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An inclusive small business workforce model strategy will make your business more profitable and your employees and customers happier. That means developing a diversity strategy for your business.

We’re working in a candidate’s job market right now. There are a lot of jobs out in the market. So, how are you making your company stand out? Hiring and firing is an expensive and time-consuming process, so you’ll want to do your best to get it right.

In recent years, we’ve moved backward in the fight for belonging and parity in the workplace.  Women’s workforce participation hit a thirty-year low in 2020 due to the impacts of the pandemic and systemic racism and inequality.

Doing more to tackle workforce inequality and be more inclusive.

As the founder of Women in Biz Network, I felt compelled to do something more than what I was already doing, so I launched a vetted and diversity-driven career board for women. Our niche market is smaller employers that don’t have the same resources to tackle inequality. They want to make a difference but don’t know where to start.

That’s when we decided to focus on consulting and training that creates action plans to develop thriving and inclusive workplaces. We also set a goal to connect with women struggling to find supportive employers and help them have a fighting chance to land work they loved more on their own terms and values.

In the process, we provided supportive and strategic job search coaching to one hundred women, free of charge. To get some traction and spread awareness, we went on a media tour sharing stories of professional women’s career struggles throughout the pandemic and the solutions that exist. Our offer included coaching through a one-on-one session and also provided a report on improving their chances of landing a job that worked within their life and goals.

We also worked with newcomer and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of colour) associations and learned that their struggles weren’t improving either. It was with this in mind I collaborated with a few other women to launch Bee Happy HR – Your Diverse Talent Hive.

We empower employers to put inclusive hiring practices into action and the benefits have been unfolding with more diverse individuals joining traditional workplaces. The goal isn’t to hire for race or gender. Instead, it’s to level up the applicant pool and make workplaces more inviting and appealing to more diverse populations.

We support workplaces large and small so that the entire team feels heard, accepted and happy at work.

I’m not the only person who sees this as a critical step. According to the World Economic Forum, there’s an overwhelming case for diversity in the workplace.

A Boston Consulting Group study found that companies that have more diverse management teams see 19 percent higher revenues because of innovation. This finding is significant for tech companies, startups and industries where innovation is the key to growth. It shows that diversity isn’t just a buzzword but an essential path to a successful revenue-generating business where employees are proud to work for their employers — creating loyalty and great energy within the workplace.

Broadening the scope when considering representation in the workplace.

When we think of diversity and belonging, we should look further than just the obvious issues of race and gender.

There are so many areas to improve representation in the workplace to reflect the communities we live, work and play in. When considering diversity and inclusivity please also consider:

  • Sexual orientation
  • Neurodiversity
  • Visible and invisible disabilities
  • Newcomers (Especially important with the war in Ukraine)
  • Caretakers returning to the workplace
  • Ageism: Are you making generalizations about younger or older people applying for positions?

When looking at company and workplace values we must put people first. We need to stay curious and leave our unfounded judgments at the door.

10 things your company can do to encourage diversity.

Generally, most employers want to do the right thing. The problem is they don’t know how to put these things into action. They’re stuck. I hear things like “I don’t know why we don’t get more diverse applicants at our workplace?” Unfortunately, there isn’t one simple solution.

Here are 10 things your company can do to be a more inclusive workforce:

  1. Post salary bands in job postings. This is already mandatory for crown corporations in Canada, and helps make sure you aren’t grossly underpaying for what you’re expecting. Be fair and stay current with the labour market.
  2. Consider what flexible work arrangements you can give so that employees will want to stay long term.
  3. Ensure your job postings share what’s in it for the prospective employee.
  4. Indicate what are must-haves, but hire for a long-term fit. Encourage applicants to apply even if they don’t have all the requirements you might be looking for.
  5. Keep interview practices standard. Don’t change questions based on who you are speaking to especially if they have something in common with you. Be aware of your unconscious bias and ensure a fair and transparent recruitment process.
  6. Have an inclusive onboarding strategy where employees know what is expected of them and have mentors on the job to help them get through the first few months of overwhelm that comes with a new position
  7. Have regular training and team building sessions where there is psychological safety to share from all levels within the organization
  8. Include information about accommodations and legal requirements in the job process. You should be giving the option for accommodation to candidates, but make sure it doesn’t end after you hire them. If they have a challenge, continue to be supportive and accommodating to their individual needs.
  9. Does your career page feel welcoming, diverse, and informative? Is it showcasing your mission, values, and benefits of working within your company?
  10. If someone were to look your company up on Linkedin, what would they find? See things through your candidate’s eyes. Many candidates do background research on Linkedin company pages so make sure they are as good as your career site on your website. Make sure they match in branding and reputation.

There are many more steps you can take. This is just the start, and you can download the complete checklist for easy reference.

If I can leave one main takeaway, it’s not to play the “shame, blame or cancel” game. Instead, get started where you are right now and make small but impactful steps and changes to create equality and belonging in your workplace. Results don’t happen overnight, but if you work with your team both internally and externally you’ll start to feel there’s hope at the end of the recruitment funnel.