Barriers to workplace inclusion and diversity

There have been multiple studies into the benefits of workplace inclusion and diversity, with increased employee retention, better company reputation and higher innovation to name a few. But how easy is it for a company to become more inclusive? What are the barriers that might be stopping this from happening? In this article, we look into the possible barriers to workplace inclusion and diversity.

diversity and inclusion

Unconscious bias

Unconscious bias refers to any associations made between different qualities such as gender, race and culture without conscious awareness. Most commonly, it means that we automatically have a preference or affinity to those who are similar to us. This could be in terms of race, gender or sexual orientation. This automatic stereotyping or judging is a huge barrier to workplace inclusion and diversity.

These biases are very difficult to address as they are, by nature, very unconscious happenings and therefore might be difficult to pinpoint and control. However, by educating employees on the different types of unconscious bias and carefully considering decisions on things like hiring and promotions, companies can help to eliminate this as a workplace barrier to diversity.

Lack of role models

One of the big barriers to employees feeling included in a workplace is a lack of relatable role models in senior positions. If your leadership team is entirely from one gender or race for example, people are less likely to feel at home in your company if they do not come from the same backgrounds. Seeing someone of similar background, especially if a minority, is likely to empower and inspire employees to create a more productive and innovative culture.

Communication barriers

Whilst a more diverse workforce promotes a huge range of benefits, there also may be issues to iron out in the process. Businesses who hire a culturally diverse range of employees may find that there are communication problems amongst teams. Perhaps language barriers might appear, or cultural differences in timekeeping and personal life schedules. This can leave employees feeling frustrated, excluded and unheard.

To ensure cultural diversity does not result in communication breakdown, it’s imperative for organisations to keep a constant flow of communication with employees and their managers, to understand what their individual needs and schedules may require. This will ensure everyone feels valued and listened to, creating a happier atmosphere.

Lack of training

All of the above barriers are very common when trying to become more inclusive and diverse in a workplace. The crux of a lot of issues comes down to education of the existing employees, as well as future ones. By offering training specifically designed for inclusion and diversity, businesses can ensure everyone is proactive in keeping a balanced and inclusive workplace. It’ll also make it much easier for people to identify when someone perhaps isn’t being as inclusive as they could be – maybe via the way they’re speaking to someone.

A culturally diverse and inclusive workplace has been proven to result in more innovation, higher levels of efficiency and ultimately, a better place to work. In the journey to become more diverse and inclusive, a company is likely to experience one or all of the barriers we’ve mentioned. By offering exceptional training, keeping constant streams of communication and ensuring there are relatable role models throughout the company, the road to a more diverse workforce is much clearer.


Read more about the benefits of diversity & inclusion and 10 ways employers can demonstrate commitment to D&I.