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

Supporting a culture of inclusion looks different in a small company, but helping your people feel like they belong matters just as much. Here’s how to ensure your company is fostering inclusion—on Pride Day and every day.
Fostering Diversity and Inclusion in Small Businesses- 9 Ways to Get Started
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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

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. 

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. 

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. 

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). 

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.

Suggested Reading: How Does Diversity Impact Employee Retention?

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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