Cultural Diversity in the Workplace: What is it and Why is it Important?

January 31, 2023 Workhuman Editorial Team
cultural diversity in the workplace

More and more companies in today’s business world are ramping up their efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion. And those businesses that aren’t are quickly falling behind.

In this guide, we’ll explore cultural diversity in the workplace and the two major factors that have a huge impact on company productivity and employee well-being: inclusivity and diversity.

Learn more about the history, types, and advantages of having a diverse workforce and check out the full list of ways you can promote inclusivity at work.

What is cultural diversity in the workplace?

Cultural diversity refers to the variety of cultural and ethnic groups that exist in our society. These groups can be based on people’s age, gender, ethnicity, or religion, among many other characteristics.

In the workplace, cultural diversity involves employees from different backgrounds working together in an inclusive environment.

History of cultural diversity in the workplace

In the 1960s, the passage of anti-discrimination laws played a big part in encouraging cultural diversity in the workplace. These laws were made to protect employees of different cultures from being discriminated against at work.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 are some examples of policies that were approved. During that time, companies also began to realize how diversity affected their talent pool and customer base. Over time, organizations started working towards more diversity and inclusion goals for their workers.

At present, most companies have their own form of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs for employees. As they should. There remains so much work to do to make organizations more equitable, more diverse, and more inclusive. It is a continual process. 

Types of cultural diversity in the workplace

Culture comes in many forms. The people you work with can vary greatly in terms of background, beliefs, and behavior.

Familiarity with your employees’ cultures can guide you on how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.


Employees of color frequently face systemic challenges at work and have for decades. Your company needs to ensure that equal hiring, compensation, and promotion opportunities are given to employees regardless of race or ethnic background. 


Religion affects employees’ attire, diet, and even their requests for time off. In the U.S., almost 80% of individuals have religious affiliations. Designated praying areas and respect for religious practices are great ways of promoting this type of diversity.


A diverse workforce involves employees coming from a wide range of ages and generations, which means employee experience cannot be one-size-fits-all. For example, some younger employees may prefer a flexible work culture, while tenured staff may prefer traditional schedules and working in the office. Different age groups also diverge in what kind of benefits and perks are more important to them. 

Sexual orientation 

Sexual orientation is an especially important aspect of an employee’s identity. Survey data reveals that one in ten LGBTQIA+ workers has experienced discrimination at work.

It’s best to establish a no-tolerance policy for workplace bullying, discrimination, and harassment based on sexual orientation.


No two workers will have the same set of skills, knowledge, and experiences. Collaboration and learning opportunities can help bridge the gap between employees’ differences in education and offer more perspectives that contribute to the company.


Gender is a social construct that refers to the roles and behaviors typically associated with a man, woman, or other gender identities. It remains a huge source of discrimination as 42% of women have experienced gender discrimination at work. Further, many non-binary employees are afraid to share their identities.

Thus, creating an environment of safety, mutual respect, and boundaries among your gender-diverse staff is of the utmost importance. Incidents of harassment and abuse should be promptly investigated and dealt with appropriately.

Language and Ethnicity 

Some companies have programs dedicated to overcoming language and cultural barriers. These programs aim to improve communication and prevent misunderstandings among employees with different primary languages. 


Neurodiversity affects around 15–20% of the U.S. population. Consideration for workers with dyslexia, ADHD, autism, and other conditions can help them shine and excel at work.

Military experience 

Veterans might need extra assistance in transitioning from a military to a corporate environment. Office software training and skill workshops can also be beneficial in helping them adapt to new roles.


In the U.S., only 19.1% of persons with a disability are employed. Some of your employees might be experiencing difficulties in seeing, hearing, or moving. Adjustments to office facilities can help them perform their duties more conveniently.

gender equality in the workforce

Why is cultural diversity important in the workplace?

You might think that cultural diversity at work impacts employees only. On the contrary, it can shape the future of your company, product line, and customer base as well.

Here are several reasons why cultural diversity is extremely valuable in the workplace:


Bringing together a team of diverse individuals can sound like a complex challenge. It takes time, investment, and resources dedicated to making strides and improvements. Among the litany of benefits of building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace can largely boost your company’s productivity.

Respondents in a research conducted by Forbes claimed that they experienced more productivity as a result of a diverse workforce. Diverse employees bring with them a range of problem-solving skills, viewpoints, and working habits. This wealth of expertise can help your company create better solutions, improve workflow, and level up performance.


McKinsey & Company describes diversity as a competitive edge and a key enabler of growth. Working in diverse teams exposes your employees to unique perspectives that help them grow both personally and professionally.

Cultural diversity also broadens your company’s network locally and overseas. If you open your doors to workplace diversity, your contacts and connections in the business world will grow, too.

Additionally, an inclusive environment is welcoming to all. It sends out a message not only to employees but also to clients and other diverse companies that you’re committed to collaborating without barriers or biases.


There’s no limit to creativity in a culturally diverse workplace. Research shows that exposure to a culturally diverse workforce enhances a person’s creativity. Fresh ideas, new perspectives, improved products, and upgraded services are often the result of diverse and brilliant minds coming together.

Additionally, multicultural teams bring unique perspectives about their respective local markets. Their understanding of native languages and area trends can introduce your company to new audiences and create even more demand.



