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Diversity is critical for driving innovation, inspiring creativity and solidifying market share. It can limit employee turnover and it even makes recruitment easier. In a Glassdoor Survey, two-thirds of job candidates said that a business’s level of diversity is important when evaluating job offers. Further, 69 percent of executives rated diversity and inclusion as an important issue in 2017.

For small businesses, however, hiring for diversity can be hard to implement or force upon workers, especially when they already have small, insular cultures. In an article from the Harvard Business Review (HBR), researchers examined the success rate of mandated diversity training programs within businesses. The results showed that it was simple to teach employees how to recognize bias, but the actual training is rarely used for more than a few days. 

The evidence indicates that there are sometimes adverse effects to diversity training programs, too. HBR reports that when diversity training is mandatory, workers often confront the task with anger or resentment. But when diversity training is voluntary, attitudes improved and there was a 9 to 13 percent increase in hiring minorities five years from training.

If diversity is crucial to help companies thrive, yet many work teams have an aversion to its implementation, how can small businesses foster and manage diversity within their organizations? The following steps will help your small business team transition into a more diverse workplace.

Evaluate your Hiring Process

First, assess and compare the level of diversity in your company with the general industry and local community’s workforce. Then, assess each department’s hiring process to shine a light on any discrepancies that may exist within the organization. Remember, too, that a team might be diverse in many areas of its operations, and not in managerial positions. 

Leaders must advocate for diversity in all hiring decisions, from entry-level to leadership roles. Remind managers that they must stick to hiring tests; HBR shows that even if managers adhere to hiring tests, they often use them selectively and often ignore results. The best option is to have a system of checks and balances to ensure that no one uses a biased approach. As Forbes suggests, it’s best to host a blind resume screening, use inclusive wording in job descriptions and seek out diverse candidates from job posting sites catering to non-traditional candidates. For example, if you’re looking to hire more women in the tech industry, consider searching for candidates on sites like Hire Tech Ladies or PowertoFly.

Implement Diverse Mentoring Programs

Mentorship or sponsorship programs oriented towards diversity can create bonds between employees and alleviate managers’ biases against employees and vice versa. Opportunities for stewardship and responsibility allow mentors to give insight to their mentees and watch them grow. Both parties often see the value in these experiences which can break down cultural barriers and prejudices. According to Fast Company, studies indicate that women and minorities benefit most from formal mentoring programs; one study showed that companies with mentorship programs increased female and minority representation by 9 to 24 percent. These programs can help both mentor and mentee become more invested in their organizations.

Create a Culture of Inclusion

Creating a culture of inclusion will help everyone in your business feel part of the team. Employees who work in self-managed, team-oriented groups can learn to dismiss biases on their own by working closely with others on a shared goal. Fostering environments where there’s an emphasis on inclusive language and collaboration can increase engagement and has proven to help teams perform better. In essence, creating a culture based on the business or service rather than on individual goals or ideas can create a more unified purpose. 

If small businesses want to succeed in a global market, we must move pass using ‘diversity’ as a mere buzzword and start developing action plans to implement an equal opportunity employment policy, following the Federal EEOC guidelines

Companies that build and maintain diverse work programs and cultures can not only build more opportunities for growth and innovation within their industries, but also actively invest in sustainable workplaces that can decrease loneliness and organically build connected cultures. As a result, diversity will become as natural as it is necessary in every organization.

About the Author(s)

Debrah Lee Charatan

Debrah Lee Charatan is an entrepreneur and real estate veteran widely recognized for her experience brokering, investing and developing commercial, residential and mixed-use properties in the New York City area.

President, BCB Property Management
Debrah Lee Charatan SCORE Diversity