While there are many DEI challenges, research shows the benefits of an inclusive workplace. These include increased creativity, profit growth, and more engaged employees.  

But, enforcing successful DEI efforts is easier said than done. Many companies have tried to execute their diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives with the best intentions, but their efforts don’t always succeed. 

Let’s look at some of the common reasons why DEI programs fail and best practices to overcome these failures.

DEI in the workplace (DEI Challenges blog)

Understanding Common DEI Challenges (and How to Address them): 

1. Lack of Support from Company Leaders 

WebMd’s survey revealed that nearly half of employees do not believe their company effectively holds leaders accountable to ‘do what is right’ regarding DEI & B. They said that meaningful change would require accountability and that their companies aren’t holding those people in the leadership positions responsible. 

On a more granular level, two-thirds of the respondents said managers and supervisors, rather than higher-level corporate leaders, should be responsible for DEI&B. And they should also be held accountable when they fall short.

Without strong DEI leaders, a diversity program is bound to fail.


An effective way to get management accountability and buy-in is to establish the connection between DEI strategy and achieving business goals. 

First, you must define how achieving your DEI goals contributes to your company’s overall strategy. For example, it could increase customer satisfaction, or improve employee retention.  

Meet the management team and propose the benefits of having a strong, inclusive culture. Present a clear plan of diversity strategies based on your organization’s needs to help them understand the big picture and gain their support. 

Once you get the approval, remember to monitor the outcomes of your DEI initiatives. Create reports to demonstrate progress to leadership and justify their continued investment.

2. Difficulty in Measuring and Tracking Progress

Affirmity’s The Future of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion report said that a lack of metrics to identify insufficient diversity is one of the reasons that prevent organizations from making DEI initiatives successful. 

Only 20% establish and measure DEI metrics and reporting to a high or very high degree, and even fewer say the same about analyzing turnover using a DEI lens. And about 16% of companies do not measure the current state of DEI in their organization. 

It’s possible that companies do not know where to begin to measure because they have not developed strategic plans or tied those plans to business objectives. And this can cause DEI challenges.


If you don’t know they are working, implementing DEI initiatives makes no sense. You need to establish a data-driven approach to measuring the impact of your DEI efforts. 

Set your metrics to your DEI goals. For example, if your goal is to improve innovation, track the number of diverse teams working on projects and their success rates. Review leading and lagging indicators: Leading indicators, like participation in ERGs or unconscious bias training, show early engagement. Lagging indicators, like promotion rates or employee retention by demographic group, reflect the longer-term impact of DEI efforts.

Then, employee feedback will be collected from employee surveys, exit interviews, and ERGs to understand the needs and experiences of the underrepresented groups. It’s important to have qualitative and quantitative data to know your employee’s thoughts and feelings about your organization’s DEI challenges and strategies. 

Analyze and review your data. Look for trends and DEI challenges over time to identify your strengths and weaknesses rather than focusing on isolated points. Use business case studies and employee testimonials to illustrate the positive impact of DEI initiatives on employees, customers, and the business. 

3. Belonging Needs Improvement

WebMd’s survey also noted that LGBTQ employees struggle more than other employee segments with belonging. 65% reported that companies need to foster better belonging, and two in five reported feeling undervalued. Also, 57% of employees indicated that their companies fall short in ensuring that employees feel included and valued. 

According to respondents, companies were also least likely to have programs specific to belonging, with 75% reporting their company’s DEI&B did address belonging, as compared with diversity (83%), equity (78%), and inclusion (79%).


Belonging is about making a diverse workforce feel safe and included in the organization. And it starts by creating opportunities for open and honest dialogue about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Encourage team members to share their perspectives, experiences, and concerns in a safe and respectful environment.

Conduct employee surveys to determine why diverse employees feel ‘they don’t belong.’ Then, use their feedback and suggestions to plan DEI strategies that could foster a sense of belonging. 

4. Insufficient Budget and Resources

DEI advocate, and author Dr. Nika White said that the negative impacts of not having a sufficient budget can be significant. This may hinder the progress and effectiveness of DEI initiatives within an organization. 

