The world of business is ever evolving and changing. What worked 10 years ago no longer works for most brands. Diversity in small business was once something people rarely thought about but has emerged as an essential aspect of success.
In rural communities, finding teams without limited perspectives may be more difficult. Fortunately, remote work opportunities and looking at various forms of diversity can help even a small town find a varied workforce.
Embracing employees of all races, genders, ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds drives innovation and creativity in the company.
One of the best ways to ensure a brand unlocks success through diversity is by considering the power of focusing on it, looking at strategies to find inclusivity in the workplace and cultivating a positive company culture that values each individual’s input.
What Is Diversity in Small Business?
Understanding precisely what diversity in small business means is challenging, even for those who are aware and want to make a change.
Companies must do more than just fill quotas and put varied people in roles. Creating an atmosphere where everyone has input and is appreciated for their perspectives is crucial.
Older workers might have experience a recent college graduate does not. Someone from another culture will have a creative idea or see an ad campaign through fresh eyes.
Leaders must make it clear that everyone’s contribution has value. Differences should be appreciated and recognized respectfully.
Write out rules that employees and managers should hear and respect every person regardless of their demographics.
Diversifying beyond race and gender also opens up a world of other potential job candidates with skills the business might not otherwise have. When everyone puts their heads together, creative solutions happen.
Build a Diverse Team
Many companies see success when they bring together individuals with different skills and viewpoints. A team that fosters a creative atmosphere and values input from varied backgrounds tends to come up with groundbreaking ideas.
Mastercard is an example of a company striving for diversity in their employee pool and how they support others. A few initiatives drive their philosophy, including equal pay for equal work.
Rather than gender determining pay, the role, skills and level decide what a worker makes. In addition, they sponsor Girls4Tech, which is a STEM curriculum for girls aged eight to 16.
Some of their benefits include same-sex domestic partner coverage and adoption assistance.
When a team from varied backgrounds comes together, they find solutions a non-diverse team might have yet to consider. They can view challenges from different angles. Another perk is solutions resonate with a broader range of buyer personas.
Building a diverse team requires giving everyone a voice. Even employees who are shy about speaking up should be called upon or allowed to voice their opinion one-on-one with leadership or through a comment submission program.
Hire Based on Knowledge and Skills
The hiring process can sometimes bring in biases people are unaware of. It is best to have an interview team that represents the company’s different cultures and ages.
Start by creating a diverse candidate pool. Advertise in various places and pull applicants based on skills and knowledge. Look at real-life experience — not just education — and source talent from multiple channels.
Take the time to have HR and department managers review job descriptions. Is anything in the wording a turn-off to particular demographics? Reword what does not work.
Even the way a marketing department advertises a brand can attract or repel job candidates. Strive for diversity in marketing to reach a mix of demographics.
When interviewing, ignore traditional markers of success, such as promotions and degrees. Instead, look at potential, whether the person can fill the role and what type of fit they might be in the position.
Another thing those seeking diversity in small business can do is to team up with community organizations and career fairs targeting diverse groups. Online recruiting can reach a wide selection of potential staff members.
Companies should also strive to work with a mix of suppliers to show their commitment to diversity. Buy from businesses that are a good fit without worrying about the person running the organization and whether they meet a specific profile.
Improve Company Culture
Finding a mix of employees is only one part of the equation needed to unlock success through diversity in small business. Company leaders must strive to create an inclusive culture.
Doing so requires hard work and consistent effort. A brand with diverse employees means they will have opinions from all backgrounds.
Figuring out how to make them see one another as fellow humans and communicate effectively requires training and setting an example.
Everyone in the workplace should feel respected and supported. Promote open communication by asking for feedback.
Give them chances to grow and develop by taking courses, attending conferences and hosting in-house training sessions. Include everyone in the opportunity so they all have a chance to thrive.
Brands known for excellent diversity have improved employee retention, which can prevent knowledge gaps. For example, Kaiser Permanente is a healthcare company.
Around 69% of its workers are people of color and 73% are women. It uses a model that promotes “speaking up,” which encourages employees to have a voice, offer input and request change where necessary.
Other brands can repeat their success by teaching employees how to speak up for themselves and ensuring they are never punished for doing so.
Create affinity groups, and ask employees to help shape diversity policies and fix problems they encounter. When a brand gives workers a voice and input into improving relationships between different cultures, the team works better together.
Get Help From Experts
Still struggling to find the key to diversity in small business? Hire a consultant to analyze and offer solutions.
Once the company has some ideas on what areas need improvement, pull together a council of employees representing different ages, races, genders and cultures.
Ask them to review the solutions and devise ways to implement the ones that make the most sense for the organization.
Host workshops and training on diversity and how to improve. Brands might have only a few workers holding on to instilled views or having difficulty feeling empathy.
Offering correction via training can keep them from feeling singled out but teach them there is a better way to relate to coworkers.
Companies can also have legal requirements to ensure a safe work environment for all. If training and intervention fail and tension between staff does not improve, it may be time to make some tough decisions and send a few workers on their way.
Hopefully, a better understanding fixes problem areas and leaves everyone feeling valued.
Begin Cross-Cultural Collaboration
Brands might find some types of work or teams naturally attract similar people. Figure out ways to encourage cross-cultural collaboration on projects. Invite people from different departments to work on a new project.
Johnson & Johnson is another brand striving for diversity. It encourages every employee to utilize their experiences, abilities and roots to find answers that create a better world. In addition to diversity in hiring, it sets up employee resource groups.
Set up brainstorming sessions to show people the value each person in the company brings. Leadership needs to strategically match people with various skills so each team has diverse viewpoints.
Seek those with varied skills, such as someone from marketing, another from sales and an IT worker. What can they accomplish together?
What has the company yet to try that might work? Give them free rein to come up with something new and cutting edge.
Tracking diversity measures is challenging but can be done if a brand sets up some key performance indicators and gets feedback from employees.
For example, what does the company hope to see from setting up collaborations? How might a business measure the results to ensure the ending is what it wanted?
Pay attention to exit surveys when an employee leaves the company. Why are they going? Do they feel heard, understood and valued? If not, why not? Leadership must be open to criticism in order to improve and become more accepting.
Are recruiting strategies to bring in diverse pools of workers helping? What needs adjusting? Survey workers and see what they think about the new initiatives.
Allow for comments on every survey and let them turn it in anonymously so they feel unfettered by fear of retaliation.
What would make things even better? If a brand truly wants to create a welcoming and encouraging work environment, it must listen to the ideas of its staff.
Drive Innovation with Diversity in Small Business
Big things can happen when a brand genuinely hears and values all its employees. Bringing in fresh perspectives opens the door to innovation and adding creative elements no one has tried before. The company will stand out from competitors and attract new customers.
Problem-solving is often about adding in people who think outside the box. When a business includes a range of people from all walks of life, it gains a fresh vision that leads to success.
About the Author!
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. Eleanor was the creative director and occasional blog writer at a prominent digital marketing agency before becoming her own boss in 2018. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.