Tips to Improve Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion For Your Small Businesses

Most small businesses feel like the only way to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is through hiring. This means small businesses may not have as many chances to recognize DEI—but that’s not necessarily the case. Smaller companies can also promote DEI among their existing workforce. DE&I cannot feel like or be communicated as an “Initiative” or a “program” or it will feel like the “flavor or the month”. It’s a journey and making small, incremental changes that address inclusion and equity across the organization yield the biggest results. Ideally, companies should start with a DEI strategy and plan. But that requires a lot of time and effort. So to improve DEI right away, here are some tips to get started:

Look at what you are currently doing well with DEI initiatives

Evaluate your current workplace culture. Is it inclusive? Do employees feel valued, do they have a voice? Start by doing a pulse survey and sending to employees to get a baseline of how employees feel related to equity and inclusion.

Look beyond traditional markers of diversity

Especially if you’re a small business, it can feel hard to include a lot of diversity if you only have ten employees. Does your leadership team reflect diversity of background, thoughts and perspectives? Diversity is not just about traditional markers. But you can focus on a variety of diverse factors outside race and gender, such as age, family status, and location.

Start with leadership

Any desired lasting change, including DEI, has to come from the top down, and this is usually the first indication to others looking into your company of the diversity that may be there. It also goes a long way in promoting inclusion and a sense of belonging when employees see someone of a diverse background—perhaps similar to their own—represented on the leadership team.

Reduce bias and discrimination in the interview and promotion process.

When writing job descriptions, think carefully about whether you’re excluding anyone based on unreasonable requirements for education, skills, or experience. From there, reevaluate your interview process. There are plenty of interview tactics that promote DEI—the most common is taking a structured interview approach. Structured interviews reduce bias by making the process the same for each candidate.

Support more religious and cultural practices

Consider offering 1 or 2 floating holidays for those who don’t celebrate events associated with Christian faiths.

Host more employee resource groups (ERGs)

THIS IS OFTEN DIFFICULT TO DO IN SMALL ORGANIZATIONS BUT CREATING A DIVERSITY COUNCIL MAY BE A GOOD START. When applicable, ERGs provide a safe and inclusive environment for employees to voice their concerns and opinions about different DEI topics. ERGs can result in new ideas and perspectives on DEI.

Make the workplace conducive for diverse workers

Make accommodations for employees with disabilities, that speak foreign languages, that have unique living circumstances, etc. In some cases, this is legally required, but when it’s not, going above and beyond to accommodate employees will make them feel recognized.

Celebrate diversity

From Black History to Women History to Hispanic Heritage month to Juneteenth and other notable events, there is ample opportunity to observe diversity. Do a quick poll among your employees to see how they like to celebrate. It can be as simple as a company catered lunch or educational lunch and learn. But any celebration can bring positive attention and recognize diversity.

Learn more and start a conversation

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