An effective diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy is essential for any business, whatever its size. “Various studies show that in order to reach your target audience, your people need to understand them,” says Patricia Callan, Director of the SFA (Small Firms Association), the organisation representing the needs of small enterprises. “It stands to reason that if your workers are all single white males, they're not going to understand the needs and wants of, say, women, or people with disabilities, or people from other ethnic backgrounds.”

But is diversity and inclusion particularly important for smaller organisations? Callan thinks it is.

“I would say that, in terms of being an employer of choice, D&I can give you a key competitive advantage,” she says. “Quite often, with regards to pay rates and conditions, a smaller company might not be able to compete with the really large ones. But offering a multi-faceted job within a close, diverse and inclusive team is attractive to potential employees. And in a war for talent, you have to stand out and be different.”

 

Positive and productive

 

Because being diverse and inclusive is a big positive for your employees, it's ultimately a big positive for your business, too. “I know of companies who have hired people with disabilities and so improved the culture of wellbeing in their organisation,” says Callan. “And if workers are happier, it makes them more productive.”

Still, there's a temptation to assume that small firms don't think about diversity and inclusion as much as large firms do, simply because they don't have the resources to do so; but Callan says that assumption would be wrong. “In large organisations, there needs to be formalised structures that track, monitor and set targets around D&I,” she says. “Whereas smaller businesses tend not to have an HR function, so they're not necessarily able to formalise their D&I initiatives in that way. But the principles can be easier to implement in small companies, particularly if the owner or manager believes in it.”

Naturally, smaller firms may face various challenges and barriers when trying to implement D&I policies: for example, the financial cost of installing facilitative equipment for people with special needs (although your duties in that area are proportionate to the size of your firm). “But,” says Callan, “small firms who understand the proven logic around diversity and inclusion and plan for it effectively will lead by example — and be successful as a result.”