What is diversity in the workplace? Examples and definition

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Workplace diversity is a common topic of conversation among employers, hiring managers and recruitment professionals.

But diversity and inclusion in the workplace isn’t just a hiring fad; and over the years it has become less a case of simply factoring in age, gender and race, and more about hiring a wider range of people to add value to businesses.

Increasingly, business leaders are seeing that encouraging diversity in the workplace has several tangible benefits, for the company and for its employees.

In the following article, we look into the meaning of diversity & inclusion, the importance of diversity in the workplace; as well as the competitive edge it can give your business; in terms of graduate recruitment and beyond.

If you’re looking to recruit a diverse workforce, get in touch today for access to thousands of excellent candidates looking for work and find out about our recruitment services.

Alongside the goals we pledge to work towards as a company to ensure equal opportunities for all, we’ve also been voluntarily gathering data from candidates in our database in order to build a bigger and clearer picture on where we stand in terms of candidate diversity.

Take a look at our Diversity and Inclusion 2020 report and see how we stack up as an equal opportunity employer

Diversity in the workplace definition & explanation

What is the definition of diversity in the workplace? Most people understand the general equality and diversity definition; but what do these mean within the context of the workplace?

Put very simply, diversity in the workplace means that a company hires a wide range of diverse individuals.

Diversity is often misconceived as solely multicultural matters, however, it also applies to a diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexuality, language, education, background, and so on.

But in 2019, workplace diversity doesn’t just extend to hiring diverse individuals but also making sure that the participation of these employees is equal.

Given that a study by The University of Michigan found that people hired for ‘diversity purposes’ were sometimes seen as less qualified, employers have increasingly recognised that symbolically hiring a diverse range of people just isn’t enough.

In recent years, the topic of diversity and inclusion in the workplace has extended to ensuring that companies increase the participation, performance and compensation of minorities, not just symbolic hiring in order to ‘tick a box’.

More importantly, companies have recognised the huge value that hiring a diverse range of individuals and personalities can add for their business.

Workplace diversity summary video


What is the difference between equality and diversity?

What is equality in the workplace?

Equality aims to ensure that all individuals have equal opportunities to succeed, and it prevents individuals from being discriminated against or treated differently due to certain personalities or physical characteristics.

Diversity, on the other hand, is about appreciating differences between individuals, and in context with the workplace ensuring that each of these varying attributes and characteristics are valued.


What is the importance of linguistic and cultural diversity?

Understanding and valuing cultural diversity results in a healthier and more collaborative workplace. Curiosity and acceptance of another’s culture are employees’ first steps in appreciating a peer’s background, which ultimately leads to mutual respect.

In a recent article about linguistic and cultural diversity, Tomedes details how fostering diversity can aid an expanding company. As a language solutions agency working with people from various parts of the globe, its values are anchored in inclusion. Better communication through introspection and increased productivity through belongingness are some of the benefits they reap.

What is the importance of diversity in the workplace?

So why is workplace diversity important?

Diversity and inclusion are a vital part of workplace culture; not only are they important for the well-being of a company’s employees, but will also benefit the business itself.

Below are two lists, detailing the benefits of workplace diversity for employees and employers.

What are the benefits of diversity in the workplace for employees?

Conflict reduction

Within a diverse workplace, employees can better understand each other’s differences.

This will often help to reduce conflicts between even the most different team members; and will often unite people with a common purpose rather than divide them.

Increased confidence

When employees recognise that differences are embraced and celebrated in an organisation, they are likely to also be more confident in their own unique qualities.

Encouraging diversity can help to boost the confidence and performance of individual team members, who may be more easily able to express their ideas, become closer to their colleagues and enjoy and take pride in their work.

Boosting employee engagement

Employees are far more likely to perform well in an environment where diversity and inclusion are top priority.

The whole point of diversity & inclusion is that it is about everyone, not just underrepresented groups – so encouraging everyone to be confident in their ability will only help to boost morale and employee engagement across the entire team.

What are the benefits of diversity in the workplace for employers?

Increased range of ideas

One of the key benefits of diversity in society is the vast range of ideas that can be explored.

Diversity in the workplace will often result in a much broader spectrum of creativity, from people with different backgrounds, skills and experiences.

A wider range of different perspectives will be highly beneficial across all teams; from marketing to finance.

Increased employee engagement

Generally speaking, employees who feel included and wanted will be more engaged and motivated to do well.

In turn, a more engaged team will often yield better team performance; making it a win-win for employers.

Boosts company reputation & simplifies recruitment processes

Diversity in the workplace will help to build a great reputation for the company; especially important when you are looking to hire and retain talent.

