A diverse workforce can help an organization be more creative and innovative in everything that it does, from internal cohesion and overall employee happiness to customer engagement and satisfaction. Hiring and maintaining a diverse team and implementing inclusive policies on all levels will help employers improve their productivity and bottom line and ultimately position themselves for long-term success.
But true inclusiveness is not always easy to achieve, as inherent bias can often prevent leaders from taking the less trodden path and seeking a more out-of-the-box approach. These six entrepreneurs share a few actionable steps any organization can take to achieve a more inclusive business and explain why inclusion policies can only benefit a business in the long run.
Proactively hire a diverse workforce.
Arguably the most important factor in achieving inclusion is hiring a diverse workforce and being intentional and proactive about it, thinks John Hall, co-founder and president of Calendar.com.
"In being focused on inclusion, be proactive about being diverse in your hiring practices because you are seeking a wider range of perspectives, skills and education," Hall advises. "In seeking inclusion and in hiring all types of people, your culture becomes about including everyone in the process of building your organization."
Use diverse job boards.
To improve their diverse hiring practices, businesses can use a number of tools at their disposal, including job boards specifically designed to help companies hire more inclusively, LTVPlus CEO David Henzel explains.
"For instance, DiversityWorking is one of the largest diverse job boards. There's also Hirepurpose for veterans, service members and military spouses, and RecruitDisability for hiring candidates with disabilities," Henzel adds.
Don't look at names on resumes.
"Plenty of recruiters and employers hide the names of applicants because they don't want to make biased hiring decisions," Formidable Forms founder Stephanie Wells says, talking about commonly used methods to ensure diverse hiring and avoid unconscious bias.
By not looking at candidates' names, recruiters can make sure they will focus only on what matters -- an applicant's relevant experience and whether they would be a good fit, Wells explains: "This is a great way to focus on skills and experience rather than someone's background, age or ethnicity."
Honor differences and value different points.
But being inclusive goes further than who a company hires. It's also about being able to honor differences between employees and to value different points of view, John Lie-Nielsen, CEO of One Park Financial, warns.
"It means creating a culture that values different points of view, that is eager to learn from people's experiences and act on those learnings," Lie-Nielsen explains. "We serve a broad community of customers and we know that if you're not enthusiastically inclusive in your hiring, you're missing out on a world of knowledge that people can bring to the table."
Alternate meeting leads.
A great way of creating a culture that honors differences is to allow team members to take turns running staff meetings, according to Alphametic CEO Matthew Capala. "By alternating who is leading your meetings, you create a culture of equality and can add creative custom elements that encourage mutual understanding," he explains.
As an example, an employer could plan a company meeting during lunch and task the meeting leader with choosing a cuisine and team-building exercise based on their personal preferences and background, Capala recommends.
Allow flexible or remote working.
Flexibility and remote work options are not just a perk -- they are also a great way of nurturing workforce inclusion by making employees feel that their needs are being truly addressed, Matchnode co-founder Chris Madden believes.
"Many excellent potential employees have constraints on their time or ability to travel. They may not be able to work 9-to-5 every day, but that doesn't mean they aren't committed, productive and an asset to any business," Madden argues.