Does your staff resemble your surrounding community? Do they look like your target demographic? If the answer is no, then you need to develop a strategy to increase workforce diversity.

As a small business owner, it’s probably a struggle to achieve a truly diverse workforce. Perhaps you don’t have a large enough HR department to oversee such an endeavor, or maybe the nature of your business makes the goal tough to achieve.

But as an entrepreneur, you can’t ignore the benefits of what a diverse workplace can offer. According to a 2013 study by the Harvard Business Review, businesses with a diverse staff were significantly more innovative and saw more growth than less diverse businesses.

“Employees at these companies are 45 percent likelier to report that their firm’s market share grew over the previous year and 70 percent likelier to report that the firm captured a new market,” per the report.

So what is diversity and why should you be working on it? Diversity goes beyond ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. You should also consider different work styles, family status, military status, and schools of thought as part of hiring a diverse workforce.

Why is it so important?

“Leaders need acquired diversity to establish a culture in which all employees feel free to contribute ideas,” the Harvard report stated. “Six behaviors, we have found, unlock innovation across the board: Ensuring that everyone is heard; making it safe to propose novel ideas; giving team members decision-making authority; sharing credit for success; giving actionable feedback; and implementing feedback from the team.”

Still stumped as to how you can attract workers to help diversify your talent pool? Here are a few tips.

  1. Find a deeper talent pool

    Maybe you tend to recruit entry-level workers from a nearby college, or seasoned talent from a few companies similar to your own. Look at positions you’re trying to fill and think beyond just the typical talent pool.

    Take veterans. They offer a wealth of experience that might not perfectly match the position, but their leadership skills more than make up for the time you’ll spend training them on your proprietary software. And don’t discount hiring workers over the age of 50—they have a wealth of experience. Considering the average tenure of an American worker at a company is four years, the limited period before an older workers’ retirement could still add an interesting perspective to your workplace.

  2. Promote diversity as part of your identity

    Encourage a new pool of applicants to come pounding on your door by making your organization known as one that advocates for diversity. Invest in scholarships and provide internship opportunities to candidates outside of your typical hiring area. Make sure to call attention to your efforts on social media so candidates will see that you are a part of the conversation.

  3. Hold your staff accountable

    Assign a person to be in charge of the efforts, but expect everyone to participate. Maybe you have the resources to have a dedicated diversity program manager, or maybe you roll it into the job description of an existing employee. Either way, make someone responsible for planning hiring events and keeping tabs on your diversity goals. This person can also monitor feedback from your staff on how they feel about your efforts.

Gina is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker who covers business, technology, and entertainment. She has written for sites such as Silicon Valley Business Journal, Huffington Post, The Wrap, and BizWomen and is a graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. When she's not writing or filming, she's probably trying to sneak in a nap.

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