These are troubling times. The Coronavirus pandemic, economic collapse, and, most recently, racial tensions and rioting in many of our major cities. As a business owner, you may have already been doing the hard work of building a diverse and inclusive environment for your employees. However, it is never too late to start this vital task. Developing a workplace based on equity, inclusiveness, and openness to new ideas can only pay big dividends in terms of both social capital and the bottom line. You are the captain of your own ship, and it is up to you to set the tone and expectations for your employees.
The best place to start this process of inclusion is by thinking about your own attitudes and approach to things. It is easy to get into a defensive posture when feeling under attack and criticized. Still, the first step to affecting positive change is lower your guard and really, truly listen to what other people are saying. You may find as you actively listen that you discover more common ground and opportunities to meet others halfway than would have first seemed possible. Most people are not radicals bent on destroying the system; they simply want a fair chance. In addition to actively listening to what your employees, customers, and community members are saying, you should also examine your own thoughts and inner life. Are you perhaps harboring unconscious attitudes that are preventing you from looking at the situation objectively? How aware are you of the privileges and opportunities you had while growing up that others may have lacked?
Once you have completed this process of self-examination, it is time to set the tone in your company and let everyone know that a new day is dawning. You begin by regularly communicating to all staff the importance of the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion. This communication should take place in multiple different ways, and in an ongoing manner, email, face-to-face, video conference, it shouldn’t matter, the message should always be the same. Consistency is vitally important. One concrete step that you can take is to add a stronger diversity statement to all of your job ads, indicating that diverse candidates are welcome and encouraged to reply. You should also look at the level of diversity and make sure it is reflected in your organization from top to bottom.
Finally, it is essential to have a plan in place that targets and works toward building a diverse workforce. You may want to visit historically minority colleges or job fairs frequented by minority applicants. You will have to be aggressive in your recruitment efforts and promote your business in ways that respond to community needs. It is important that diversity includes differing opinions and ideas, as well as skin colors and sexual orientation. Be open to the possibilities; make sure you have strong internal anti-discrimination and pro-equity policies in place. There are two reasons for doing this. One, it will help you avoid legal troubles and potential boycotts, and two, it is merely the right thing to do. A diverse workplace is a stronger workplace, and ultimately one that is more profitable does the hard work of building diversity, and you will reap dividends for many years to come.
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