Diversity and Inclusion Guide for Startups

Beka Ventham

What is Diversity and Inclusion?

Diversity by definition is the practice of including people from a range of backgrounds including cultural, racial, religious, age, gender, sexual orientation, and disability. 

There are, however, infinite ways to create a diverse startup when you consider abilities, personalities, and skillsets but what remains the central goal for startups is to create an inclusive workforce because it positively changes the world in a sustainable way. 

Broken down, diversity is a characteristic that makes people different. Inclusion is the policy your startup abides by that makes your employees feel valued.

Four types of diversity

When we consider diversity within a business context there are four types that are the most applicable. 

Internal

These are parameters that you can’t change such as skin colour, ethnicity, and age.

External

Not necessarily born with but can be strongly influenced by you. These include interests, education, citizenship, socioeconomic status, religion, and location.

Organisational

This relates to the startup you are a part of and covers job role, status in the business, where you work, or any professional memberships you may have. 

World View

On a larger scale, this is anything you see, feel, or experience that could alter how you think and perceive the world. Examples are politics, popular culture, historical knowledge, and cultural events. 

Steps to broaden diversity and inclusion in startups

Your startup is a living thing. 

You’re leading a small team and scaling up at an impressive pace. Your funding is secure and you want to grow like hell but you are lacking a diversity and inclusion focus. 

Why is it so important?

Your diversity and inclusion approach communicates a company’s mission, strategies, and approach to creating a positive work environment that attracts talent that is diverse. The old school approach was to tick boxes and fill quotas but in this day and age, especially in startups, it’s about building a collaborative culture as a tool to boost performance across the business. 

The beauty of being a startup is that you’re building from the ground up and not undoing years of historic mispractice. You’re in the best position to fight the good fight by establishing diversity and inclusion expectations.

How do you establish a strong diversity and inclusion policy? 

 1. Know why it matters

This isn’t a multiple-choice question in that it really needs a fully present answer. Are you planning to develop this policy because it will benefit your business? Your consumers? The talent you attract? Why do you want to implement diversity and inclusion in your startup?

 

It’s really critical that you take your time developing your reasoning because this will ultimately drive how successfully diversity and inclusion works in practice.

 2. Tie it to your mission

Having a policy in place is great but if it doesn’t reflect your startup’s mission then you’re shooting blind. 

 

Knowing how your mission supports diversity and inclusion will help you develop the diverse culture you want for your startup. Make sure that in defining why your startup exists you incorporate your commitment to diversity and inclusion across your organisation. 

H3. Set goals and measure your progress

Diversity is important but when you have everything else to worry about it doesn’t often remain a priority. To really commit to a diversity and inclusion approach you need to set goals that are tied to monetary success. 

 

(Source: Deloitte Review)

Don’t just take our word for it, there is extensive evidence that cultures that are diverse and inclusive benefit businesses financially.

Without goals, it won’t happen so make setting goals part of your startup’s strategy for success.

4. Identify a lead

Now you have your foundation, you know your why have tied it all together, and have set core goals.

Your next step is to appoint a lead to monitor progress, continuously review results, and actively improve the approach.

5. Be accountable

We can only improve by being honest about what works and what doesn’t. Reviewing your startup’s initiatives is a really big part of the process. 

Think about recent promotions, last hires, and people who have left your company. How diverse were they? If you can see established patterns this will help you prioritise efforts effectively. 

A survey is a great way to gauge current team value to help you establish whether you are building the inclusive culture you’d planned for. 

Measuring how diverse your team is will support your diversity and inclusion progress. 

 6. Unconscious bias 

Unconscious bias can creep in across your startup in recruitment, new opportunities, different accents, or being afraid of the unknown. 

 

This is driven by personal background, experience, social stereotypes, and cultural content. It’s essential that unconscious bias is challenged with up-to-date training. 

Providing training within your startup to push back against any objections will not only help your team develop on a personal level but also professionally which will ultimately work towards your startup’s growth.

7. Focus on your talent pipeline

Pull in diverse talent by revisiting your talent pipeline. 

How are you wording your job descriptions? Is the language biased? Are you considering how potential applicants may feel when they read the specification?

Highlight how your employees feel about working for your startup, if they’re valued, work it into the job advertisements. 

Your startup is your baby, you are feeding it nutritious food and giving it the best chance to thrive with diverse and exciting talent. You want a packed and varied menu that highlights a whole range of opportunities, not just one bland meal. 

To be the best startup in your industry you want to hire people who bring with them new knowledge, different life experiences and fantastic ideas. 

Benefits of diversity and inclusion in startups

A diverse workforce that corresponds to diverse clients 

Building great relationships with clients is so important for any business and as a startup, you want to be at the forefront of exceptional service. 

Having a diverse team means that you have more scope to really understand your clients. You have the potential to attract a more diverse range of clients too because you have more variety of experience to support them.

Innovation

Startups are the definition of innovation. Continuously finding fresh solutions and ways to attract new clients and develop new answers. 

An inclusive culture advocates openness, creativity, and a range of life and work experiences which all feed cutting-edge innovation. 

Perspective 

The beauty of diversity is that the more range in differences the more perspective you will have. When you have the capability to combine different perspectives to create a better product or service then you are guaranteed to increase your ROI.

Developing solutions that are flexible and valuable for your customers calls for all perspectives to be included. A diverse culture encourages this.

Attracts talent

To attract the range of talent your startup needs to grow you need to live and breathe diversity. If your team is diverse you will attract the talent you are looking for. 

Improves productivity 

The more diverse your team is, the better they understand your customers which means work will get done efficiently and keep new customers signing up. 

Diversity improves decision making which encourages more possible solutions which also increases productivity across the business.

 

If you’re an established startup without an active diversity and inclusion initiative then you are missing out on countless opportunities to provide a better service to your customers, innovate on a new level and have a happier team. 

 

Use this guide to take the first steps to overhaul your approach for more productivity, better company culture, and increased team engagement.

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