Ever heard the phrase “our differences make us stronger”? That’s the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace – that when everyone in a business feels respected, included, and valued equally, it will perform better on the whole.
But what do these terms mean? “Diversity” simply refers to differences in a group – race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, even characteristics like age. “Equity” means that, despite those differences, everyone in a group is treated fairly and equally. And “inclusion” ensures that, on top of fair and equal treatment, everyone feels comfortable being themselves without fear the group will ostracize or exclude them in any way. Together, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) can lay the foundation for a happy, successful team. In this article, we’ll dig into the details of how it does that, plus how you can promote DE&I at your own business.
Why is diversity and inclusion important in your business?
Employee benefits are an excellent start in promoting a healthy workplace, but there’s no substitute for diversity and inclusion. So, why do our differences make us stronger? Imagine if every single member of your team came from the same place, shared the same cultural background, and thought the same way. They might handle some specific scenarios extremely well, but unfamiliar situations could prove challenging. Different backgrounds offer different perspectives and skill sets that make a team more versatile. In fact, a Harvard study found that businesses with above-average diversity have 19% more revenue from innovation.1
But remember, diversity isn’t enough on its own. Diverse teams are positioned to succeed only when each member feels empowered by equity and inclusion to bring their full selves to work daily, offering the ideas and perspectives that make them valuable to your business. Feeling that level of comfort at the workplace also aids significantly with employee retention.
How to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
Clearly the benefits of a diverse, inclusive workplace are considerable, but what’s the best way to foster that kind of environment? It all starts by taking the challenge seriously. Be authentic. Show your team this is something that’s important to you by treating the matter with the same thoughtfulness and focus you treat any other business endeavor with. From carefully choosing new hire interview questions to being selective about the vendors you work with, there are multiple ways to promote diversity and inclusion in small businesses. Here are a few strategies you can use.
Have a diverse recruitment and promotion process
This is possibly the most important step you can take. Recruit diverse candidates when the time comes for new hires and promote diverse employees when more senior positions open up. Diverse hires and leadership can help lay the foundation for a business that’s built by and for many different kinds of people. You can make open positions more diversity-friendly by removing barriers like excessive education requirements and creating a universal interview structure used for every candidate. Hiring a diverse leadership team is equally important to add perspective to the direction your business takes and show diverse employees you’re serious about creating an equitable workplace.
Create a supportive community for all
Once you’ve got a diverse team, it’s crucial you create an environment that supports everyone. Fortunately, there are many ways to do this. One of the easiest is ensuring your business observes all applicable religious or cultural holidays. You can also provide support systems such as employee resource groups or hire a DE&I coordinator. These can help ensure everyone feels heard when they have concerns.
Partner with diverse external vendors and suppliers
Your efforts don’t all have to be internal. You can go beyond fostering a diverse and inclusive business by choosing to work with diverse and inclusive vendors and suppliers. This demonstrates to your employees that you’re serious about DE&I and helps promote other businesses that feel the same, creating more successful diversity and inclusion efforts than one company could produce on its own.
Successful examples of diversity and inclusion in small businesses
So, is diversity good for business? The statistics alone provide a resounding “yes”. But for tangible proof, look no further than the countless small businesses who have found success through embracing it. Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonade in Scottsdale, AZ has expanded to 14 locations, nine of which are owned and operated by minorities and/or women who can often better serve the business’ diverse clientele. In New York, Clark House Hospitality has created an equitable wage system that ensures equal and fair pay for all employees, regardless of station, experience, or otherwise, helping build a team with diverse skills and strong teamwork. In every situation, diversity and inclusion not only serve as a characteristic of success but a cause of it, too.
There are many ways to promote diversity and inclusion, but however you choose to do so, it’s crucial you be authentic about it. Remember, you’re not just being inclusive because it’s the right thing to do, you’re also doing it because it’s the best thing to do for your business. The numbers prove it – diverse, inclusive teams produce more revenue and foster healthier workplace culture. And when you fully understand DE&I’s importance to a successful business, you’ll easily promote it at yours.
 “How and Where Diversity Drives Financial Performance,” Rocio Lorenzo and Martin Reeves, https://hbr.org/2018/01/how-and-where-diversity-drives-financial-performance (Accessed August 2023).