By Aliya Vigor-Robertson, co-founder of JourneyHR
Diversity has become a major part of SME growth in recent years. And it’s not just a political thing; companies have realised that there are real, practical benefits associated with having a diverse workforce. However, when you’re juggling so many priorities, it can be hard to keep diversity as an equal player.
Seeing the benefit
First thing’s first. You really need to believe and accept the fact that diversity is beneficial to the business – that will go a long way towards keeping it an important part of your company’s short and long-term strategy. There’s no doubt that a diverse workforce creates a broader range of viewpoints and ideas, which ultimately makes for a more innovative business. McKinsey continually provides hard evidence, year on year, showing the beneficial impact that diversity has on productivity and innovation.
Diversity goes beyond gender though. It covers age, race and even just a person’s background. In simple terms, a company that values diversity will welcome employees from any background – as long as they are able to perform and succeed in their role. With 33 percent of businesses more likely to see better-than-average profits if they have a culturally diverse team, it makes sense to keep welcoming different candidates into the company.
Getting the right structure in place
So, okay, the benefits of diversity may be clear, but how can you make sure you’re doing all you can to achieve it? It’s all about getting the right structure in place. If your company can build an environment that welcomes and encourages people from different backgrounds, then the business will continually promote diversity as part of its regular operations.
But that means more than just announcing that you are a diverse business – there are some clear practices you can put in place to make sure you’re actually walking the walk. The first step is to speak to a wider group of people. Modifying your recruitment practices so that you’re reaching a more diverse audience is one the easiest things you can do to broaden the type candidates that are applying and make sure no one is excluded.
But it’s not just about recruitment. It’s about making sure the culture you’re building is inclusive for your current staff too. That not only means thinking about things like religion, marital status, or gender – but also other factors as well. What about maternity and paternity? What about employees who need flexible working? How about neurodiversity? If staff can come into the office and not hide a part of their identity, then you know you’ve built a solid, inclusive culture.
Making sure to communicate
There’s no single way to improve communication in the workplace; each technique needs to match the needs and culture of your business. For some SMEs, it will be a matter of creating spaces where teams can break out and discuss strategies and plans. For others, workshops or training may be needed to create a company-wide communication plan that encourages and celebrates diversity.
Whatever the case, the common element is leadership buy-in. If managers and business leaders recognise and can communicate the benefits of diversity, this attitude will trickle down to the general workforce. Regardless of company size, senior level involvement is a must-have for successful company change.
Building a diverse workforce is a long-term goal for many SMEs, and it can be easily achieved if the company is willing to keep it as a priority. Recognising the benefits of diversity and making sure the right structures are in place to build an inclusive environment are key. That can sound like a big challenge, but it doesn’t need to be: workshops and training can help make diversity a fundamental part of the business and bring enormous benefits as a result.