Four ways to encourage diversity and inclusion in a small-business workplace

It’s important that all businesses, regardless of size, demonstrate their commitment to maintaining
a high standard of company culture with a strong focus on creating an environment that promotes
diversity and inclusion. Fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace and supporting employees both
professionally and personally should be a priority for business leaders. Here are four ways to achieve this.

Ensure the small business is genuine and authentic about its work in this space

Finding an authentic and genuine approach to diversity and inclusion allows small businesses to access the benefits of bringing diverse people together.

Authentic leadership is one that emphasises self-awareness, open communication, and different perspectives. Equally as important, initiatives and programs designed to foster diversity and inclusion must be meaningful and considered. They must also be relevant to the organisation, its employees, its customers, and the community it operates in.

To exceed the expectations of employees, it’s important for small businesses to consider what diversity and inclusion actually means to them, why they want to be a leader in the space, and how they are going to get there. You can demonstrate the purpose of your start-up through a diversity and inclusion statement and stick this on a wall in the office for everyone to see.

Foster a small-business culture where everyone is respected, welcomed, and has a sense of belonging

Company culture matters. Company culture connects employees to a small business’ values, mission, beliefs, and behaviours. It drives the way employees engage with their colleagues, which can then impact the quality of work produced.

Research from Great Place to Work revealed that when employees trust that they will be treated with fairness and respect and that their unique perspective is valued they are close to ten times more likely to look forward to going to work, and six times more likely to have pride in what they are working on.

Creating a work environment where all employees can be themselves and feel that they are in a safe and affirming space can help people perform their roles to the absolute best of their ability. There are enormous benefits to creating a workplace where different perspectives are valued and embraced, as it provides employees with great opportunities for personal growth.

Make sure diversity and inclusion is a continuous process, that progress is measured, and reporting is transparent

Creating change and momentum in diversity and inclusion is a process that requires conscious thought and investment. Small businesses need to encourage people to be themselves by celebrating people for who they are. This is an ongoing process and one that requires constant support. Measurement is a critical marker of success, and clear measures to track efforts when it comes to diversity and inclusion can help organisations stay on track.

Diversity and inclusion is not something that can be implemented overnight, and it takes time to get it right. It took a long time to get to this conversation, so it’s no surprise that it’s going to take a bit of time to manifest real change in the space.

Ensure that HR policies and programs support the small-businesses aspirations, but aren’t the first and last action

HR policies and programs provide structure and consistency in small businesses. More than that, they recognise the needs of employees to help maintain the wellness of the organisation. The experiences employees share can be influenced and shaped by the actions and decisions of their business leaders, so reviewing existing workplace policies and programs with a diversity lens is crucial.

While many small businesses and start-ups have been bringing diversity and inclusion into greater focus over the last few years, there is still significant room for improvement. There are countless steps small businesses can take to cultivate diversity and inclusion in the workplace and, if chosen and acted on authentically, employees will feel supported to thrive both personally and professionally.