A survey done by Silicon Valley Bank, showed that less than a quarter (26%) of startups in the US, UK, and Canada are actively trying to increase diversity within their teams and the workplace.
If a workplace isn’t diverse or inclusive, it can create a hostile environment and contribute to a higher turnover. Not only that but being non-inclusive can also lead to being cancelled as a brand. This in turn can have many negative impacts, such as the loss of a customer base or investors withdrawing their investments.
According to ICS Learn, there are nine types of diversity in the workplace. When we think of diversity and inclusion, we don’t always think about age, neurodiversity or upbringing. We usually see diverse teams as those who contain multiple races and sexualities.
But, when a startup starts searching for team members, it is important to have a team that works to include these 10 types of diversity:
- Age: an inclusion of all generations who are able to work (Baby boomers to generation Z)
- Race and ethnicity: physical and cultural differences
- Education and income: where, when, and what they studied and their annual salary
- Skills and abilities: the skillsets they have and what they are capable of
- Family and upbringing: their background, cultures, beliefs and superstitions
- Personality types: introverts and extroverts
- Gender identity and expression: how someone expresses themselves externally (not always tied to sexual orientation)
- Sexual orientation: inherent emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other people
- Neurodiversity: neurodiversity focuses on those with neuro conditions, such as ADHD, dyslexia, epilepsy, and Tourette syndrome (among others)
- Disability: a physical difference that a person has that hinders their movement, such as blindness, paraplegia, or deafness.
Tash Thomas, Director of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion at the European Coworking Assembly, shared some insights as to why a diverse team is crucial for the success of a startup. According to her, “when choosing a team as a startup, it is always best to choose a diverse team from the start. Or, it can feel like an overwhelming challenge when trying to create a diverse team further down the line.”
She also does consult work for other businesses where she helps them create a diverse environment and teams. Her years of experience have allowed her to see what diverse teams can bring to startups and how this can even help to drive revenue.
Larger array of skills to choose from
When startup owners have an open mind about choosing team members, they are able to choose from a much wider pool of candidates allowing them to have the widest range of skills on their team.
According to the McKinsey report, Diversity wins: How inclusion matters, in 2019 companies with diverse teams (in terms of ethnic and cultural diversity) outperformed others by 36% in profitability.
Skills are developed at a young age, and each person has a different experience when growing up. The development of certain skills can be boosted or suppressed based on the environment that the child grows up in. Therefore, more diversity in a team allows for a larger array of skills.
“When a team is diverse, it offers a wider variety of perspectives,” says Tash. When searching for solutions, we tend to pull from our own experiences. When a team consists of similar members – a homogeneous team – then they will solve the problem based on their experiences.
To them, it might seem like a good way to solve the problem, but outsiders who have different backgrounds might disagree. They might even feel excluded from the narrative, to begin with. It is a tall order to ask a homogeneous group to think of all of the diverse groups that are out there and find solutions for them.
Therefore, having a diverse team (keep those nine types of diversities in mind) brings more skills to the table. It allows teams to solve problems with a wider lens and broader perspective based on their personal experiences and backgrounds.
A better understanding of customers
Tash says that “many organisations get attached to the idea of people like them. They tend to hire people who look similar to them, have similar backgrounds, and overall share the same experiences and values.”
Appointing people who are homogeneous can do harm to a business. According to Tash, if the organisation is open to the public, chances are that people with different backgrounds and experiences will make use of the business.
This means that solutions should be available to them, and by having a diverse team, they are able to craft solutions based on a diverse customer base. They might not understand each and every customer, but combining diverse and inclusive ideas will greatly improve inclusive problem-solving.
If a customer feels included, the chances of their return are much higher.
Modern consumers support diverse businesses
Tash points out how the view of consumers has changed. The millennial generation and generation Z are more likely to support businesses that have diverse teams, diverse ideas, and inclusive products and services.
Brands are held accountable for how they present themselves because consumers aren’t just blindly making use of products and services anymore. They are not afraid to call out brands, or even cancel them if they believe that what they are doing is wrong.
They are also now the generation who are the majority of the workforce. “Not only does it apply to consumers, but also when applying for jobs,” says Tash.
She says that the current workforce looks at how diverse a business is in terms of their team and if they practice inclusivity and equality in the workplace. Before, the status and reputation of the brand used to be enough to attract possible employees, but it has shifted.
According to her, “people want to see themselves within a brand before even thinking about applying for a job.” This is why a diverse team is important, it not only attracts a loyal customer base, but it also attracts employees who bring other skills to the table.
How to establish a diverse team
Tash says that, “when creating a team, the selections should be diverse to start with.” But, if a startup did not choose a diverse team from the start, then there are ways to fix it.
She recommends that one of the ways is to contact a diversity and inclusion specialist, like herself, to evaluate their teams and see where there are challenges and where changes can be made.
It is usually a more expensive ordeal to try and implement diversity in a team at a later stage. The reason being is that new staff may need to be hired and specialists should be included in the process to ensure the best possible outcome.
“This can also be done for startups who already have diverse teams, we need to ensure that everyone feels included,” Tash says making sure that everyone is included in the workplace is important for the success of a team.
There are many ways this can be done, via staff surveys, focus groups, ERG (Employee Resource Groups). It’s important to gain insight into how team members feel at work. To ensure they feel supported, understood, and included.
The key here is to focus on the details: if 90% of a company say they feel included but 10% don’t, that’s not ok. Who are those 10%, why is their experience so different from the majority.
These team members will give an honest opinion when asked privately where improvements need to be made. A specialist can easily relay the message to the startup owner and a process to a more inclusive workplace can be started.
Sometimes startups can’t afford a specialist, so Tash recommends that they create a space where employees can safely and anonymously share their experience. A drop box for comments or a forum is a good idea for the startup to know where they are lacking to start making improvements.
It is important to keep the wellbeing and mental health of employees and team members in mind, always. When the team is diverse and everyone feels included, it creates a supergroup that can solve almost any problem and bring an array of skills and ideas to the table.