How Small Businesses Can Build Diversity Programs
Being a small start-up in a market of established players can be a huge challenge. Smaller companies are constantly challenged to find ways to pull customers away from bigger brand name competitors. One way to gain a competitive edge is through workplace diversity.
Workplace diversity was traditionally defined to include race and gender. A more comprehensive view of diversity is now the norm with businesses embracing all differences including gender, sexual orientation, age, nationality, religion, race, abilities/disabilities, and socioeconomic status. Embracing diversity is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes business sense. Diversity can help organizations reach new markets, improve customer relationships, increase innovation, enhance company culture, and attract top talent. All of these improvements directly affect a company’s bottom line.
Improving workplace diversity can certainly be a big undertaking. Many large organizations have spent a lot of time and money on diversity policies and processes. Many even have HR employees dedicated to diversity. While this may be possible for large companies, smaller organizations can also improve their workplace diversity with minimal resources. There are a few important steps you can take as a smaller organization to create a more diverse workplace.
The first step is awareness. It’s important to understand the current state of diversity at your organization. Requiring managers to report on hiring and workforce demographics can allow you to establish a baseline and identify problem areas. You also want to educate your managers and leaders on diversity issues and why diversity in the workplace is important. It’s key to also inform them of the business and legal risks associated with workforce diversity issues.
Now that you have workforce diversity data you need to establish some goals and targets. You can establish reasonable objectives by looking at industry benchmarks or data from companies who are known for their diversity best practices. You should also be continuously updating and reviewing your workplace diversity data to look for trends. This is essential in order to identify issues with particular managers or groups regarding hiring and promotion decisions.
You should also have a clear policy and process for resolving issues of discrimination. All complaints of discrimination should be investigated according to a documented procedure. If you do not have the resources to do this in-house, consider using a third party like an HR consultant. Along with the investigation process, discipline and training needs should be considered, as well as dispute resolution mechanisms.
To effectively promote workforce diversity, you have to pursue the diversity targets you established. You want to ensure that everyone in the company is abiding by equitable workplace practices and that policies are enforced. Although diversity initiatives are established at the leadership level, all employees need to be held accountable for their actions in order to create an inclusive workplace.
While most companies are focused on competing based on price, product, or service, diversity can also be a competitive advantage. Creating an inclusive and diverse workplace requires leadership commitment and company-wide adoption of diversity goals and principles. A small investment in the diversity of your company can contribute significantly to your bottom line.