Especially in terms of graduate recruitment, D&I can play a huge role in attracting candidates to your business; if done well, it can also help you stand out from the bigger firms.

Wider talent pool to choose from

Companies that only hire men, for example, are limiting themselves to the skills of half the population, this is just one of the many benefits of gender diversity in the workplace.

Helps you to understand your customers better

Having a more diverse team will help your company gain a broader understanding of your customers, what they want and what they look for.

Who knows? Your company could be missing out on a huge group of potential customers that could be explored by hiring more diversely.

Reduce employee turnover

Companies with a diverse workforce will tend to retain employees for longer, because ultimately employees who feel accepted and valued will be much less likely to leave.

Likewise, companies that clearly value career development, and really care about their employees, will tend to have a much higher retention rate than those that don’t.

Benefits of diversity in the workplace statistics

Still not convinced of the importance of diversity in the workplace? Here are some key statistics that indicate the value and benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.


  • 67% of job seekers said that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. Glassdoor
  • 83% of millennials are more engaged when they think their company fosters an inclusive culture. Deloitte
  • Companies in the top quartile of gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns that were above their national industry median. Companies in the top quartile of racial/ ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median. McKinsey
  • Companies reporting the highest levels of racial diversity brought in nearly 15 times more sales revenue on average than those with the lowest levels of racial diversity. Science Daily


Diversity in the workplace examples

Companies across the board are taking steps to create an equality and diversity strategy. Some of the best diversity and inclusion in the workplace examples are:


  • AT&T
    Industry: Technology

AT&T took the prestigious top spot on DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity In 2019.

The award commended the behaviour of CEO and Chairman Randall Stephenson, who is a big advocate for inclusion and diversity management in corporate companies.

AT&T has been applauded for its unbiased approach to both graduate recruitment and more senior hiring – allowing managers to recommend individuals through their own app.

They also encourage their employees to speak openly about race, sexuality, religion etc, to increase mutual understanding of their colleagues.


  • Marriott International
    Industry: Hospitality

In a close second place on DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies, Marriott recently launched their Serve 360 plan, whereby they invested $5m in order for women, people with disabilities, veterans, refugees and more to learn hospitality skills.

Not every company will be able to afford $5m; but it does point to the value of investing in professional development.


  • Accenture PLC
    Industry: Professional Services

Accenture is often ranked within the top companies for diversity (Thompson Reuters’ 2018 Diversity and Inclusion Index ranked Accenture as it’s no.1 most diverse company), and though this is largely due to gender representation within their workforce, they have also been applauded for encouraging the inclusion of many different groups.

Diversity training within the company is broken into three different categories; 1) Diversity Awareness, to help people understand the benefits of working with a diverse organisation, 2) Diversity Management, to help team leaders to successful manage diverse teams and 3) Professional Development, to enable minority groups to develop valuable new skills.


If your company has found ways to successfully encourage and implement workplace diversity, please let us know about them by contacting [email protected].

Challenges of diversity in the workplace

Companies across a range of industries are embracing a more diverse workforce; but with these benefits also come some key obstacles to overcome, as there are many challenges of managing diversity in the workplace.

Below are the most common challenges of diversity in the workplace which are important to consider.

  • Hiring employees from a range of cultures and backgrounds has fantastic benefits for businesses; but can occasionally result in communication or language barriers within a team.

    This can sometimes lead to frustration amongst employees and productivity loss.

    Embracing Business Diversity: Is Technology the Answer? 

  • Whether it’s a VISA or specific cultural requirements, hiring employees from different countries can be tricky; especially if you are a relatively young company.

    As well as posing a logistical challenge, it’s important to remember that these accommodations can also sometimes be an added business cost to factor into your hiring plans.

  • Salary inequality between men and women has been a huge topic of discussion in recent years.

    Individuals that are treated unequally can become demotivated and often choose to leave, causing increases in staff turnover.

    The Equal Pay Act aims to prevent gender equality issues by ensuring companies pay equally between women and men for equal work.

    It is also important for employers to ensure the same equality is practised during the hiring process as well as with career progression in terms of opportunities offered and promotions.

  • In teams where there is a wide age range, especially if the company is recruiting graduates, there may be some generational differences or generation gaps.

    This could potentially hinder discussions on certain subjects; millennials account for the majority of UK workers, which is evolving today’s corporate culture.

    This is something to consider when you start your graduate recruitment plans, as individuals from other generations might struggle to adjust to any changes that occur.

    To bridge the gap between generations, promote an office culture where all views are heard and sustain a collaborative environment.

