Why You Should Strive for Diversity in Your Small Business

You’ve probably heard that diversity in the workplace benefits small businesses, but do you know what diversity looks like? Having a diverse workforce is more than striving for balance based on race or gender. It also involves hiring people who have different backgrounds, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, political views and education.

One of the challenges in creating diversity at your company is overcoming unconscious bias. It’s natural to hire people who are like you — our brains seek familiarity and patterns. To have diversity in the workplace you must consciously override your mental tendencies and commit to creating a culture that celebrates differences.

How to Create Diversity

To create a more diverse workforce, start by expanding the pool of candidates for your next job opening. Actively recruit minorities by reaching out to local colleges or cultural institutions that support particular demographics. You can also post your job ads on sites like DiversityWorking or American Association for Affirmative Action that focus on minorities who are looking for jobs.

Use recruiting software that removes names, gender references and even dates of employment. One study found that resumes with racial indicators like Asian- or African-sounding names received 30% to 50% fewer callbacks than similar resumes without those indicators. The study also found that a resume with a male name is 40% more likely to get an interview request than a similar resume that has a female name. Tools that remove those indicators can help remove the risk of unconscious bias during the recruiting stage.

You want your managers to understand the benefits of a diverse workplace, so it’s also helpful to conduct diversity training, especially with employees who help in hiring decisions. Create a diversity task force that brainstorms and implements solutions and monitors the workplace for areas that need improvement.

Benefits of a Diverse Workforce

Embracing diversity isn’t just the right thing to do — it also offers companies many tangible benefits. Companies that report above-average diversity on their management teams see 19% higher revenue.

A diverse company is also better able to drive innovation since people from different backgrounds bring different perspectives and ideas to the workplace, which can boost creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. One study found that companies with policies that encourage the retention and promotion of workers across the race, sexual orientation, and gender spectrum were more innovative and released more products.

Diversity is also helpful in attracting and retaining employees. When surveyed, two-thirds of job seekers said diversity was an important factor in their evaluation of job offers.

More importantly, greater diversity can also create a culture in which established ideas are challenged, helping to improve the output and creativity of a company. When your team comes from similar backgrounds, it’s likely that the ideas and opinions they hold are also similar. This dynamic can increase the risk of groupthink in your office, making your company’s new offerings stale.

Getting Started

As a business owner, it’s up to you to set the tone and be the example in your workplace. If you promote a culture of diversity, your business will make strides to become a place that celebrates differences. The beauty of having a diverse workplace is that everybody wins.

Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza is an experienced writer who specializes in small business, finance, HR and retail. She has been a regular columnist for Fast Company for more than four years and her work frequently appears in Inc., Entrepreneur and Parade.

See all posts by Stephanie Vozza
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