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Establishing Diversity as a Cornerstone in Your Business


LAST UPDATED: April 7, 2023

Cornerstone – an architectural term, traditionally in reference to the first stone that is laid in a structure; one which all other stones are laid in reference to.

Once you've come to terms with what diversity means, why it's important, and the legalities surrounding diversity in the workplace, the next step is working out how to move forward and change things at work. This is easier if you're a founder or CEO, but you can still make waves no matter your seniority in the company simply by starting the conversation.

Typically, you’ll find that a smaller business (something along the lines of an early start-up, up to a company with around 50 employees) is more agile and dynamic, allowing for effortless implementation of company-wide policy. After all, if you can make an announcement in your office and the whole team can hear, it’s safe to say you can get everybody on the same page pretty quickly.

In contrast, larger businesses and corporations are like vast ships in that it can take a while for the whole thing to come around. You may need to feedback what you’ve read here, which then gets passed on to four or five other members higher up before the person with the power to affect change gets to hear about the initiative. It’s also not easy to see the bigger picture because you could be part of a national or global team, making it harder to recognise when you might fall short on the diversity front.

In Small Business

On a significantly smaller scale, it might feel as though diversity is a less important consideration – especially in early days when revenue and output take precedence. However, it’s crucial not to allow diversity to slip your mind starting out. Establishing its importance as a cornerstone in your business not only solidifies its position as the company grows, it enables your business to make a more meaningful impact overall. Create a company culture that encourages those with the quietest or most underrepresented voices, and advocates dissent in team meetings. 

As an advocate for diversity, though you might not be able to establish substantial initiatives or fund a scheme supporting an underrepresented group, there are ways you can make a difference – namely in making smart choices in the big businesses you support. Do diligent research into companies that provide your equipment or resources, and choose a business that shares your values. 

There isn’t an easier way to explain this than to say put diversity first in your business. Doing so will directly impact and influence many, if not all, of the decisions people make in your company; from the tiny things like who supplies your tech or provides your insurance, to bigger things like how you hire or who sits on your board. Get it right from the start and it will become second nature long before you establish yourself as a big league contender.

In Big Business

As with a smaller business, a much larger company should establish diversity as a key focus point – but if you’re reading this at a big business, you’ve probably missed the chance to implement it early on. On top of that, unless you’re a stakeholder capable of influencing decisions you’re going to have to feed this up the chain of command to somebody who can get the ball rolling. So, whether you’re on placement or you’re the EMEA HR Director, here’s what you need to do to make diversity a priority in big business…

1. Understand Where Your Company Stands

As outlined in “Improving Diversity in the Workplace”, it’s useful to get to grips with how your company is doing from a diversity perspective so that you can establish a plan for improvement. If your business is already gathering anonymous data regarding its employees’ protected characteristics, then reviewing those figures should give a rough indication of whether the company is a fair representation of where it’s based. If it’s not yet collecting that sort of data, set up a plan to start.

2. Awareness and Training

Though it’s a great start if your business is already fairly diverse, raising awareness and encouraging training should take place regardless. Whether specialists in your company run small group sessions, or you seek support from a third party, training company-wide puts everyone on the same page and can also be a safe space for conversation about things that may have felt taboo or uncomfortable to discuss. Beyond regularly covered protected characteristics, it’s useful to also cover neurodiversity (a subject often overlooked). 

3. Process and Policy

Having gathered an understanding of where the business stands, and now established a base understanding for all team members – the next step is updating any existing process and policy. From the outset, this means reviewing any shortcoming potentially highlighted during the training – including but not limited to fair pay, diverse recruitment, career progression and performance reviews. It also is worthwhile setting out a company diversity policy that clearly outlines the business’ expectations and goals regarding diversity in the workplace.

4. Accountability

Though this is by no means all encompassing, the last step in this process is holding individuals accountable for their own development and actions. That might sound daunting, but it means that each and every employee is expected to uphold the values that the company is striving to uphold (as outlined in the diversity policy), and that at senior levels diversity becomes a pillar in their management. If shortcomings are of joint responsibility between those involved and more senior management, those people will collaborate efficiently to find a solution.

Each of these four points isn’t limited solely to larger businesses, but they are the stepping stones to a more diverse and inclusive company. Beyond these points, it’s definitely worthwhile considering going over and above the bare minimum to review new ways that you can impact diversity. And as a large business (especially as you begin to span countries or continents), you’ve got the power to impact diversity beyond the workplace. You can consider college or university schemes that support or sponsor underrepresented individuals, or mentoring schemes as an outreach program for those training to one day work at a company like yours.

Once you begin to explore the wide array of offerings you can bring to the table, you’ll quickly realise that there’s a great deal you and your company can do to make a difference.

If you want to find out more about improving diversity in the workplace, including guidance on the complex topic of diversity and recruitment, click here get your free copy of A Best Practice Guide on Improving Diversity in the Workplace by The Diversity PartnershipAquent.