4 Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices for Small Businesses

4 months ago   •   3 min read

By Satta Hightower

The focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace has increased in recent years as companies work to develop values and employee rosters that more accurately reflect the world around them.

While achieving DEI goals requires an ongoing commitment regardless of the size of the organization, larger companies often have more resources to advance DEI objectives and implement diverse staffing. As a small-business owner, you may be wondering how to do the same thing with the limited resources you have. Here's why diversifying your team is so important, along with four diversity and inclusion best practices to get started.

The value of diversity and inclusion.

Diversity and inclusion aren't just important from an equity standpoint—it's also good for business.

As reported by Boston Consulting Group, diverse teams often outperform their peers when it comes to innovation and revenue growth. Companies with diverse leadership are 35% more likely to achieve better financial performance than their industry peers, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Diverse teams are so impactful because a varied group of people bring a richer array of perspectives and experiences to solving business challenges. Diverse teams better reflect your customers, too. People of color, including those who identify as Black, Latino, and Asian or Pacific Islander, represent a growing share of the U.S. population—including more than half of people under age 16 per the Brookings Institute. With these shifts, how can any business best serve its customers if it doesn't understand their needs and concerns?

If your company would like to build a better team, consider these four diversity and inclusion best practices.

1. Be open to feedback.

Before you revamp your hiring strategy, talk to current employees about where your business can improve regarding diversity and inclusion. Though you should engage current employees from underrepresented groups in these conversations, it's also critical to seek feedback from all employees to gather their ideas and to engage them as key stakeholders in the process. Some employees may even want to take a more active role in this effort, so get them involved early on.

Be open to both positive and negative feedback about where your business currently stands, and seriously consider their input about how you can improve.

2. Engage with diverse groups.

Along with seeking internal input from employees, you should also engage external groups in your DEI strategy.

Perform community outreach to diversity-focused organizations, affinity groups for underrepresented professionals in your industry, and local workforce development organizations and talk to them about your business's diversity goals. Take the time yourself or deputize people on your team to attend diversity-focused conferences, virtual events, or business-focused panels that highlight underrepresented groups.

There's likely an organization that focuses on women or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) in your community. Try to cultivate a relationship with these groups to nurture connections with a diverse range of candidates.

3. Focus on nontraditional candidates.

Many businesses, both small and large, tend to favor job candidates from elite universities or who come with referrals from trusted colleagues, friends, and family members. These practices may have helped you hire in the past, but your business could be missing out on talented, qualified candidates if you don't expand your hiring pool.

Community colleges, trade schools, technical colleges, and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have a wealth of talent you can tap into. Consider attending a job fair at one of these institutions or reaching out to their career office about open positions at your company. You could also recruit from these schools for a summer or year-round internship program to build a more diverse pipeline of qualified candidates.

4. Use inclusive language.

As you take steps to diversify your team, you also need to foster a more inclusive culture within your organization.

Using inclusive language in your job postings, company communications, and mission statement is one of the best places to start. Try to avoid gendered or unintentionally insensitive language, such as listing "man-hours," using "he" or "she" instead of the singular "they," using the word "master" to describe a desired skill level or proficiency, and requesting only "native English speakers" apply for open positions.

All of this may seem difficult to navigate at first, but several resources can help, including text analyzer tools for eliminating non-inclusive language and the American Psychological Association's (APA) style guide for bias-free language.

Executing your plan to build a talented, diverse team.

Hiring with diversity and inclusion in mind takes sustained effort and continuous commitment. As employees leave your organization, you'll need to hire new team members. In these moments, it may be easier to just hire someone as quickly as possible rather than doing the additional work to make sure you have a diverse talent pool.

However, in the long run, this commitment will benefit your business. As the research shows, diverse teams perform better, are more innovative, and drive more revenue. Any small business would love to generate these results. The four diversity and inclusion best practices we've outlined can help you get there so that you can create a team that better serves your customers, reflects the world around you, and empowers you to build a truly inclusive and thriving business.

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