Business owners are usually optimistic about the opportunities that exist in their industry. Still, the diversity of those industries isn’t necessarily reflected in the people who make up those companies and organizations. The current level of diversity in the American workplace leaves something to be desired, and it’s not an area that small business owners can afford to ignore. So what are Diversity Equity and Inclusion? How can you encourage it in your workplace? And how can you find resources to help you with this challenging task?
What is Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI)?
The Association for Talent Development conducted a global study on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) with 10,000 people from 90 countries. They found that DEI focuses on removing barriers to success for all employees regardless of background.
What is Diversity? — There are several different perspectives on what it means to be diverse. Some see it as simply being different, while others place more importance on including formerly oppressed or discriminated against employees, particularly those of certain races or ethnicities. Underneath it all, though, is an understanding that differences exist between groups of people–and these should be respected as individual characteristics without necessarily ascribing any value judgments about them. This also has real implications when communicating with your team because employing individuals who aren’t like you might mean they have different communication styles than yours, which can throw off their teammates.
What is Equity? — Equity, put, is fairness. If all employees have access to opportunities that help them advance their careers, they will feel that they are being treated fairly by their employers. This leads to higher morale and less turnover among employees, which increases profitability for a small business.
What is Inclusion? — When considering DEI, it’s important to note that inclusivity should be a value shared by everyone involved. You can’t expect employees to feel included if they have no say or input into policies, practices, and work structure. It is essential to give them a voice and show them that their thoughts are valued when making decisions that affect their daily lives.
Why should I care about DEI?
Studies show that diverse teams are more productive, make better decisions, have improved morale, and deliver higher customer satisfaction. And for small business owners looking to hire employees who won’t quit after six months or investors who will commit to their company long-term, DEI can be invaluable. But DEI also has an intrinsic value. It just feels good to work with people from different backgrounds, experiencing other things. And there is growing evidence that DEI improves work performance and retention.
The basics of DEI
As a new business owner, it cannot be easy to navigate what DEI is and isn’t. To make things easy, here are a few basics about DEI that will help you understand what it is (and isn’t) and how to use DEI at work.
1. Understand why diversity is essential. It may not seem like it—especially if you own or run a small business—but diversity and inclusion are now critical factors for companies in employees ’ minds. According to Gallup, 43% of US employees say their organization’s priority level for DEI has increased over the past 12 months, but only 16% of respondents say their company is doing an excellent job with it; that leaves 77% of workers who aren’t satisfied with their company’s efforts. Why hasn’t increased interest translated into success? Because many businesses have no idea where to start when it comes to DEI, having said that, there are plenty of ways you can make your work environment more inclusive for everyone.
2. Understand why equity is significant, too. For many businesses, it’s easy to focus on diversity without realizing that there’s more than one aspect to DEI; for instance, DEI has two facets: diversity (allowing for differences of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) and equity (making sure all workers have access to things like equal pay or a fair promotion process). It’s crucial to understand both because recognizing diversity isn’t enough; you also need to make sure everyone feels safe working at your company—regardless of their backgrounds.
3. Ask yourself how diverse your company is. Diversity isn’t just about race, either—it’s also about asking questions like… Does everyone have equal access to leadership opportunities here? Or Are we accommodating all of our employees’ religions? That’s why it’s so important to examine what a company is already doing well with DEI (and not) before getting started.
There are so many aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion to consider, but they all ultimately tie into a greater desire for equality. This is finally what it’s all about. Treating everyone with respect and open-mindedness will go a long way toward achieving a truly diverse culture at work. At first, it may be challenging to identify where improvements need to be made—but trust that if these areas don’t come naturally, there are resources out there ready to help. Seek them out!