Diversity initiatives in business have become front and center over the past year. It’s not new, though. Studies have shown that diversity on our teams drives innovation and positive results. But only recently have businesses really considered what actionable steps they can take to increase diversity. For many businesses, the desire to increase diversity in their business is linked to their desire to improve business results. Others focus on diversity initiatives to improve career and financial opportunities for typically underrepresented minority groups.
Small businesses, however, struggle with how to have impact. With small teams of fewer than 50 people, it’s hard to feel that our efforts move the needle at all. How can we make a difference for our businesses and for social justice? Remember that your impact is not only tied to your employees; it should be incorporated in your entire business ecosystem. Here are a few ways to broaden your thinking about diversity in your business.
Diversify Your Network
Many business leaders seek referrals for employees or vendors from other business leaders or vendors they know. If your existing community is not diverse, you are unlikely to build diversity through that community. You must proactively seek out diversity in your business contacts. One way to do so is by joining groups with diverse populations such as the Latino or Black Chamber of Commerce.
Consider a Request for Proposal (RFP)
Include RFPs – Request for Proposal – as part of your business’ diversity initiatives to broaden your reach. Large companies create competitive bids for projects or vendors through a Request for Proposal or Request for Quote process. Many have a requirement that at least one applicant qualify as a diverse business. Small companies typically do not formalize their vendor engagement process in this way and may feel it’s too time consuming; but it offers one of the best ways to broaden your reach.
Broaden Recruiting Reach
While small businesses may not be able to hire sufficient numbers of underrepresented populations to have a large impact on social justice, a diverse team with diverse ideas is important to business success. Recruiting efforts should intentionally reach out to communities of color so that the posting is seen by individuals outside your typical ecosystem. If you want different candidates, your job postings must show up in different publications that reach different audiences.
Culture of Inclusion
“Diversity” is the commonly used term and describes the demographics of a team. An equally important aspect of diversifying your business’ ecosystem is to ensure you also have a culture of inclusion. Culture comes from the top; and your organization must demonstrate through its actions that the focus is not on a group of people who look different from one another but on the value of each person and their differences to the business.
What drives a business to prioritize diversity initiatives certainly differs from organization to organization; but we know that intentional actions to increase diversity throughout your business’ ecosystem has broader effects than you’ll ever actually know. Your decision to hire a vendor of minority status may create additional jobs, often for other minorities, and even create greater opportunities for their children. When we broaden our thinking from the individuals we directly affect to the network that is impacted by our actions, the opportunities that arise are endless.
Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general information and should not be viewed as legal advice. You should talk with counsel familiar with your unique business needs before taking or refraining from any action.