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6 Steps to Building an Inclusive Small Business Team

Diversity enhances workplace culture and leads to more creativity when it comes to the products and services offered. Get started with these 6 steps:
Inclusive team

6 Inclusive Practices for Small Businesses

  1. Make Developing a Diverse Staff a Priority
  2. Review Your Hiring Strategies
  3. Add Remote Positions
  4. Reimagine Meetings and Events
  5. Make Your Space Inclusive
  6. Create an Inclusion Committee

Diversity in the workplace is becoming an increasingly important objective for companies. Not only does a mix of backgrounds provide more expanded views at work, but this diversity can enhance workplace culture and lead to more creativity when it comes to the products and services offered.

Creating an inclusive team isn’t always easy. Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Make Developing a Diverse Staff a Priority

Don’t just add making a diverse team to your business wishlist — instead, hold yourself accountable by making it a concrete and measurable goal. You’ll need to start by taking a good, hard look at your hiring decisions and current staff. Then, use that information to highlight how you’d like to grow or adapt your team (i.e. increase the diversity of the staff by 25 percent). Work that goal into your business’s quarterly or annual goals to keep it front of mind.

If you need an added incentive, consider how diversity can play a role in generating more business — companies with diverse management have 19 percent higher revenues as a result of increased creativity. You’ve likely already sunk some major capital into getting your dream business off the ground, and adding a diverse staff is one more way to help it thrive.

2. Review Your Hiring Strategies

While it’s important to be specific about what you’re looking for in a candidate, rigid requirements could inadvertently shut out diverse candidates from unique backgrounds. Be flexible with your educational requirements to account for work experience, and don’t take a gap in work as a red flag. Instead, ask candidates what life experience they developed in that time — you might find they have a lot to bring to the table.

Be careful with your job posting and interview process as well. Consider stating explicitly that all candidates should apply, even if they don’t match your listed criteria specifically. You may also want to remove or block out names when reviewing resumes. Not knowing personal details about the candidate means you can look at each objectively and remove any unintended bias.

And don’t forget to post your listing outside of the standard job boards. Reaching out to diverse trade groups, schools, or recruiters can help make your approach more targeted.

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3. Add Remote Positions (If Possible)

Even before the coronavirus pandemic caused a massive shift to working from home, flexible working arrangements had already been on the rise. From 2005 to 2017, the number of remote jobs grew 159 percent. If you have roles that can be performed remotely, you can draw from a more diverse candidate pool. With the help of technology, you’ll suddenly be able to accommodate employees who may not want or be able to relocate.

However, building an inclusive team remotely presents its own unique challenges. It can be hard to foster connections between employees when they’re not working side-by-side in an office. Try new tactics such as video calls, group chats, or even corporate text messaging to engage your team. Remote work can be a wonderful way to bring in voices from across the country or work with people who would otherwise not be able to pursue a traditional office job but all of it will be for naught if you’re not actively experimenting with new ways to keep people connected.

4. Reimagine Meetings and Events

Bringing unique voices together is great, but it will accomplish little if you don’t have a chance to hear them. Consider rotating the host of a standing meeting or encouraging everyone to contribute a final word at the end of video conference calls. Similarly, think about the timing of the office events you hold — happy hours after work can be difficult for parents who need to get home to their kids, so pepper in some lunchtime activities to get everyone involved.

You can also incorporate diversity training into your office culture. For instance, consider scheduling an optional meeting to discuss an event or movie with cultural significance, or provide sensitivity training to help employees understand how their actions can impact others.

5. Make Your Space Inclusive

Companies show a lot about who they value by the amount of space dedicated to employee needs. Actively assess how your space is used and if there are ways it could better serve diversity in your workplace. For example, do you have an all-gender bathroom? Is there a space that could be used for nursing moms? Also, people from some religious backgrounds are required to pray several times a day — do you have a room that could give them privacy to do this? Going above and beyond to make sure your workplace meets the needs of all employees sends a firm message that diversity matters.

6. Create an Inclusion Committee

You don’t have to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to workplace diversity — nor should you. Giving employees the opportunity to participate in your diversity vision can help foster commitment and increase morale. Select a group of leaders from across the company who have exhibited a firm desire to create a more diverse workforce. Keep this group of people as diverse as possible. Give the committee the power to set goals and find answers to roadblocks as they arise. Plus, make sure the committee knows they are responsible for updating employees regularly — perhaps quarterly — on the company’s progress.

Written by Jolene Latimer for LendingTree

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