Issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion have been gaining attention and priority over the last few years. Pay gaps, imbalances in workforce diversity, and lack of upward mobility and opportunity are just some of the inequalities faced by minorities in the workplace. With the pandemic, these issues are more prevalent, and addressing them is more urgent.
Why Is Incorporating DEI in Small Businesses Hard?
While one recent survey showed that a vast majority of businesses are making DEI a priority, it also revealed that nearly 28 percent had less than 5 percent of a diverse workforce.
Small businesses have difficulty adopting DEI policies; for solopreneurs and single-member businesses, the reason why is obvious. But even in micro-businesses, it’s often unclear who makes decisions regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion — rarely is it HR.
In most cases, DEI comes straight from the top, primarily from the CEO and founder of the business. Besides a lack of clarity on who has the decision-making power about hiring diversely, there is also often a lack of communication about diversity policies.
Small businesses don’t always have the budget to establish standard DEI policies across their organization. Most of them are not investing in DEI programs and initiatives, and many don’t know the last time their business invested in DEI. Typically, focusing on other business areas like marketing and sales or investing in small business technology takes precedence over DEI.
While incorporating DEI in small businesses has its challenges, more and more business owners understand the importance and benefit of implementing DEI initiatives internally. A good way for small businesses to start is to invest in DEI resources to develop policies to fit their company culture and appeal to their customers.
Why Should HR Be Involved in DEI Initiatives?
HR should be involved in DEI initiatives because it is important for companies to have diversity, equity, and inclusion. Although policies will vary from business to business, there’s no reason why management shouldn’t create a standardized policy across all locations or even just within certain departments if necessary.
This will help ensure things are on an equal footing across the board instead of being customized based on where you happen to find yourself operating within your organization at any given time.
In fact, one survey showed that over half of respondents said their firm has already integrated most aspects, while only 49 percent responded affirmatively when asked whether reserved roles were created specifically around minority hiring needs.
It’s clear that many organizations are not aware of the benefits of diversity and inclusion. Only 18 percent actually understand how DEI impacts their business. Around half of the survey respondents said they don’t reserve roles for minorities, with 5 percent reserving less than 5 percent of job positions for minorities and only 4 percent committing to hiring diverse candidates. Moreso, 18 percent don’t understand how DEI impacts their business and a tenth doesn’t even know what underrepresented communities mean in the hiring context.
Educating HR and other personnel about diversity, equality, and inclusion is a vital step toward achieving DEI within your organization. Most DEI initiatives in small businesses are currently handled by the owner/founder of the business. Changing this trend to include HR and hiring personnel in DEI initiatives could result in easier and more efficient DEI integration.
Why Does Small Business HR Need DEI Resources?
Some businesses don’t feel the need to have a DEI policy because their existing workforce isn’t diverse enough. But interestingly, 65 percent of survey respondents identify as a member of a minority group, so a strong DEI initiative can benefit all employees and the organization as a whole.
Other business owners wonder how to integrate DEI into their business. A small group of them don’t know where to find programs that would help to expand their DEI initiatives. HR can help establish DEI within their business.
This survey exposed that nearly a quarter of respondents don’t feel they are as diverse as they should be. More small businesses want to be diverse. But some don’t know where to begin! Providing HR the resources they need to learn about and adopt DEI in their hiring can help businesses become more diverse and inclusive without spending large amounts of time and money.
DEI Resources for Small Business HR
DEI programs for HR can teach them to review their hiring processes, evaluate recruitment systems, get feedback from candidates about the way they felt through the process, and find a way to do things differently the next time.
No matter what size your organization is, DEI should be a priority, and investing in human resources is a vital first step. If you’re a small business owner, there are a number of resources available to help you create a more diverse and inclusive environment.
The Small Business Administration has a number of programs and initiatives that can help, including the 8(a) Business Development Program and the Women’s Business Centers. There are also a number of private organizations that offer resources and assistance, such as the National Association for the Self-Employed and the Minority Business Development Agency. A few resources are listed below:
- Small Business Administration: Extensive resource for small business owners with guides and advice
- Association of Women’s Business Centers: Free to low-cost counseling and training for women who want to start, grow or expand their small businesses
- National Association for the Self-Employed: Business support and guidance for the self-employed
- Minority Business Development Agency: A federal agency dedicated to the growth and competitiveness of minority business enterprises
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy: A sample DEI policy template from the Society for Resources Management
- Google’s Inclusive Marketing: Inclusion strategies for teams and businesses
- DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) Checklist: A handly diversity and inclusion checklist from UC Berkely
An Impetus for Instituting DEI
As the pandemic compounded a growing sense of social unrest and an awakening for social justice, implementing DEI within businesses has become more important than ever. Small business owners are, therefore, actively looking for ways to improve incorporating diversity.
There are many reasons why HR should be involved in DEI initiatives, but one of the most important is that it can create a more inclusive workplace. This not only benefits employees but also the business as a whole. By taking action to institute DEI policies and practices, small business HR professionals can help their company foster an environment where everyone feels welcome and respected. Are you ready to make your workplace more inclusive?