Focusing on diversity and inclusion (D&I) in your small business isn’t just the right thing to do, it also just makes good business sense.
Here are some stats that might blow your mind:
- Companies that focus on diversity are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors
- Inclusive companies are 7 times more likely to be innovative
- 20% of job seekers prefer diverse teams
Beyond these, there are numerous other benefits to having a diverse and inclusive workplace including more engaged employees, better employee retention, higher productivity, reduced stress, and increased resilience and trust. And your customers probably prefer diversity too.
What is diversity and inclusion?
Ok, so you know they are important in the workplace, but what do diversity and inclusion really mean?
Each member of your team has unique characteristics and abilities. To create a diverse environment at work, you should seek out people of different ages, genders, religions, races, sexual orientations, socio-economic status, ability, and more. It may also mean looking for unique experiences, talents, skills, opinions, and personalities.
Inclusion celebrates the differences in people and fosters an environment where they can coexist. It focuses on the benefits of allowing those from different backgrounds, who have different viewpoints and opinions, to come together and contribute equally in the workplace. It’s about turning differences into valuable assets.
Diversity and inclusion must go hand in hand. You can have a diverse workspace, but if certain people are left out because of their characteristics, you won’t have an inclusive environment. If your group is very inclusive but lacks people with different viewpoints and backgrounds, you will lack the fresh perspectives your business needs to thrive.
How small businesses can make the workplace more diverse and inclusive
With smaller teams and limited budgets, how can small businesses promote diversity and inclusion? What if you aren’t hiring right now, or your community is pretty homogenous?
Diversity isn’t just about adding more race and gender types to your business. There are still plenty of steps you can take to show your employees that you take D&I seriously. Start by focusing on and celebrating the diversity you already have at your small business and in your community. Here are some steps to take:
- Learn about local efforts for diversity in your community. Ask your local Chamber of Commerce about their initiatives, or research nonprofits in your area that specialize in diversity.
- Need extra help? Use contractors, consultants, or freelancers from diverse backgrounds. If your business allows for it, remote work is a great way to bring more diversity to your team.
- Conduct unconscious bias training for your staff, especially for management.
- Create a diversity board or ask one of your employees to be a diversity chair for your business. Have this person organize a calendar of events related to diversity or send out a weekly newsletter with articles to your staff.
- Depending on the size of your business, you can create employee resource groups to foster inclusivity.
- Put your money where your mouth is. Commit a certain amount of your profits to support underrepresented communities.
- Be Open to All and join the initiative by taking a public stand against discrimination.
- Offer floating holidays so people can take time off during the year to celebrate what’s important to them.
Using technology to foster diversity and inclusion
Creating a diverse and inclusive workspace must go beyond training your individual employees. It needs to become part of the very fabric of your business to be effective. Only by creating a culture that celebrates diversity and inclusion can you truly be successful.
Fortunately, you can use technology to help your small business’s D&I efforts be more consistent, measure your impact, and help you take actionable steps. Here are some tools and tips to help you focus on diversity and inclusion in your workplace.
Think about your data
Get a baseline of the demographic makeup of your workforce before you start your diversity and inclusion efforts. This information can help you understand your weak spots and learn where to improve. You may also want to think about who your customers are. If your customers are diverse, but your team isn’t, you might be missing the mark when it comes to meeting customer needs. D&I software can provide an at-a-glance dashboard that lets you know how your diversity efforts are going.
- Break down your demographics with a tool like Joonko or an Excel spreadsheet. If you don’t have a human resources management system, you may need to ask your employees to volunteer (make it optional). This is also the perfect time to survey your employees and see what they think about your company’s diversity and inclusion. Look at important demographics, including race, gender, age, etc., as well as how much your employees are being paid. Make sure to keep this sensitive personal information secure and only give access to the people that absolutely need it.
- Once you have a picture of your data, you can identify areas where you want and need to improve. Set goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) to stay on track. Don’t overwhelm yourself with a ton of areas you want to work on. Choose a few key places where you can improve and focus on those. Use or build a dashboard to manage your KPIs and report out quarterly on your efforts.
Diversify your network
Your network probably plays a huge role in how you do business. It may even factor into how and who you hire. In today’s digital age, it’s easy to diversify your network thanks to the internet. You can join networking groups online and connect with business professionals from all over the world.
- Start by looking for networking groups in your industry. Many may offer links to other groups that focus on diversity in race and/or gender. You can also use Meetup to find networking groups.
- Use LinkedIn and Twitter to find people in your industry. Be sure to follow a broad group of folks to get a diverse feed.
- Use an app, like Shapr or Bumble Bizz for a swipeable networking experience that quickly connects you to a wide pool of professionals.
Take steps to make your hiring process inclusive
Whether we like it or not, bias often factors into hiring decisions and can prevent small business owners from diversifying their talent. But there are things you can do to reverse this mindset, like using blind resumes and creating inclusive job descriptions.
- Use an extension. The Unbiasify Chrome Extension is a free tool you can add to a Chrome browser. It removes names and photos from social media sites, including LinkedIn, to prevent unconscious bias.
- You can use software to make all of your company communications, including job posts, more inclusive. Textio is an augmented writing tool that helps you create materials with bias-free language, which can help you attract the talent you want on your team.
For small business owners like you, little efforts can add up to a full-scale look at your data, network, and hiring practices. By taking these steps, you can positively promote diversity and inclusion in your workplace. We’ll leave you with a quote from our Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, India Sylvester, who says it best:
“Research is clear that furthering diversity, equity and inclusion positively affects the bottom line – and it’s simply the right thing to do. Just look around you, and you’ll find many opportunities for your company to embrace diversity and inclusion – from striving to attract diverse talent to using more inclusive language in your communications to selecting the community events in which you choose to participate. When companies focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, they improve the experience of their employees, their customers and the communities they serve.”
Have you launched a D&I effort at your business? We’d love to hear how you made it happen. Share them in the comments below.
Forbes named Quantum Fiber’s parent company, Lumen as one of America’s Best Employers for Diversity in 2021. Learn more about what we’re doing to make our workplace more diverse here.