July 29, 2020
Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, CO—
With a renewed public focus on racial justice, many businesses are interested in making their teams more inclusive and diverse. However, those in leadership positions may not be sure of how to go about this process. In a discussion with the Chamber of Commerce, four business leaders discuss how companies can thoughtfully build an inclusive and diverse team — and how it can ultimately benefit your bottom line.
Diversity Goals Are Just as Important as Sales and Customer Service Goals
While some companies may immediately turn to blanket policies aimed toward equality, they don’t work unless all team members are already starting from an equal place.
“Equality is the final result, and equity is how we get there,” said Tiffany Houser, founder and CEO of Evolve. Houser encouraged businesses to establish support for underrepresented groups — such as women or people of color — to reach that point of equality.
Michele Grace, managing director and South Division director of Chase Business Banking, added that diversity goals are just as important as sales and customer service goals. An inclusive workplace isn’t just beneficial for the team; it’s also a big draw for customers.
“If you don’t have a diverse team, your customers aren’t going to feel welcomed … [like] they would if they were able to go into a business where they’re represented in the same way,” Grace explained, adding that businesses must put forth the resources to hire and support underrepresented groups.
For Small Business Owners, Diversity Begins With Transforming the Hiring Process
While larger organizations may be able to implement diversity initiatives on a grander scale, with brand recognition and plenty of capital, small businesses often don’t have access to those same resources. As a result, small business owners may focus more on which candidate will be the best return on investment, rather than branching out and specifically recruiting diverse candidates.
However, Houser emphasized that hiring candidates with different backgrounds can also bring about diversity of thought, which promotes creativity, resourcefulness and innovation. She encouraged small business owners to look critically at their hiring process, determine who or what is missing from their team, then add these criteria or questions to job descriptions.
To Build a Diverse Team, Create Your Own Talent Pipeline
As a black-owned and woman-owned winery in a predominantly white male industry, The Urban Grape has always prioritized inclusion from the top down. The winery hosts events for black women and LGBTQ+ groups, and also serves as the largest seller of black-owned products and Mexican-owned wineries in Massachusetts.
Yet even with these diversity initiatives, The Urban Grape has struggled to find a diverse team to sell wine in their store. Rather than hope for change, however, owner Hadley Douglasand her husband decided to become part of the solution. They recently established a program with Boston University to bring people of color into the wine industry.
The program includes full wine education, three paid internships in the wine industry, mentorships with master sommeliers and assistance in finding a job afterwards.
“We now have to draw the line in the sand and create our own pipeline and change the industry to be what we want to see,” said Douglas.
When Working Toward Inclusion, Authenticity and Commitment Matter Most
Consumers today are increasingly engaging with their favorite brands on social media and are significantly more likely to remain loyal to those companies whose values align with theirs. Businesses today will likely need to speak out on specific issues, including those around diversity and inclusion — but they must do so in an authentic way.
“The first piece of it is getting clear on [your] values,” said Daren Bascome, founder of Proverb Agency. “From there, you can really start to figure out what your spin is on a particular issue, or the types of actions that you’re looking to take.”