5 Tips for Achieving Diversity at Your Startup

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The more diverse your team, the more your startup can benefit from the expertise of a whole melting pot of different backgrounds, disciplines, strengths and personalities.By Donna Ruffin (Diversity Expert)

Startup entrepreneurs have a lot to juggle when getting their companies off the ground, not the least of which is creating an inviting workplace culture. While it can be tempting to hire people you really like, who have a similar background and education to your own, and who think like you think, this type of hiring process can lead to very narrow-minded business practices.

In order to flourish in the global economy, you need to embrace workplace diversity, striving to hire individuals from varied backgrounds and cultures. To do so, you must consciously and concertedly undertake business practices that encourage workplace diversity.

1. Set Goals and Educate Your Staff

The first way to create an inclusive work environment is to set goals and educate your staff. Schedule a meeting, outline your goals and come up with clear and measurable objectives you want your company to achieve.

For instance, you might want to define your minority hiring practices, or plan and implement diversity training for all team members. Communicate these goals to your staff, and engage them in the process, asking for input and feedback on ways in which to further encourage diversity.

2. Recruit Diverse Staff Members

It's one thing to say you want to hire a diverse staff, it's another to do it. You may find that the same types of people keep applying for your job postings, not giving you much opportunity to find diverse employees. If this is a problem you're running into, you must seek out diversity.

Reach out to the local branch of the NAACP, as well as the Diversity Working website. If you're working with a recruiter, be very clear about your objectives and ask them to post jobs on a variety of job boards, and to reach out directly to qualified candidates with diverse backgrounds through social media sites, such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

3. Train Your Team

The Franklin Covey website and the WeComply website each offer online diversity training programs that cover important subjects, such as workplace harassment and conflict resolution between employees of different generations.

Take advantage of these programs to emphasize the benefits of a multicultural staff, while also addressing common problems that arise when diversity exists. When managed appropriately, a diverse team benefits the entire company, improving problem solving and attracting better talent.

4. Partner Diverse Talents Accordingly

Once you have a diverse staff, take advantage of it. When you're organizing teams, mix people up so that you have a melting pot of individuals from different genders, ages, and ethnicities.

You may find that you can't always organize teams this way, but when it comes to creative problem solving, come up with fun ways to engage various team members. For instance, if you're looking for new ways to market your product, ask the IT and accounting departments to pitch in some ideas.

Great ideas can come from unexpected places, so never count someone out just because their background is in another field.

5. Institute a Mentoring Program

Match up your younger staff with older employees. If you receive any push back, point out the benefits to both parties – for instance, the younger staff member can learn the ropes of the industry, while the older staff member can learn about new technologies.

Add in cross-training for any employee who wants to participate. This also improves the productivity of your organization, ensuring that everyone can pitch in when resources are tight.

Once you achieve diversity at your startup, use it as a marketing tool. Feature your team on your website to show potential customers that you're an equal opportunity employer. Believe it or not, people do pay attention to these things. By making diversity a cornerstone of your startup's culture, you give yourself a leg up on the competition.

How have you worked to achieve diversity at your workplace?


This post was contributed by Donna Ruffin, who writes about diversity writes about diversity in the workplace, HR and careers.