There is more than one definition of a startup. One is that it’s a fledgling business, barely beginning operations. In another, it’s suggested that it’s a culture and state of mind where the people involved in an operation with the promise of tremendous growth and impact, though it may be lacking in stability. With that suggestion, the mentality of a startup is more of horizontal leadership, flexibility, open communication, and a heavy emphasis on creativity. Essentially, a startup is a complete 180° to a corporation.

In this case, startups have a stark advantage in being able to create and successfully carry out a stable diversity and inclusion culture within it. Despite this, a survey conducted by TechStars indicates that 1 in 10 startups are diversity leaders. While 6 in 10 agree that diversity and inclusion are important within a working space, very few put it to practice.

Here are a few ways on how to create a diversity and inclusion culture from the very beginning of your startup:

  • Create a section for it within your business plan

A business foundation is the most important part of it when first starting out. Without a solid foundation, everything that’s built on it will be shaky. That’s why it’s monumental to have a section for diversity and inclusion within your business plan. 

This section can address your policies on investing in employees’ skills and resources, training for everyone within the business to minimize the possibility of creating or bringing on any form of bias. 

Another thing to keep in mind is whether or not you’d want to create and recruit a team that will solely be dedicated to promoting D&I in the form of a council. A D&I council will look into existing policies, employee relations, and other important features of the workplace in an effort to establish and encourage a positive team and office culture.

  • Create a safe space for your employees before hiring and ensure its follow-through

One of the make-or-break decisions for people when looking for employment is whether or not the business they’re interviewing for has a solid D&I strategy in place or if it’s something that the business is already looking into developing. When a good strategy is in place, room for growth is immediately looked upon as a real possibility rather than just a promise of it. When there’s room for growth, there’s a clear indication that a business is willing and able to afford to invest in its employees, open to listening to their needs, and have an interest in their career direction as both an asset to the company as well as an individual with their own career. Through the pursuit of creating this safe space, employees will be encouraged to express their concerns, ask questions, and feel happier to not be considered solely a number.

  • Encourage social connections both in-office and at a distance

Our previous article touched upon Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and why social distancing due to the pandemic is imperative for businesses to work on to keep their employees safe on an emotional and psychological level. When employers encourage social connections within the office and from home, employees will see that there’s value in what they do and why they do it. Because there’s a purpose, motivation quickly goes up. 

This is something that can either be created by you as the employer or your D&I council. A few ways to do this are:

  • Weekly check-ins
  • Motivation Mondays/Pep talks
  • Team-building activities
    • While many of these can be considered easier to manage post-pandemic, there are various virtual alternatives in which you can take part in.
  • Quarterly surveys regarding the employees’ relationship with the business and their progress/feelings

While there are a variety of other ways to create an effective D&I culture within startups, these three tips should help you get started on the right track.

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