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How Small Business Puts Diversity to Work

Businesses of all sizes face many of the same challenges and turn to similar solutions to operate, survive, and thrive in today’s rapidly shifting environment.

With less cash reserves and thinner margins, small businesses have been especially vulnerable to the revolving crises of the last 20 months as they have encountered steep barriers to success. 

Given that more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, their fate is tied to the broader society. It is critical for the health of the U.S. economy and society at large to have thriving workplaces where workers and businesses both succeed.  

One of the largest threats to business right now is the fluctuating talent market, termed the “Turnover Tsunami” or the “Great Resignation.” 

Throughout the pandemic, many people have reimagined how, where, and for how much they want to work.  With a reported 10 million unfilled U.S. jobs as of August (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 2021), businesses are struggling to sustain productivity. Talent acquisition and retention have become critical, especially for small businesses competing with large corporations with greater resources. 

Power of diversity

We find ourselves at a point where business can ill afford to leave any talent on the bench. This is where the focus on diversity can give businesses an advantage. 

Understanding our own biases allows us to expand pools of talents to include people who might not look like us, experience life in a similar manner, or even think like we do. Increasingly, diversity involves more nuanced traits we can’t easily see, such as cultural heritage, age, sexual orientation, physical ability, and lifestyle. Varied opinions, perspectives, and beliefs all encompass a widely overlooked aspect of diversity: diversity of thought. 

However, if diversity exists solely for superficial motives without adding value, then it becomes a detriment to business performance. To this end, small business must be committed to putting diversity to work. When building a team, start by being open to a diverse spectrum of candidates. Amassing an array of perspectives and talents helps cover individual weaknesses and blind spots, and cultivates workforce agility and adaptability. 

Make it meaningful

There is no point in achieving diversity if we aren’t being inclusive. Inclusion seeks to engage the workforce fully by integrating diversity into meaningful work. It involves maximizing the potential of that diverse talent to improve performance. In reality, the best workers — the ones you want on your team — want to be challenged and valued. 

It takes a specific skillset as a leader to engage those with whom we share little in common. As business owners and managers become better at extracting performance from the people least like them, they become better at engaging all workers. 

Inclusion, in practice, positively impacts all workers, not just the “diverse.” Inclusion fosters a sense of belonging where workers feel the talent that they bring to the table is valued and who they are as a whole is welcomed.  

When belonging is achieved, retention and productivity advance. SHRM research has shown that those businesses that get diversity and inclusion right also perform better financially. True diversity isn’t merely a “feel-good” initiative; it is a business imperative. 

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