Without a dedicated budget for DEI, organizations could overlook important DEI initiatives like training, hiring practices, or employee engagement efforts. Thus, limiting their ability to address DEI challenges effectively. Moreover, organizations may fail to address systemic barriers and promote equitable opportunities. So, they risk not complying with relevant laws and regulations. Inadequate attention to DEI challenges can also expose organizations to legal risks, including discrimination claims, lawsuits, and reputational damage. 


If you have a limited budget, implement programs that require little financial investment. For example, hold unconscious bias training workshops with your in-house HR, start employee resource groups (ERGs), or arrange mentorships between senior and junior employees from diverse backgrounds. 

Take advantage of free or low-cost resources on DEI topics. Look for webinars, toolkits, and training materials from nonprofit organizations and government agencies. For free diversity training programs, check out this blog

5. Lack of DEI Training 

In the same Affirmity report, only 40% of organizations offer DEI-related learning and development to all employees. Among those that offer training, 69% offered unconscious bias training. Fewer offer specific training such as inclusion awareness training (55%),  difficult conversations training (48%),  inclusive recruitment policies training (42%),  performance management training (37%), and conflict resolution training (33%). 

24% of responding companies do not offer such training at all, and some restrict it to certain groups, such as “senior executives” (21%), and “select managers” (17%).


Don’t limit your DEI training to inclusion awareness only. You should also train employees to manage their biases, change their behavior, and track their progress. For instance, employees may be educated on how to deal with colleagues who come from diverse backgrounds. 

Expand your diversity-related learning and development programs to include: 

  • Conflict Resolution – identify, manage, and resolve conflicts in the workplace through practical communication techniques. Employees will gain a deeper understanding of conflict management and communication skills to resolve workplace conflicts successfully.  Easy Llama offers this course.
  • Communications Training – using neutral and inclusive language, active listening, empathy, effective communication techniques
  • Inclusive leadership – equip managers and supervisors to lead a diverse group of people while demonstrating respect for each person’s unique characteristics without bias
  • Microaggressions – learn and spot microaggressions when they occur and how they affect relationships
  • Anti-discriminatory and harassment training – guides HR in implementing anti-harassment, bullying, and discrimination policies in the workplace. 

Training should include everyone, from C-Suite level to entry-level positions, to take a DEI whole organization approach. 

Training pays off by bringing forth increased innovation, productivity, and employee morale when done correctly.

6. Resistance to Change 

Gartner’s HR survey of 181 DEI leaders identified resistance to change as one of the top challenges facing them. 

Many employees resist DEI initiatives because they perceive them as threatening established organizational processes and norms. For example, efforts to promote inclusive leadership or diversify hiring practices challenge traditional approaches or hierarchy, leading to resistance from those who benefit from the current system. 

Change also brings uncertainty, and people resist it because they fear the unknown. They feel uncertain about how changes will affect them and fear losing control, so resistance can manifest as pushback against efforts to diversify leadership or decision-making bodies, implement equitable policies, or address systemic biases.


To begin with, you need to identify the reasons for resistance. Understanding the underlying causes can help you tailor your strategy to dismantle resistance. For example, addressing status threats may require reframing DEI as an opportunity for everyone to grow, while countering merit threats might involve emphasizing skill development through DEI initiatives.

Conduct educational workshops and training, so employees become aware of their unconscious bias and understand the importance of DEI and its benefits. Create safe spaces for open and honest conversations about DEI challenges.

 Address employees’  concerns with empathy and respect. Work collaboratively to develop solutions that eliminate or, at least, reduce resistance. Implement these strategies and monitor their effectiveness. Share results with employees to show your DEI commitment and build trust in the process.

Why I wrote this:

Creating an inclusive work environment isn’t a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process that requires commitment from company leaders, training, resources, and a willingness to adapt. While there will always be challenges, implementing necessary changes can foster a workplace where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to reach their full potential. 

At Ongig, we help recruiters write bias-free job descriptions to attract more diverse candidates.  Contact us to schedule a demo


  1. Why Your Program May Be Failing Your Employees – A Survey From WebMD Health Services
  2. The Future of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – Affirmity and HR Research Institute
  3. Creating Inclusive and Equitable Budgets: A Guide for Organizations – Dr Nika White
  4. Gartner HR Survey Identifies Top Five Challenges Facing DEI Leaders – Gartner

by in Diversity and Inclusion