creating this emphasis makes it possible for a business to encourage growth because it allows them to recruit the best people for their open positions. Maybe that’s why Josh Bersin discovered that inclusive companies earn 2.3 times the cash flow when compared those who do not make diversity a priority.

6. It also develops more revenues for an organization.
The impact of having just one worker who can fluently speak a second language is immediate. Corporate revenues climb by more than 10% with the work that person does. That means a focus on this one element of diversity for an entire team will improve the overall budget by that amount as well. Diversity creates more revenues because it makes a company become more relatable to multiple demographics. People build relationships with brands that they feel know them on some level. Without diversity, it is a struggle to create a result like this.

7. Diversity in the workplace enhances internal creativity.
People who come from similar backgrounds and experiences will offer ideas that fit into a generic category of “sameness.” It is challenging to find innovative ideas when everyone approaches a problem from the same perspective. That is why diversity is such a powerful element of the modern business environment. It gives managers access to a variety of perspectives that can generate fresh solutions for even complex problems. Creativity is the skill that most businesses crave the most, yet they reduce their access to it if the focus isn’t on the creation of a diverse employee base.

8. Equality is emphasized in society when diversity is the point of emphasis for companies.
Research coming out of Harvard and Princeton suggests that there should be 25% more women working in the labor force right now. There is still a gender gap in place in the United States which causes many women to be paid less than men, even though they are working in the exact same position. Some fields are under-represented by women by more than 45%.

Race and ethnicity are also critical factors to consider when looking at diversity in the workplace. Over 89% of Google’s workforce from 2014-2018 was either white or Asian. Just 0.3% were Native American, while 2.5% were Black/African-American and 3.6% were Latino. Almost 70% of the workforce is men. A genuine focus on diversity helps to shape society to become more equal. It is clear to see that some of today’s biggest companies must do better.

9. It is a policy which gets people to start thinking.
We often look at the majority statistics when speaking of diversity in the workplace as a way to say, “See! The world is changing!” It is essential that we pay attention to the minority statistics as well. One that stands out more than others is this: over 40% of workers don’t want their employer to make diversity a top priority. Companies that institute this policy over the objection of their workers anyway help to create more workplace conversations, reduce issues with burnout, and improve a balanced workload for everyone – even if the team’s preference is to avoid change whenever possible.

10. Diversity in the workplace encourages higher productivity levels.
Teams which focus on improvements to diversity create a strong link for themselves toward higher levels of productivity. This issue applies at every level. The United Kingdom has one of the lowest diversity employment ratings in the world today (for an industrialized nation) and their productivity levels are 35% below Germany, 30% beneath the United States, and in 2015, was 18% below the global average. When a team is racially diverse, then they are 35% more productive. If they are also bilingual or better, then they are 45% more productive. That’s why it is such a point of emphasis for companies today.

List of the Cons of Diversity in the Workplace

1. Diversity still makes it challenging for some cultures to be heard.
Although the presence of diversity within a team helps to improve the brain power that is available to the organization, that isn’t enough to create an environment where everyone feels safe and welcome to share an idea. This issue is particularly prevalent in cultures which focus on being deferential or polite. It is a circumstance which impacts Asian cultures the most, particularly workers who come from Japan or Vietnam. Even if they are invited to share their ideas, they may feel like that is not their role because of their position.

2. It doesn’t eliminate the cultural stereotypes that people have.
There is no denying the value in having local expertise when trying to solve a problem. Companies must also realize that integration must be part of the diversification experience for it to be a successful one. There can be an underlying prejudice between cultures that can limit collaboration and productivity. An excellent example of this involves the antipathy which exists between the Polish and German cultures, or even the French and the British.

You can even see this issue in the United States sometimes. If you ask someone from Wisconsin what the state of Iowa means, you might get a smile and this answer: “Idiots Out Walking Around.” If stereotypes are allowed to exist, then all the company has is diversity in name only, which will not produce the desired results.

3. There can be communication issues found in diverse teams.
Quality translations are always a way to ensure effective communication and marketing. It is also a way to get information lost in the process when working in a diverse team. Even if you have everyone speaking the same language (English, for example), the accents and slang that people have can be challenging to understand. Now apply that issue to different cultures, languages, and ideas. It becomes easy to offend someone without realizing that it what you are doing. Even a simple handshake can have cultural implications in a diverse environment.

4. Diversity in the workplace requires navigation of visa requirements.
If your company decides that hiring someone from overseas is the best way to encourage diversity in the team, then there may be a human resources challenge soon to follow. You must begin to navigate the complex employment laws, visa requirements, and additional expectations that are placed on international workers. Each country has different requirements, and the regulations can change at any time. Companies also discover that changes to their structure sometimes need to happen too, like adding a prayer space, or giving paid time off for specific religious holidays.

5. There are different understandings of the definition of etiquette.
Workers who come from different cultures, countries, or ethnicities will bring along their own attitude of production to the workplace. They will have different behaviors, values, and professional etiquette standards they follow. This process can be one that enriches the team environment, but it also creates misunderstandings in the workplace, ill feelings, and even resentment within the team. Some people may feel that it is inappropriate to leave any work behind at the end of the day, while others might expect to work six hours for full-time pay.

6. Most businesses leave a diversity initiative in the hands of one person.
The primary disadvantage of diversity in the workplace happens when only one executive is given the task of implementing this solution. It is a responsibility which often falls to the Chief Executive Officer. When a single individual is pushing a company toward an environment which is more inclusive, then it invariably becomes shaped by that person’s definition of diversity. The outcomes are then influenced by their priorities. Most CEOs look for higher revenues, stable finances, and improved cash flow as their points of emphasis. Does that create an environment which is truly diverse?

7. Workplace diversity creates a fear of future outsourcing.
One of the most significant fears that employees have during a diversity initiative is the threat of losing their job one day. When someone from another culture, especially one with a lower cost of living, can replicate the same results as workers earning higher wages, then the threat of outsourcing becomes a tangible threat. Large companies save millions of dollars each year by designating specific tasks to offshore locations, independent contractors, and freelancers. It is this issue which often creates the strongest barriers against an inclusiveness initiative. Companies who can de-stress this issue for their teams are the ones which typically see the highest levels of success.

8. Diversity in the workplace can slow down work too.
Although there is a benefit to having more ideas in the workplace to solve problems, this benefit can quickly turn into a disadvantage as well. Teams which are constantly debating ideas will find themselves moving slower at times. When everyone has an idea which offers the potential for success, then each one should rightfully be debated to determine its value. Unless there is a manager who can direct traffic for these discussions, many teams struggle to stay current with their deadlines over time because of this initiative.

These diversity in the workplace pros and cons ask companies of every size to evaluate their current team structures. If your emphasis is on genuine equality, then that must be the approach you take in your hiring decisions. Giving lip service to inclusiveness is not the same as making it a priority. If you want to see results, then hire more women and minorities into your open positions. Create a genuine balance. This structure will give you the best possible chance at success.

Author Bio
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.