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Group of young people gather around a laptop in an office to discuss inclusivity and diversity in small business.

Inclusivity and Diversity: How Your Small Business Can Play a Big Part

The movement for inclusivity and diversity in business is not a new one. We’ve all seen big businesses promote their own inclusivity efforts with flashy media campaigns and company-wide training programs. While small businesses may not have the same resources that large companies can dedicate to diversity and inclusivity, the benefits are exactly the same.

Aside from being more ethical, research shows that workplaces that prioritise inclusion and diversity are generally better business performers, more creative, and more profitable.

The challenge for many small businesses owners is learning how to approach this kind of cultural change with sensitivity, care and in a way that doesn’t further drain already time-poor small business owners.

We’ve put together a guide on why small businesses are vital in changing the culture on this issue and how they can implement meaningful change.

What does diversity and inclusivity mean for small businesses?

Before you dive headfirst into rewriting your company policies or instituting hiring quotas, let’s first talk about exactly what diversity and inclusion is in a small business.

Although diversity and inclusion are terms that are often used together, they are by no means interchangeable. Diversity refers to the make-up of a business or an organisation. Inclusion supports opportunities for people from different groups or backgrounds to contribute, work and be valued.

It’s possible to have diversity without inclusion if employees from different feel they are not valued or carry no authority in the workplace.

That’s why inclusion AND diversity work together to create a workplace where everyone, regardless of their background, beliefs, sexual orientation, or gender, feel involved and supported.

Combining good ethics with good business

While the discussion around diversity and inclusion stemmed from social justice movements – research now tells us that an inclusive and diverse workplace is also good for business.

In 2017, McKinsey & Company surveyed more than 1000 companies and found compelling evidence for a positive link between a company’s diversity and its financial performance. Companies with higher ethnic and cultural diversity were 33 per cent more likely to outperform their peers on profitability. Similarly, they found that companies with more gender diversity on executive teams were more also likely to be profitable.

Boston Consulting Group also found companies that reported above-average diversity on their management teams had innovation revenue that was 19% higher those with lower diversity.

These trends can be explained by the many benefits of more diversity and inclusivity in small business, including:

  • The ability to attract higher quality talent by widening the recruiting pool
  • A more diverse workforce is more readily able to innovate and show resilience
  • More inclusivity promotes higher employee retention due to increased workplace satisfaction
  • An inclusive attitude helps you better connect with and relate to a diverse audience

Despite the benefits, businesses are slow to move on this issue. McKinsey & Company found that the UK, in particular, is lagging behind countries like Australia and the US on the percentage of women in executive roles.

Why every small business matters

Although a small business alone cannot compete with large organisations, together small businesses make up more than 99 per cent of all businesses in the UK.

Not only that, but small and medium enterprises are responsible for three fifths of the employment and around half of the turnover in the UK.

That is a serious amount of buying and hiring power. So, what strategies can small businesses use to promote positive change without breaking the bank?

1. Don’t be afraid to start small:

Commonly, small businesses want to promote diversity and inclusivity but simply do not know where to start. Without the resources to employ a dedicated team, many small business owners feel daunted by the task ahead of them.

The good news is that starting small is a much better way to get the ball rolling. Beginning too many programs or initiatives all at once actually runs the risk of failing to genuinely connect with employees.

It’s important to begin to embed values of inclusivity and diversity at the very core of the small business. That could be by:

  • Educating yourself and your employees about treating everyone with respect
  • Rewriting some of your business values
  • Cultivating a work environment where everyone feels heard and valued

2. Promote authenticity:

Encourage your employees to be themselves without fear of judgement. Don’t be afraid to have open and honest conversations about what is or isn’t currently working.

Allow employees to show pride in what makes them an individual. Employee-led programs, charity drives, or even social groups can help them put focus into things that matter to them.

3. More than just words:

Many small businesses may not realise how far their circle of influence reaches when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Take material action by:

  • Considering ways to make your products or services meet the needs of a more diverse community
  • Investigating suppliers or vendors that are more diverse and inclusive (even sole traders can do this!)
  • Re-evaluating your hiring processes and ensure that it encourages diversity

4. Inclusion is ongoing:

Small businesses may not have the time or resources to host intensive training days, but that’s fine: real improvement happens when employees feel there is ongoing support and empathy in their workplace.

Understanding that cultural change doesn’t happen overnight can help take the pressure off small business owners as they work towards diversity and inclusion. The earlier you get started on this process, the sooner you may be walking into a happier, more productive, and more profitable business.

Cashflow Manager is dedicated to creating an inclusive work environment where all employees and clients are treated equally – regardless of race, ethnicity, sexuality, age, gender or disability.

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