It’s a term you’ve likely heard adopted by everyone from tech giants to your fellow small business owners: DEI, or Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. And while DEI sounds like a no-brainer, the reality is that implementing a DEI framework is easier said than done. In fact, our recent DEI survey uncovered that 17 percent of small business owners don’t even know where to begin when it comes to implementing DEI into their business.
But before you begin to enact DEI frameworks into your culture, it’s important to first understand what it is — and why it’s such a popular term in the current zeitgeist.
DEI is a term adopted by businesses as they implement practices that help create a fair and diverse workplace for all. Adopting a DEI framework ensures that businesses are diverse in who they hire and why and also have policies set in place that create an even playing field for all their employees.
Benefits of a Diverse Workforce
There are many reasons why companies of all sizes and industries are hopping on board with DEI, including aligning their values to entice younger workers. But at the end of the day, what really moves the needle for diverse hiring is the impact on the bottom line. Below are some of the benefits that companies can expect to see when hiring a diverse workforce:
Improved sensitivity and awareness of other cultures, disabilities and identities
A productivity boost due to a wider range of skills and ideas
More innovative ideas and campaigns from varying perspectives
A larger hiring pool, as 1 in 3 people won’t apply to a company that isn’t diverse
Improved customer relationships, as your company is able to relate to a wider range of people
A boosted reputation when pledging a DEI framework
Why Is Diversity Important in Small Business?
Diversity is important in small business as it helps protect your company's long-term growth and financial well-being. And that’s not just because you’ll have happier employees — though that’s a result of a diverse workforce too — it's because diversity improves your bottom line.
In fact, diverse companies have 2.3 times higher cash flow than their non-diverse counterparts. Additionally, those same companies can expect to reach 70 percent more markets than they would if they didn’t have a well-rounded and diverse workforce.
Eight Steps to Nurturing Diversity in Your Small Business
Nurturing diversity, equity and inclusion in your business is a multi-step process. To make a lasting change, you’ll first need to determine where your company’s weaknesses lie. Then, you’ll be able to implement new policies to improve them. Follow these eight steps to help make your small business's culture and policies more meaningful.
1. Examine Internal Biases
The first step to nurturing more DEI in your small business is to examine your own internal biases. From your current policies to how you recruit and hire new employees, it’s important to leave no stone unturned in this examination.
By determining where your gaps are in pay, policies, opportunities, diversity and inclusion, you can easily create DEI goals and values that make a big impact on your company culture. For example, if you find that a majority of the candidates you interview are white men or white women, you will want to take a closer look at your hiring practices when developing your DEI plan.
2. Create Diversity Goals and Values
Consider your diversity goals and values as your small business’s north star, always keeping you on track as you work to change your culture. Encourage more communication or learn how to lift up certain members of your team — these values and goals should reflect what you plan to become and explain how you’ll get there.
3. Implement a Blind Hiring Program
Blind hiring, or the act of removing identifying information from candidates' resumes, can help reduce unintentional bias. By not being able to see the candidate's name, picture, address or hobbies, your hiring team will be able to make smarter decisions based on what really matters.
4. Ensure Equal Pay
We all know that, statistically, women aren’t paid as much as men. And minority women are paid even less. But what you may not realize is that this gap doesn’t just apply to major corporations. In fact, the issue is even worse in small businesses, where the gender pay gap is 18 percent larger than the national average.
If you think your company is above this issue — think again. Ensuring equal pay is an important step for nurturing DEI, so reassess how much you're paying your male, female, trans and nonbinary employees regularly.
5. Keep an Eye on Equity
While paying everyone fairly is crucial, equity involves catering resources to each individual in order to ensure equality. This means that some employees, depending on their abilities, may need more resources than others. By treating everyone equitably instead of equally, you will be able to foster a healthier workplace culture.
6. Train for Inclusion and Sensitivity
In addition to changing policies and upper-management practices, it’s important to train your entire team on inclusion and sensitivity. Whether you bring in an outside consultant to get your team up to speed or have them complete an online course, giving your entire team the same training will keep everyone on the same page when it comes to how to behave at work.
7. Improve Company Lingo
Policies are important, but another aspect that will make a big difference to your company culture is changing the words that you use on a daily basis. Encouraging the use of pronouns, distributing information on inclusive language and banning discriminatory language can help boost employee morale and create a more positive working environment.
8. Consistently Re-Examine Inclusion Practices
As our culture grows and changes, so should your business. This means that having a truly inclusive and diverse small business is a never-ending process. Because of this, it's important to regularly schedule time to review and revise your policies. And if major events occur that you care about, don’t be afraid to update them more frequently. Your employees, customers and wallet will thank you for it.
While many terms in the zeitgeist tend to come and go, it’s important to remember that diversity isn’t a “trend” — it’s a way of conducting business that makes room for all. If you have successfully integrated DEI into your business, tell us about it! You could be featured in our next success story.
Sarah is a copywriter and brand strategist who has helped companies of all sizes reach their audience with targeted content. Outside of her marketing work, Sarah is passionate about creative writing, yoga and hiking with her dog, Otis.