Conversation in America is currently focused on diversity. From the several high-profile deaths in recent months, to the protests occurring across the nation, to the massive response on social media, the message is clear: racism and prejudice should have ended a long time ago and will no longer be tolerated. However, stopping injustice is the ground floor level of societal expectations. The true standard is to actively celebrate diversity and inclusion.
This is especially true in the workplace. LinkedIn is filled wall-to-wall with corporations and executives voicing their support of an inclusive workplace and proving that their words are backed by action with evidence of their diverse hiring practices and leadership teams. Massive organizations like Google spend millions of dollars providing education to underprivileged students of color and have sprawling internship programs that focus on attracting the best and brightest, particularly those in underrepresented groups.
Small businesses often desire to reach the same levels of diversity and inclusion, but likely don’t have the funding for a professional workplace diversity officer, much less to endow schools with professional development programs for underprivileged youth. Luckily, there are some easy steps that these organizations can take to help reach their diversity goals.
Make Diversity a Strategic Goal
If having a more diverse workforce doesn’t become a measure of success, then managers and employees won’t ever see it as the safe or priority choice for their actions. Especially in a crunch time like the COVID-19 pandemic, people are trying to cling to the normal and familiar options which may be antithetical to most diversity initiatives. By treating progress towards diversity the same way you would treat other measures of business success, you ensure the people representing your organization will keep it in mind as something to strive for. It’s also a safe bet that if your highest level of leadership isn’t working towards diversity, nobody else will be either. If diversity is a stand-alone goal, then it’s the responsibility of one or two people to accomplish it; if it’s a goal across the board then all employees will see it as their duty.
Look in Different Places
The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing while expecting a different result. LinkedIn is great for networking, but if your network isn’t diverse then it’s unlikely to suddenly lead you to a diverse pool of applicants. Facebook has a much broader userbase and now has Facebook Jobs, an easy way to get your posting out to a lot of potential applicants without a diversity bottleneck like being in your network. Other options include contacting organizations whose membership is composed of individuals in your underrepresented groups, for example the National Society for Black Engineers, and identifying if they have a job board or other way for you to get your posting into new hands.
One of the strategic values of diversity is the wider pool of experience and approaches to problem solving. Having a technically diverse workforce isn’t as beneficial as having one that truly celebrates that diversity. Allow employees from different cultures or backgrounds to retain their diversity without it being something to single them out. This might mean having conversations to specifically see what more you could do to help unique individuals feel welcome, altering your paid time off policies to allow different holidays schedules to be adopted, altering your benefits contract to allow partners and their dependents or children, or changing your dress code to allow different-yet-professional articles of clothing to be incorporated. If you find diverse applicants in your recruiting processes but can’t retain them, this might be an area that needs additional focus.
Be Public but Not Pushy
If your organization has a commitment to diversity beyond the boilerplate EEOC language, post it publicly. Likewise, if you’re a multiethnic/multigenerational company, make sure it’s visible in your company’s comments and photos. There’s absolutely a pitfall in tokenism however: don’t put out media that suggests your organization is more diverse than it is. If having a diverse work force is a goal you haven’t met yet, be open about it and make it clear that are all welcome to come as they are and you’ll step up to the plate to do your part to help them feel at home.
While this is far from being an end-all guide to diversity initiatives, it can help get small businesses started on the right path. Other milestones that need to be rapidly achieved include having diversity in your leadership team, equity in your compensation across races and genders, and supporting diversity outside of your organization instead of just within. If any businesses in the Twin-Ports area have questions or are looking for guidance, Terch and Associates is always here to help.