Simple steps to diversity for SMEs

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Diversity is linked to a range of business outcomes, from engagement and innovation to the bottom line, but do you need expensive studies and complex programs to ensure you’re getting the right people? HRM’s experts don’t think so.

“While preparing a company to be more effective in attracting and leveraging a diverse workforce does take some investment, these do not need to be at the big company, big budget level,” consultant Joseph Santana said.

He suggests simple steps such as telling recruiters to send you a diverse slate of candidates for open jobs, and using online training programs to address unconscious bias and other problem areas for staff and company leaders. In-kind donations, such as offering off-hour use of company spaces, can be a low-cost way to develop and maintain relationships with diverse professional associations that can bring you access to a rich pool of talent, Santana added.

Other experts suggest setting new policies to include more diverse candidates, which will lead to a more diverse workforce.

“Something as simple as implementing a Rooney rule – a requirement that hiring managers consider an applicant or promotion pool with at least one historically under-represented candidate – is free and yields big results,” according to Quest Diversity president Natalie Holder-Winfield.

Los Angeles-based consultant Farrah Parker suggested working with local student and alumni groups to advertise and fill intern or entry-level positions. Groups that are associated with specific cultures, ethnicities or religions can pass job listings on to their members, ensuring your ads reach a wider range of people.

Even something as simple as a message in job listings describing the company as a diverse employer can help attract workers from all walks of life.

But it’s important to avoid tokenism: hiring a disabled, female ethnic minority might tick the right boxes on paper, but the advantage of a diverse workforce is in the diversity of experience and ideas, not just in how someone looks.

“The trick is to go beyond surface diversity (color, race, language) to deep level diversity such as values, thinking styles, interests,” Global People Tree managing partner Tanvi Gautam said. “When we can get deep level diversity to bear upon the strategic goals of a business, we have a winning situation.”

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