« Small Business Resources « « How to Foster Diversity in the Workplace
When you think about what will make your business a success, you might believe that hiring workers with similar backgrounds would be a good idea. However, more and more evidence indicates that a diverse workforce is a key part of a successful business. Employees’ differences can benefit your company.
A recent Forbes study concluded that diversity in the workplace drives innovation and new ideas, while Harvard Business School found that diversity promotes creativity. The bottom line is that diverse perspectives and approaches can help you solve challenging business issues.
Workplace diversity can take many forms. It can include age, gender, race, ethnicity, religious background or simply different industry experience. However, many small businesses face a challenge: they’re often started by partners who are either friends or family members, and so have a lot in common. Fortunately, with the right strategy, you can enjoy the benefits that a diverse workforce brings.
How to Increase Diversity
Start with an honest assessment of your needs. Does the makeup of your workforce resemble that of the community in which you operate? Another comparison to make is with the demographics that you hope to reach. If you see a disparity between whom you employ and whom you serve, you stand to gain valuable perspective and insight into your market by hiring qualified candidates that reflect the demographics of your customers. They can help you understand your customers’ needs and overcome cultural and language barriers.
Local organizations with community connections can help you connect with job candidates–try churches, cultural institutions and colleges. Nonprofits like the Urban League and the National Council of La Raza may also be able to help. In addition, hiring agencies that work to find employment specifically for minority workers can offer assistance. Remember that the internet makes it easy to cast a wide net for employees, so you don’t have to limit yourself to the local community.
Retention Is Equally Important
Once you've found employees who represent the diversity you seek, make sure you provide a welcoming atmosphere. Create a work environment where a diverse set of backgrounds and talents are celebrated. Show employees that you're willing to accommodate cultural and religious holidays and apparel choices.
Help new hires become familiar with the job and the company culture. Set up mentoring programs that will help them learn needed skills and establish close relationships within the company. Consider diversity training programs for the whole staff, too. Such programs can help seasoned employees adjust to a more inclusive workplace and learn to work more effectively as part of a diverse workforce.
You'll find that increasing diversity in your business will help create an environment where better work is produced by the unique and talented people you've hired.