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Diversity – A short guide for SME’s and startups on building your inclusive culture.

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Diversity – A short guide for SME’s and startups on building your inclusive culture


We’ve already touched upon diversity and what it could mean for your business, but it’s good to reiterate the point. After all, an inclusive culture can afford a number of extensive advantages according to management consulting firm McKinsey.

In a recent report, Diversity Matters, it found that:

  • Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
  • Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
  • In the United Kingdom, greater gender diversity on the senior-executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in the data set – for every 10% increase in gender diversity, EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Taxes) rose by 3.5%


Many businesses want to build a best-in-class culture, which has diversity and inclusion at its heart. But how can SMEs achieve this? Well, with this short guide, we are giving you the tools to do so.

Consider your existing environment

Before you look to bring in greater talent diversity, take stock of what you have already got. Focus your attention on the existing environment and whether any talent is underrepresented or not.

From there, you should ensure that equality is evident in the daily routines of everyone. Even the smallest duties, such as administrative work, should be spread evenly across the workforce. Also, give precedence to feedback, open communication, and empowerment, because if you want to support diversity, the voices of every individual must be heard.

Set yourself diversity goals

Diversity is easier to achieve if the end goals are obvious and defined. Your goals should be informed by the values and feedback of employees, which can be gathered more easily with open-ended questions.

You may also want to look at your previous and present hiring activity to see whether any bias exists, even if its unintentional or unconscious. 

Get buy-in from all

Even if you are extremely passionate about introducing greater diversity, your efforts could be in vain without the support of the entire workforce. One way to encourage buy-in from employees, execs, and HR is to make them a part of the process with referrals.

The truth is, everyone should be involved in hiring, and referrals do help you hit your recruiting goals, says Ragini Holloway, Head of Talent, Affirm. To build a diverse pipeline, however, you have to incentivise your employees to approach referrals the right way. Re-iterate the value of hiring diverse candidates. Get in front of your underrepresented groups, and stress why you need their referrals.

Diversity in hiring

Once you feel your current culture is geared towards diversity and inclusion, you can extend this sentiment to hiring. While this needs to be addressed with everything from job descriptions to final-round interviews, don’t lose track of the bigger picture, as Tariq Myers, Head of Inclusion and Diversity at Lyft explains:

“Building diverse teams means nothing if we don’t talk about inclusion first. That’s inclusion at every level, from how we’ve positioned our employer value proposition (EVP) in underrepresented communities, to how we develop and retain our talent once they’ve walked through our doors.”

Create a diverse pipeline

In order to attract underrepresented candidates, you need to diversify your entire pipeline. Otherwise, you won’t know where to find them or how to talk to them. Try to identify their interests, experiences, and perspectives to better inform your strategy.

Three places you could potentially explore include Medium, Quora, and even your own company’s blog. Don’t expect diversity to simply come to fruition. You’ll need to be proactive in your approach and meet candidates where they are instead of waiting for them to come to you.

Fair remuneration and promotion

The pay gap between certain groups is still a big problem. In one study, Glassdoor found that women only earn about 95p for every pound men earn, while another from Pew Research revealed that college-educated black and Hispanic men earn roughly 80 per cent the hourly wages of white college-educated men (USA)

So, if you want to retain talent from underrepresented groups, you must commit to fair remuneration. The same goes for promotions, which can have an equally negative effect on staff morale and turnover.

Onboard your newbies with diversity

Onboarding remains underused and overlooked, even though it can help define what diversity and inclusion means at your business. Take the opportunity to introduce a diversity and inclusion onboarding session, which isn’t to instruct but rather inform.

Onboarding doesn’t have to be a rigid process either. It can be as simple as asking your existing team to be inclusive to new hires. This is especially important for managers, who should see themselves as diversity and inclusion leaders.

Addressing issues

In spite of the far-reaching rewards of diversity and inclusion, many people still don’t take it seriously and may even consider it a joke. You might also experience attitudes that diversity and inclusion isn’t their problem or its a form of ‘political correctness gone mad’.

In these instances, you should set some ground rules, lay out guidelines, and lower the barriers to entry. It may also help to focus on the human aspects, address detractors directly, and offer accountability.

Conclusion – Often difficult, always worthwhile

Diversity and inclusion is far from a walk in the park. But with a sincere, reasoned, and determined approach, it will benefit the entire business – not just your company culture but also its bottom line.

Food for thought

Diversity and inclusion initiatives always deliver real results, but not unless they get a buy-in from everyone. Making decisions regarding your culture without some kind of consensus is asking for trouble.

Talent Heroes is a people business. We’re contracted by clients to work in house, attracting and hiring an unlimited number of staff, for an all inclusive monthly fee.


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