Embrace diversity: How to implement DEI in your small business

Paper people in a circle, paperclip, binder, pen, book and notebook.

Diversity, equity and inclusion. 

These are probably terms you’ve heard a lot about over the last few years. Or maybe you recognize the term “DEI” and wonder if it applies to your business. 

The short answer? Yes, it does.  

If you’re unsure why DEI is important, why you need to implement it in your business or even how to go about doing so, we’ve got you covered. So, let’s dive in. 

Why does my business need DEI? 

First off, implementing DEI isn’t just a matter of checking a box so you can say, “Hey, we implemented DEI. We’re good now.” Like any other initiative within your business, it takes consistent time and effort. Why? Because every business needs a variety of perspectives that can help lead to the following: 

  • More innovative solutions. Two (or more) brains with differing backgrounds and experiences are better than one, right? 

  • A better understanding of your customers’ needs. 

  • A happier, more productive workplace. 

Keep in mind that DEI isn’t just a buzzword—it’s a strategy that can help your business succeed. And businesses that embrace and implement DEI will attract top talent and create a culture that embraces diversity while supporting your business’s goals.  

Implementing DEI: A step-by-step guide 

If you haven’t already, starting on the path to implement DEI may seem daunting. Luckily, all it will really cost you is time and a little creativity. From leadership engagement to community involvement, we've outlined some manageable steps you can take to incorporate DEI into your business. 

  1. Get leadership buy-in. An initiative like DEI must start from the top. As a business owner, your commitment to DEI needs to be vocal and transparent, keeping in mind that “actions speak louder than words.” Be sure to set clear DEI goals for your business and include your team on the journey. How you approach DEI sets the tone for your entire business. 

  1. Educate your team. Invest in training so that you and your team can understand the components of DEI, like unconscious bias and allyship. While one-off training may sound like the way to go, it’s actually better to continually educate and train your team to help improve processes and behaviors. 

  1. Create a DEI policy. Don’t rely on education alone to make long-term changes within your business. Review your existing policies to see what aspects of DEI may be missing or if any biases exist. Update (or create) your policies to ensure they promote equity among your team, such as flexible work arrangements, clear anti-discrimination policies or fair compensation. 

  1. Diversify your team. Expand your recruiting beyond the expected norms and post jobs on diverse job boards, community colleges or within your local community. Make sure job descriptions focus more on essential skills and qualifications, rather than any specific backgrounds or degrees. 

  1. Build an inclusive culture. Create a culture where everyone feels valued and heard. Ensure your team has an outlet to be candid (i.e., schedule regular one-on-one meetings with your employees) and provide feedback regarding their experiences with your company. Also, make sure each of your team members is acknowledged for their efforts. (A thank-you note can go a long way.) 

  1. Ask for (and listen to) feedback. Provide an environment where you can solicit honest feedback from your employees. You could do this through anonymous surveys, suggestion boxes or regular check-ins with your team. Listening to and acting on feedback will help you continuously improve your DEI efforts and show your team that their opinions matter.

DEI is a journey

Keep in mind that implementing DEI isn’t going to magically change things overnight. It’s an ongoing process of learning, adapting and growing. Keep your employees involved every step of the way—including the successes and setbacks that occur. 

By embracing these six steps, your small business will help contribute to a more equitable society and enjoy a more inclusive, creative and collaborative working environment. Take that first small step today. You’ve got this!