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Why Diversity & Inclusion Is Vital To Small Business Success

(6-8 minute read)

Many small and medium-sized businesses do not have a formal effort or focus on diversity and inclusion within their organizations. Many don’t have any internal Human Resource or talent focused roles – let alone a role focused on diversity. This type of effort for smaller organizations is led by a business leader who determines why it is important for the organization and decides to champion progress.

Once an internal champion begins to focus on this opportunity, the real challenge begins: figuring out where to start. We have been helping businesses do just that, and while each organization’s journey is unique, there are common themes related to the approaches that gain momentum. In this article we outline the four key steps to getting your organization moving.

Four Steps to Get Moving

1 | Orient your leadership team to the business case for why diversity and inclusion matters for your organization. There are four key arguments that make the case for diversity, equity, and inclusion generally for all organizations.

  1. The economic case is based on the idea that organizations and countries that tap into diverse talent pools are stronger and more efficient.
  2. The market case states that organizations will serve their customers better if they reflect the diversity of their market base.
  3. The results case is that diverse teams lead to better outputs.
  4. The moral case asserts that each person has value to contribute, and that we must address barriers and historical factors that have led to unfair conditions for marginalized populations.

Consider these based on your organization’s business model, customers, and dynamics and articulate why it matters.

2 | Provide some introductory training on unconscious bias for the leadership team and key managers. Without this in place there isn’t a base level of self-awareness for folks on how leaders often have noble intentions but everyone’s behavior demonstrates bias everyday despite our best efforts. Quick judgments and stereotyping is part of our natural brain function.

3 | Benchmark your organization on both metrics and internal practices to understand your baseline. Consider both the metrics as well as the practices behind them to understand where you are and some theories around why. By looking at both diversity and inclusion you also understand the results and the behavior.

  1. Diversity: What visible diversity is already present within your organization? Age, gender, ethnicity, disability, are often visible and potentially tracked.
  2. Inclusion: What practices are in place internally that create a culture of inclusion? Inclusion is a hard thing to measure and by looking at the practices you get a good sense at indicators of what is helping or hurting the cause.

4 | Conduct an open and transparent conversation within the organization’s leadership team about the results of the benchmarking. Key questions to ask are:

  1. Any areas of strength to celebrate?
  2. What best practices are fairly easy to implement?
  3. Which practices don’t make sense to tackle based on your industry or size?
  4. Which items are easy to assign to a current job function or connect to a current project underway?

As you continue to begin your journey to advance your team and prepare for a more diverse world there are many tools and resources that could be useful. If you are an organization within West Michigan we recommend a resource we have found very helpful locally, Talent 2025. They have launched a toolkit oriented at employers who are trying to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion within their organization. You can find out more at this link:



May 24, 2018




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