This month, we have a special guest blog post from fellow business owner Ebony McQueen-Harris. Ebony is the founder and owner of Levels Creative Empowerment and Consulting Group. Levels seeks to serve as a connector, collaborator, and strategic planning consultant for their clients, which are largely early stage businesses. While the Levels website is currently under construction you can learn more about them and Ebony here: http://alloy26.com/levels-engaging-the-community-and-building-leaders/. Thanks for sharing your insight with us Ebony and hope you all enjoy this blog on how diversity and inclusion are crucial to any small business.
As a small business owner, have you ever wondered why your business should be diverse and inclusive? A 2013 study published in Harvard Business Review found businesses with multiple dimensions of diversity were significantly more innovative and enjoyed better market growth than less diverse businesses.
Small business owners who take the steps to better understand the significance of diversity and inclusion make decisions that encourage innovation and creativity within their work.
So what does diversity and inclusion look like in business?
Gloria Ware, Principal for Inclusion at JumpStart, Inc. states, “[d]iversity represents the presence of differences whether they are physical, cognitive, socioeconomic, gender-based, race-based, etc. Inclusion is the intentional and deliberate process of leveraging that diversity for the benefit of your team.”
“Diversity is all of the ways that people are both similar and different,” says Tiffany Jana, Founder and CEO of TMI Consulting, Inc., a business specializing in workplace engagement and diversity. “We call it Big D diversity.”
“Culture, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and religion are very important, but diversity is actually much bigger than the historically marginalized categories,” says Jana.
Small Business Diversity
Smart businesses, regardless of size, do not view diversity as a requirement, but rather as an opportunity to grow and succeed. By implementing the following steps, think about the larger impact your business can make.
- Be aware. Small business owners, out of comfort and familiarity, may have the tendency to hire people who they like and who are like them. Hiring a bunch of people similar to yourself is counterproductive.
- Think beyond race (but do not leave it out). For many of us, we often think racial diversity when we hear the term diversity. Racial diversity is certainly a big slice of the pie, and as a minority business owner, I know the importance of race within diversity. However, I challenge you to broaden the scope of your team’s diversity to include individuals with degrees and non-degrees, local employees as well as out of state employees, and those who have differing religions. This list is not exhaustive; the point is to simply think about more than racial diversity in an employee.
- Seek diversity outside your employees and team members. This is your opportunity to cultivate dynamic working relationships with independent contractors or outside collaborators.
- Increase your small business’s diversity by bringing aboard team members with varying family situations and ensure they are provided with the flexibility required.
For small businesses, implementing and cultivating diversity sparks innovation. But how? Because there are now varying perspectives in the workplace, ideas are more thoroughly developed. Implementing diversity in your small business increases productivity, fosters creativity and gives your business a competitive edge. Bottom line: diversity delivers results.
Small Business Inclusion
As a small business owner, how can you begin to intentionally permeate a culture of inclusion within your business?
- Know and own your own biases. Consider your unconscious biases as they also tend to result in unknown prejudices, which may potentially stunt one’s growth by hindering the flow of new and challenging ideas.
- Lead from the front. As a leader, YOU set the tone for an inclusive culture when you exhibit a diverse range of opinions as valued and appreciated.
- “Heart-Led Leadership” is the new leadership. Authentic small business leaders lead from the heart. Given the presumed rigidness of business, it may be hard to believe leading from the heart is a power tool to have in your toolbox. However, think about this - what elicits a call to action from yourself at any level? It is usually those situations and people who are authentic, transparent, empathetic and trusting. Tommy Spaulding’s book, “The Heart-Led Leader” is a dynamic tool I highly recommend as an adage to your reading list as a small business owner.
You can begin today by positioning yourself and your team for long-term growth and sustainability. If you want to have a well-rounded, welcoming, competitive edge you need new ideologies and perspectives.
Taking a proactive role within your business by incorporating diversity and inclusion establishes the importance of appreciating, valuing, and recognizing individual differences. This in turn makes your team members and customers and clients feel more comfortable being who they are.
Diversity and inclusion is about action. And these actions are not daunting when brought to life. Take into account your role in being intentional, authentic and transparent for the greater good of the work you or you and your team does. The suggested tools above can have great impact. When a small business focuses on the values and principles of their business, as well as the effects of a diverse and inclusive team, the business in turn thrives - purposefully!
For examples of companies that have embraced small business diversity and inclusion, visit:
Levels Creative Empowerment + Consulting Group