Fostering Diversity and Inclusion in Small Businesses: 9 Ways to Get Started

Fostering Diversity and Inclusion in Small Businesses: 9 Ways to Get Started

This article was written in consultation with Robin Schooling, Host of the DriveThruHR Podcast and Managing Partner at Peridus Group
Small businesses face unique challenges in fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces. When you have few employees, it can be difficult to have true representation across minority groups. And even when you do, some employees might still feel alone, or like few others in the workplace can relate.
Pride Month is a particularly important reminder to small businesses that the LGBTQ+ community needs them to build an inclusive workplace, even if they currently don’t employ anyone from the LGBTQ+ community
Pride Month is a recognition and celebration of the ongoing fight for justice for the LGBTQ+ community. Read our latest op-ed on the significance of Pride here:

— NGLCC (@NGLCC) June 2, 2021
Here’s how to get started fostering an environment where all employees feel safe to be their authentic selves.

1. Build Inclusion Into Your Values

Put your commitment to inclusion in writing. Outline how the company defines inclusion in your corporate values, as well as the behaviors that back up that commitment. For example, encourage employees to speak up against microaggressions and to feel free to voice their thoughts and concerns.

2. Talk About Inclusion on Day One (and Every Day After That)

Employee resource groups (ERGs) increase the visibility of underrepresented communities. If the small business you work for doesn’t have an ERG for you, start one! Or, bring together a group of involved leaders and get the momentum started that way.
Then, as part of your company’s onboarding process, make new employees aware of ERGs and explain how they can join—either as a member or as an ally.
Also, if you have a program for reducing unconscious bias, introduce the program to your new employees during the onboarding process.

3. Update Your HR Policies to Be Inclusive

Ensure that your HR policies and your employee handbook (and anywhere you communicate your company policies) have been updated to reference non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
Also, review your benefits to ensure that gender or stereotypical roles are not at play.
Current laws exclude many LGBTQIA+ workers when they need paid time off to care for a chosen family member who isn't legally related. Support CA bill #AB1041 to include chosen family in paid leave laws #CALeg #StrongerCA #Pride @equalrightsadv @BuffyWicks

— Legal Aid at Work (@LegalAidAtWork) June 18, 2021
One particular way this can show up is the parameters around your parental leave program. Parental leave should offer the same benefits to all parents, regardless of gender and sexual orientation. Let employees, including those who are adoptive parents, designate caregiver status. If your organization offers a tiered parental leave program, let your employees designate their role. Don’t make assumptions.
And support a culture that embraces parental leave. Hidden biases and pressures can create a prejudiced workplace culture that undermines your parental leave policy.

4. Use HR Data to Ensure Salary and Promotions are Fair and Equitable

To ensure equal outcomes for different groups of employees, promotions should be fairly distributed to all types of employees. Overcome pay disparity by making the necessary adjustments.
This #PrideMonth, let’s #RaiseTheWage, fight for #LGBTQIAequalpay, & make universal childcare & #PaidLeave4All a reality b/c #CareCantWait! Last year, ⅓ of lesbian, bi, & queer women experienced a financial crisis, declared bankruptcy, or missed bills.

— Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research (@lgbtq_economics) June 16, 2021

5. Use Inclusive Language

Ensure that the language your company uses is inclusive and gender-neutral. This applies to everything from job descriptions to proprietary documents.
Encourage leaders to use inclusive language with their teams, staying away from language that groups people by gender and potentially alienates someone based on their identity.

6. Normalize Using Preferred Pronouns

Always take note of someone’s gender pronouns and use them. And introduce yourself with your pronouns, too. This will make others feel more comfortable doing the same.
You can share your pronouns when introducing yourself in a meeting, as well as by adding your pronouns to your email signature, LinkedIn, Slack, Zoom, and other social and chat platforms. If the platform doesn’t yet allow you to add them, simply include them in brackets after your name.
Did you know @zoom is adding new options for sharing your pronouns?
Are you?
I think more platforms & businesses should be more inclusive to all.#Inclusivity#PrideMonth#Business#LGBT#DigitalMarketingAgency#Marketing#Pronouns#Online#Pride2021#BusinessTips#SmallBusiness

— Digital Grapevine Marketing (@MarketingDGV) June 27, 2021

7. Open up Lines of Communication

Speaking of communications platforms, create a dedicated Slack (or another chat platform) channel where employees can share their experiences and contribute their ideas.
Inclusive workplaces make sure all voices are heard—and valued.

8. Celebrate People Being “Open”

… but don’t have an expectation that people will come out at work. Some people may choose not to.
Also, don’t assume anything on behalf of a community. On a one-on-one basis, ask and listen to the individuals that identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community to better understand how they want to be celebrated (or not).
Nuula is celebrating #PrideMonth along with all of the LGBTQ+ small business owners out there. Our Site Reliability Engineer, Daisy Yeddanapudi shares "I'm celebrating Pride because it means we live in unity in diversity."#LoveIsLove #CelebratePride #EmpoweringSmallBusiness

— Nuula (@NuulaFinance) June 24, 2021

9. Support Allyship

Determine and communicate how your company—and your employees—can visibly display allyship. The key here is to help employees understand the difference between sustained allyship and just being performative.
Building an inclusive workplace where all of your employees can be their authentic selves helps foster a strong sense of belonging—and helps you retain diverse talent.

Start Dedicating Time to D&I Today

If you’re just getting started on this important work, we know you might need some help prioritizing your time to focus on it. At Eddy, we specialize in relieving busy HR teams like yours from administrative burdens, so that you can truly focus on your employees. You can see a demo of our all-in-one HR platform here.

See How Eddy Can Give You Back the Time You Need to Focus on D&I

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