Cultural diversity opens up your talent pool to global job markets. Keep this in mind if you want to attract the best talent and expertise to your organization.

A recent study revealed that job hunters are drawn to companies with diverse workforces. Having an inclusive culture makes your company stand out to prospective employees from around the world. Diversity initiatives also improve your company’s overall reputation. As a result, more applicants will recognize your organization as a good place to work.


Promoting cultural diversity makes workers feel like their uniqueness is celebrated, not just tolerated. A study from Deloitte discovered that inclusive working environments led to higher retention rates.

What’s more, inclusivity increases long-term job satisfaction and loyalty, which also leads to better retention. If employees feel at home and accepted in the workplace, they won’t feel the need to go elsewhere.

How to promote cultural diversity in the workplace

Nurturing cultural diversity is no easy task, especially in large organizations. To be effective, your advocacy needs to reach and influence multiple employee levels, departments, and teams. 

The benefits of having a truly diverse workforce will be well worth your time and effort. 

There are several steps you can take to make your workplace a more inclusive one. Check out these simple yet effective ways:

1. Encourage the expression of opinions and beliefs

One of the best ways to promote cultural diversity is to make your workspace a safe place for all. Employees should feel free to express their beliefs, opinions, and concerns without fear of discrimination.

For this step, you might want to try Moodtracker®, an advanced employee pulse survey tool. It’s a free, fast, and unbiased way to understand the organizational issues that affect your diverse team.

Sign up for FREE today!

cultural celebrations

2. Respect cultural traditions and celebrations

Show support and sensitivity to your employees’ cultural practices, needs, and experiences. 

Some workers might need to worship or fast on specific days, while others may request time off on religious holidays. 

3. Organize team-building activities

Team building activities with a diverse workforce allow employees to set aside their cultural differences to achieve a common goal. This results in effective cross-cultural teams with happier and more productive employees.

Don’t forget to include activities that highlight the benefits of cultural diversity. Help them realize the importance of cultural diversity when it comes to creating meaningful work.

4. Establish inclusive leadership

Managers and business leaders are primarily responsible for ensuring that inclusivity is maintained in the workplace. 

They must have the ability to hire, manage, and nurture teams across cultures and ethnicities. 

Most organizational directors agree that diversity brings unique perspectives, boosts problem-solving, and enhances creativity. Having leaders who appreciate and, more importantly, represent diverse cultures, different races, and cultural competence is crucial to your company’s growth.

5. Develop inclusive policies

Evaluate your existing company regulations from a multicultural perspective. Do your hiring, performance, and compensation policies reflect your culturally diverse staff?

You might want to consider using a natural language processing (NLP) tool like Workhuman’s Inclusion Advisor to help you create and communicate unbiased policies. Inclusion Advisor is an AI-powered language assistant that improves how employees communicate when writing recognition messages to their peers. As you write, this tool gives you real-time suggestions to improve your message and mitigate unconscious bias.

Learn more!

6. Create cultural communities

Another great way of embracing cultural diversity is to form employee resource groups (ERGs) within your organization.

Women, veterans, employees of color, or workers with disabilities can build welcoming and inclusive communities where they can bond and advocate for each other.

7. Provide unconscious bias training

Unconscious bias training teaches employees to manage biases and improve behavior. It’s a journey of breaking stereotypes and showing empathy in the workplace.

Many companies have included unconscious bias training as part of their diversity programs. Starbucks, Google, and Sephora have all taken steps to ensure such training is provided to their employees.

Examples of cultural diversity in the workplace

If you take a look at the world’s top companies, you’ll see plenty of workplace culture examples that are worth following. Here are some organizations that have done well in promoting diversity at work:


Over the years, Cisco has received countless awards for its commitment to diversity and inclusion. This company has its own Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), composed of multicultural, multinational, and multigenerational professionals.

ERGs are responsible for providing learning and growth opportunities to various members of the Cisco community. These groups include:

  • Cisco Black Employee Network
  • Cisco Disabilities Awareness Network
  • Cisco Connected Women
  • Veterans Enablement and Troop Support

What’s more, Cisco also implements diversity recruitment. The company partners with local and international organizations to look for capable individuals from different backgrounds.

Lastly, Cisco’s Supplier Diversity Strategy promotes a multicultural supply chain. Suppliers from various regional markets are welcome to form partnerships with the company.


According to Adobe’s Diversity & Inclusion Year In Review 2021, the company’s strategy focuses on four key areas:

  • Candidates: Following a fair and inclusive hiring process
  • Pipeline: Encouraging youth from all backgrounds to pursue careers in tech
  • Employees: Nurturing a multicultural workplace for employees
  • Industry: Partnering with customers, vendors, and peers to promote inclusivity

Adobe is also an advocate for workplace accessibility, fair compensation, and equal opportunities for different cultural groups.

The company’s Adobe For All movement strives to promote fairness within the workplace. It helps companies make diversity a priority, which can lead to greater relationships with people from different backgrounds.


Wrapping up

Establishing cultural diversity within the workplace is a consistent process. You never stop creating a safer and more accepting environment where your employees can thrive.

Hopefully, this guide has given you some ideas on how to build and maintain an inclusive environment. You’re now familiar with the many types of diversity and the value each possesses. 

Start your own diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives today. Join thousands of companies as they continue to make their workplace a brighter, safer, and more inclusive place for everyone.