  • Conflicts can arise in the workplace due to differences in religious, political or cultural beliefs, and unfortunately discrimination and prejudice still occurs in some corporate environments.

  • The workplace can be tough for employees with a physical or mental disability.

    In a recent study on disability and employment 12% of employers are concerned that disabled employees will take more time off work and 19% believe that it is expensive to hire individuals with a disability due to costs involved in adapting the workplace.

    With many offices not fully equipped with wheelchair access or no allowances for dogs, disabled individuals are still widely discriminated against today.

  • Sometimes employees can feel left out or isolated when groups of other individuals with similar backgrounds and characteristics, form ‘cliques’ or social circles.


    When thinking about the disadvantages of diversity in the workplace, one of the key issues is that implementing a diversity in the workplace policy can be a lengthy process involving research, time and resources.

    It can also work out quite costly, if you decide to offer training to help bridge skills gaps for example.

    This can make it difficult, particularly for small businesses and startups to launch a diversity strategy.

    However, there are always smaller, less costly positive changes that can be made to ensure all employees feel included and have a voice.

  • In most companies it is common to find certain individuals that are resistant to change.

    “This is the way we’ve always done it” doesn’t mean that it’s the right way to do it now.

    However, sometimes it can be difficult to convince these individuals that change can be a good thing which can inhibit the progress of a diversity and inclusion strategy.


How to promote diversity in the workplace?

We have established there are some workplace diversity challenges employers face, but they are not impossible for companies of any size to overcome.

Now we explore some potential solutions to these diversity challenges in the workplace:

  • Make the challenges of diversity an urgent topic of conversation; whether they are discussed in a weekly senior management meeting or shared amongst the whole team for feedback.

    Frequently assess and evaluate your diversity processes and make improvements accordingly.

  • Develop a clear D&I strategy.

    We recommend you seek advice and feedback from a diverse range of people in the business when it comes to your diversity and inclusion in the workplace strategy, individuals from different departments are likely to have different opinions!

  • When launching your diversity and inclusion strategy, it is a good idea to get input elsewhere across the business wherever possible.

    You could consider starting a diversity and inclusion team internally to ensure you are meeting the standards, aims and objectives you’ve set out.

    It might also be a good idea to do a regular ‘desk swap’ whereby you move individuals around, helping to prevent ‘cliques’ from being formed.

  • Initiating a mentoring scheme can help to increase employee satisfaction and retain top talent and is one of the least costly diversity strategies that can be implemented to ensure all employees feel included and have a voice.

    Find out more about the benefits of mentoring in the workplace.

  • Offer a clear, professional development structure to all employees.

    Bridge the digital skills gap between generations by offering computer learning training or offer language training for employees that are non-native English speakers.

    It might also be a good idea to offer diversity training to certain team members, particularly within management or the HR department, helping to ensure they show compassion to colleagues in distress.

  • Employing multilingual or bilingual staff can also help bridge the gap between different cultures and resolve any language barriers between English and non-English speaking employees.

  • Businesses have a duty to demonstrate equality in the workplace and prevent gender discrimination, particularly with regards to hiring both men and women, paying equal salary and offering the same opportunities and promotions to both men and women.

    Encouraging more women to work in tech is another prime example of encouraging gender equality in all job roles.

  • Support physically or mentally disabled individuals by providing disabled access, allowing service dogs at work and offering other initiatives to build a diverse workplace.

    Find out other ways to manage mental health in the workplace.

  • It is important to hold people accountable if they are not embracing workplace diversity and inclusion or if they are discriminating against employees who have different characteristics or different ethnic or religious backgrounds to their own.

    Put rules in place and stick to them, if there are individuals who do not accept a diverse office environment, then prove that you will not tolerate this behaviour.

    Employees may need to be regularly reminded to keep personal beliefs and opinions separate to work, to help reduce the risk of disputes in the office.

  • Ensure that you factor in all potential costs and time restraints during the initial planning stages of your diversity and inclusion strategy.

    This will ensure that all your plans go ahead smoothly and prevent any costly, unwelcome surprises further down the line.


Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace Webinar

Workplace diversity and workplace equality are common topics of conversation among employers, hiring managers and recruitment professionals.

In this webinar for employers, we discuss ways to ensure that all individuals have equal opportunities to succeed, and prevents individuals from being discriminated against or treated differently in both the hiring process and during their employment.

This quick webinar offers a thorough discussion with advice from diversity advocates Alex Ehmcke from Pink News, Luke Davis from Diversifying, Shana Gujral from ThinkLila and Adeva Solanke.



Diversity in the workplace is a necessity for all businesses; with benefits for both employers and employees. 

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