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10 ways small businesses can prioritize DEI

Diversity, equity and inclusion, aka DEI. The need has always been there, but only in the last few years has it transformed into a movement. That’s also true in the workplace, as younger employees, who are part of one of the most socially conscious generations in history, look for employers who actually implement the principles of DEI, instead of just paying lip service to it.

To adjust to these changes—and to attract the best and the brightest workers—a focus on DEI is important for all businesses, regardless of size. If you’re not sure where to start, here are 10 steps you can take to prioritize DEI in your small business.

  1. Assess the current state. Conduct an honest assessment of your business’s DEI practices. Look at your workforce composition, policies and practices to identify areas that need improvement. Consider creating a DEI survey to get your team’s take.

  2. Set clear goals and objectives. Establish specific, measurable goals related to DEI. Example goals could be to increase the representation of underrepresented groups in your workforce, or to improve inclusivity in your decision-making processes. Make sure your goals align with your overall business strategy.

  3. Review policies and benefits. Evaluate your company policies and benefits to ensure they’re inclusive and equitable. As an example, consider offering flexible work arrangements, parental leave policies and accommodations for employees with disabilities.

  4. Create a diverse and inclusive culture. Foster a workplace culture that values diversity and inclusion by promoting open communication, respect and equal opportunities for all employees. Encourage a sense of belonging by recognizing and celebrating individual differences.

  5. Educate and train employees. Conduct regular training sessions on unconscious bias, cultural competence and diversity awareness for your team. These programs can help raise awareness and build empathy among your staff. Here’s a list of DEI training resources at various price points from Indeed.com.

  6. Review your hiring and promotion practices. Examine your recruiting and promotion processes to ensure fairness and minimize biases. Implement practices like blind resume screening, diverse interview panels and objective evaluation criteria to create equal opportunities for all candidates.

  7. Foster inclusive leadership. Develop and promote inclusive leadership practices in your business. Encourage leaders to listen to diverse perspectives, promote collaboration and support the professional growth of all employees.

  8. Create affinity groups or employee resource groups (ERGs). Establish ERGs or affinity groups that provide a platform for employees from underrepresented groups to connect, share experiences and advocate for change. Support these groups by offering resources and opportunities for their initiatives.

  9. Engage with diverse communities. Build relationships with diverse communities, organizations and suppliers. Engaging with diverse stakeholders can help your business gain insights, expand your networks and create a more inclusive brand image.

  10. Measure your progress and hold yourself accountable. Regularly track and measure your progress toward your DEI goals. Collect and analyze data on diversity metrics, employee satisfaction and retention rates. Use this information to make informed decisions and adjust your strategies as needed.

Robert Sellers, the University of Michigan’s first Chief Diversity Officer, emphasized the importance of considering all three parts of DEI by comparing them to aspects of attending a party: 

  • Diversity means that everyone is invited to the party.

  • Inclusion means that everyone gets to contribute to the playlist.

  • Equity means that everyone has the opportunity to dance and experience the music.

DEI is an ongoing process—one that requires consistent commitment and effort. But small businesses have just as much power as large corporations to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace that not only benefits employees, but also the overall success of the business.

We hope these tips will help you get started so that everyone can be part of what promises to be a rockin’ good party.