Workforce diversity is a major issue that is often in the headlines with regards to large corporations, but the reality is that it’s just as important for small businesses. Having a diverse team not only brings a sense of equality to your operation, but also enables you to have a broader range of perspectives, which can be helpful across every aspect of business.

1. It Starts with Hiring

The most obvious way to improve diversity among your staff is to hire people of different backgrounds to fill open positions. Consider candidates of varying races, ethnic backgrounds, genders, abilities, etc. Somen Mondal at Ideal.com recommends conducting a diversity hiring audit, identifying a metric to improve, and taking diversity into account with candidate sourcing and screening.1

"Assess the diversity of your current hiring process and identify any potential bottlenecks and discrepancies," he says about a diversity hiring audit. "Is it a top-of-the-funnel issue? Or is it more of a leaking pipeline issue? Until you analyze your diversity hiring data, you can’t get an accurate picture of how to move the needle."

Examples he gives of picking a metric to improve upon include increasing the number of qualified female employees in tech-related roles, or the percentage of qualified minorities. As a small business, your metric may differ from that of a larger corporation, but the principle is the same.

When it comes to candidate sourcing, he mentions tweaking the language of your job postings to be more inclusive if necessary, showing existing diversity in your company through images and videos on your website and social media, offering workplace flexibility, and encouraging referrals from minority employees.

For screening, he recommends pre-hire personality assessments and masking any personal information about a candidate that may lead to unconscious (or conscious) bias.

2. Examine Your Recruitment Efforts

Do your recruitment strategies take diversity into account? Consider broadening the scope of where you're looking for recruits. Diane Benson Harrington at SmartBrief, for example, mentions reaching out to historically Black colleges and universities.2

3. Speak with a Consultant

For larger companies, it's a good idea to hire a chief diversity officer, but for a small business with few employees, it may not be realistic to have a position for this sole purpose. This problem can be solved by speaking with a consultant. 

"Diversity consultants can be deployed successfully in companies large and small, in organizations with sizable diversity functions or with none at all," says Martha Frase-Blunt at SHRM (The Society for Human Resource Management). "They can be drawn from large consulting practices or chosen as specialized independent contractors."3

4. Give an Employee the Second Title of Diversity Officer

Another option for a small business is to give an employee a secondary role. They can carry the title of Diversity Officer in addition to their other title, and be responsible for initiatives that create and promote diversity throughout your operations. In this case, it may still be a good idea to speak with a consultant so that your employee has a solid understanding of efforts that need to be made.

5. Practice Diversity for Higher Positions

Practice diversity for higher positions in the company in addition to hiring entry-level positions, whether you're hiring from outside or promoting existing employees.

6. Start a Training Program

Diversity needs to go beyond bringing a diverse group of people into your company. It's also important that all employees understand why it's important and that certain types of behavior will not be tolerated. Having an official training program in place is a good idea.

"Diversity and inclusion training programs should target all employees and address a range of issues, including unconscious bias, microaggressions and cross-cultural communications," says Paula Fernandes at Business News Daily.4 "Effective training moves beyond simply encouraging employees to tolerate differences to teaching employees how to work well together while embracing diverse perspectives."

7. Continue to Educate Yourself

Similar to having a training program for your employees, it is equally as important that you educate yourself on diversity and what it means to have a diverse company. Participate in the training program yourself, but also go above and beyond to stay up on current social events that pertain to different groups of people and be sensitive to how they might affect people on your staff. Continue to consume media from different types of perspectives and have empathy toward experiences that aren't necessarily your own.

8. Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Make sure you are approachable and are willing to speak with your team about concerns they may have. Let everyone know that you are, in fact, there to talk about such concerns so employees aren't afraid to speak up and let their voices be heard.

As a small business owner, you may not be able to make a massive difference in the effort to create more diverse workplaces in America, but the more that small businesses do their part, the better off all businesses – and our society in general – will be.

 

1. https://ideal.com/diversity-hiring/

2. https://www.smartbrief.com/original/2020/08/6-ways-human-resources-can-increase-workplace-diversity

3. https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/Pages/0604agenda_diversity3.aspx

4. https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/9782-diversity-training.html