As a small business owner, you have the unique opportunity to diversify your workforce from the very beginning. Of course, there’s been a big push for hiring people from all demographics in the past couple of decades. But having a diverse workforce is about so much more than that. It pushes innovation by introducing new ideas from all walks of life. Moreover, with a diverse workforce, individual employees are much less likely to feel “out of place.” And that means much less turnover.
However, small business workforce diversity can be tricky, legally speaking. In nearly every instance, it is against federal law to hire or not hire someone solely based on their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or any other discriminating factor. So, what can you do instead? Read on to find out.
First, What Is Small Business Workforce Diversity?
Though “diversity” seems like an obvious term, there is actually a lot to it. It’s often lumped in with “inclusion,” but the two have separate definitions. Diversity refers to having employees from a variety of different backgrounds. Doing so allows alternative views and different opinions to thrive in the workplace, often pushing conventional methods aside for new ideas and higher productivity.
Inclusion, on the other hand, is about treating members of your diverse workforce as individuals, not a monolith for others in their demographic. This part is crucial for your employees to feel like they can actively participate. As humans, we naturally have a need to be included. If your business seems like it’s simply gathering diverse employees like trading cards, instead of allowing for individuals to maximize their potential as people, you may quickly find yourself losing employees left and right.
Both diversity and inclusion are vital for your small business. Without inclusion, diversity simply doesn’t work. As one expert put it, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” Without being asked to dance, it’s easy to start feeling like a body invited to fill the room — or, at the very least, quickly become bored standing in the corner.
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Factors that Drive Diversity
In order to drive diversity and, perhaps more importantly, inclusivity, experts say there are four factors you must establish in your business. These include:
1. Finding Inclusive Leaders
Whether this refers to you as the business owner or any managers you hire, you must create a culture of inclusiveness. This means having leaders who:
- Create a safe environment to propose new ideas
- Make sure each employee has the opportunity to be heard, and encouraging them to speak up
- Implement feedback, and take advice seriously
- Give constructive feedback to team members
- Empower each employee to make decisions in ways that benefit the company
- Give credit where credit is due for team successes
One of the top complaints for minorities in the workforce is that they have to compromise their identity in order to conform to work standards. In STEM fields, women report that they often have to “act like a man” in order to be taken seriously. While your company culture may not be able to accommodate every cultural nuance, keeping guidelines like dress code and breaks for prayer or meditation in your handbook could be a great way to bolster inclusivity.
Establish Clear Career Paths
For some minorities in the workforce, especially people of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals and women, it can be difficult to know the trajectory of their career. While outside factors like family care can derail careers, it’s more common for these individuals to feel like they’ve been knocked off the ladder, often being passed over for higher positions. Make sure you lay out career trajectories equally for all employees, helping each member of your team figure out what steps they need to take to move forward.
Create a Mentourship Opportunity
It’s common for minority employees to feel like they don’t have anyone in leadership to mentor them or sponsor them. While this can be a difficult task to achieve for small businesses, it’s not impossible. It starts with having a diversified leadership team. While you’re working on that aspect, be sure your employees who may feel a bit on the outside of the circle know that you have their back and will fight for them based on their workplace merit, not their skin color, gender or sexual preference.
So, How do You Diversify Your Workplace?
The first step is making sure your small business is properly diversified, based on the community around you. One of the most obvious examples is having a majority-white workforce in a largely black community. But diversity in your business goes well beyond race. When you have a workplace that’s as diversified as your local community, you not only appeal more to local customers, but you also get to hear what your neighborhood wants from your business.
Secondly, connect with your community to find qualified candidates. You can talk to local colleges and organizations to find potential employees that would be great for your business. Referrals from current employees can also help expand your hiring pool, and find new employees who your team members know fit the culture of your business well.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, work with your leadership team (and possibly an employment attorney) to create and implement an equal opportunity employment policy that’s in line with the the federal laws established by the EEOC. Once you’ve established these guidelines, ensure everyone involved in the hiring process is strictly following them.
Optimize Your Hiring Process for Diversification
While inclusion comes down to your workplace culture, increasing diversity obviously comes down to your hiring process. At Company.com, we can help you make sure your process is streamlined and efficient. We can help you post to hundreds of job boards, including ones specific to your industry and location. In addition, we can help you keep track of the resumes of the candidates you like best. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with small business workforce diversity, or to start a free trial of our premium software suite.