Making Diversity and Inclusion Approachable for SME's.

Updated: Sep 14

The road to diversity and inclusion can often be a long one. It takes time, effort and a strategic approach to build organisations that are able to attract, engage and retain a workforce, that is well supported to benefit from diversity.

It takes a whole organisation approach to planning, embed diversity and inclusion and to challenge unfairness and discrimination, and in operational and other business functions.

Making diversity approachable

There is much debate and focus on D&I in the workplace. Diversity and inclusion is steadily becoming a means of building productive, highly engaged companies. As such, there is increased conversation and focus on building diversity into the mechanics of people and operational processes.

There is however, some concern that many small and medium sized entities, lack clarity on the benefits of the business case for diversity.

These businesses are often unaware of the strategic benefits that can be realised from a highly engaged, inclusive workforce environment. Some remain largely in a state of confusion regarding the importance of building diversity into the business.

There is often a lack of clarity on the business case for diversity.

Without understanding of the organisational benefits of D&I, and knowledge of how to implement it within processes and functions, the likelihood of any paradigm shift, seems minimal.

Achieving diversity and inclusion is an action-centred activity. It cannot be achieved through the development of policies alone. It requires leaders and managers to partake in action focused conversations, that lead to the strategic planning of D&I. It requires a strategic investment in diversity, to build confidence and competence around this enabling business area.

The process requires a commitment from leaders and managers to change the status quo, in order to build out learning and engagement with D&I across all areas of business.

Whilst there has been progress towards embedding diversity, and inclusive processes, within large global corporations, there is still work to be done to engage smaller businesses with the concept of D&I.

Corporate organisations benefit from increased diversity with increased productivity and innovation.

Many SME's have yet to make serious consideration of embedding D&I, although many have devised a policy or two! This apparent lack of concern regarding diversity and inclusion, may be to due to lack of understanding of the ways in which D&I can significantly improve business outcomes.

Making the concept of D&I approachable to smaller entities, including start ups, and supporting them to take action, is the task of diversity consulting professionals. There are several positive steps that SME’s can take to understand the ‘Why and How’ of D&I.

Diversity and Inclusion– The Why and the How?

Let’s face it…. diversity conversations can be hard for some managers. It’s often seen as a ‘nice thing to have' but many organisations fail to understand the impact it can have on their workforce and operational deliverables.

Whilst this does not mean these managers are against the concept of D&I, it does demonstrate a lack of awareness of the business and workplace benefits of diversity and how it can positively impact all aspect of the business.

This lack of awareness can lead to a sense of apathy, which can result in non action, and a comprehensive reinforcement of the status quo.

By making the subject of diversity approachable and actionable for SME’s, diversity and inclusion can be identified as a necessary business goal.

This can then be understood as within the reach of these smaller businesses, rather than an activity that seems abstract, unnecessary and unobtainable.

The Business Case for Diversity.

By understanding the case for diversity, a business can develop a sense of validity for D&I, which can then underpin strategic planning activities. This will result in properly defined actions to develop and support, an inclusive and well balanced workforce.

Simply put, the strategic development of diversity and inclusion leads to more effective, engaged and innovative workplaces.

Although this does not occur overnight, it can be achieved by taking small, steady steps, which build into an effective procedural framework that supports D&I across the business.

Through the analysis of specific areas of the business, managers can identify where there is a need to build in more diversity and promote inclusive practices. Understanding the need to audit for diversity will build engagement around diversity and inclusion.

This will start the process that leads to planning and activities that ultimately lead to a more engaged workforce that feels included. It will also show results in operational effectiveness, behavioural and culture change and increased productivity, over time.

Workplace Diversity and Inclusion.

Diversity in the workplace is the first step of developing inclusion. An inclusive workplace is built on genuine commitment to redress current imbalances.

This commitment must seek to employ strategic mechanisms to enhance the diversity of staff, at all levels within the business.

It involves supportive practices that serve to make staff teams feel included and involved with the business. This includes enabling staff to contribute effectively within the business because it is open and transparent.

It embodies an element of trust between staff and management and a healthy level of engagement.