Small Business Tips for Addressing Diversity & Inclusion

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Small business tips for addressing diversity and inclusion
Guest Author: Anne Phibbs, PhD, is the president and founder of Strategic Diversity Initiatives, a small business located in Minneapolis and member of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce

Addressing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in our businesses can feel overwhelming. As small business owners, we often wear multiple hats, and may not have someone on staff whose job it is to address these issues. We may not even have an HR professional on staff. And, as an owner, we may not feel we have the expertise to address DEI issues.

So, it can be tempting to wait to address things until a DEI issue “arises” in the business – maybe it’s a customer complaint or conflict between two staff members. While waiting is tempting, it’s not the right approach. Addressing DEI is an integral part of any small business plan. Just like we need a strategic plan that addresses core issues like staffing, marketing and technology, we also need to a plan for moving our DEI goals forward. It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s good business.

You don’t need to be steeped in DEI work to know that our society is changing rapidly. We are experiencing significant demographic shifts and discussions around race and ethnicity, disability, LGBTQ issues, religion and sexism in the workplace, to name a few. And expectations are changing as well. In my work with Strategic Diversity Initiatives, I often ask potential clients why they are looking to address DEI in their businesses. It’s not uncommon for me to hear the following responses, “Our customers are asking about it,” “Our new hires are asking if we have a diversity plan,” “the RFPs we’re submitting are asking about our diversity numbers.”

I also often hear many leaders share, “We know we need to do this. And we want to do this. But we don’t even know where to start.” I always appreciate their honesty, and share that it’s important that they know they need to address DEI issues – and very important that they want to do this work. Then I share two important takeaways: This is long-term work and they don’t have to do everything at once.

Just as a business has to think strategically about its staff, marketing and technology, so, too, with a business’s DEI efforts. Too often a business will bring in a consultant or trainer just to deal with the “DEI issue,” but doesn’t take the time and effort to develop a long-term, sustainable plan. It’s better to start out slowly and deliberately, with a long-term plan for the changes you want to make, than to start out quick from the gate, only to run out of money and staff energy for your DEI efforts. Below are some suggestions for ways small businesses can begin to build sustainable DEI efforts.

  • Review your policies and procedures using a DEI lens (For example, do you have policies about religious holidays; does your policy support maternity vs. parental leave; do all your forms offer only “male” and “female” as options for a question about sex/gender – and do you even need that question?).

  • Review your hiring and promotion practices; is a “demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion” included in your job descriptions and performance reviews? How do you address the role of implicit bias in your hiring and decision-making? Check out MN Job Match to help take the bias out of your hiring practices.

  • How do you develop and communicate your commitment to creating a welcoming, diverse and inclusive business? Do you offer on-going staff training? Do you have a DEI statement – is it on your website? Do you offer staff an opportunity to participate in a DEI Committee?

  • Do you use suppliers that reflect your commitment to DEI; for example, suppliers that are minority-owned, women-owned, disability-owned, LGBTQ-owned, veteran-owned? Do you know how to find suppliers with these certifications?

  • What is your relationship with the local community? Do people know who you are? Do they know you have a commitment to being a “good neighbor” and to being inclusive?

Anne Phibbs, PhD, is president of Strategic Diversity Initiatives, and can be reached at anne.phibbs@strategicdi.com or strategicdi.com. Anne will also be a speaker at the next Women in Business series – click here to register and hear more from Anne!

Universal Design in Mind: Inclusive Program Development & Communication

Strategic Diversity Initiatives excited to host a workshop on February 21st called Universal Design in Mind: Inclusive Program Development & Communication. Anne Phibbs, PhD, will be facilitating this training, bringing 25 years of experience leading on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. 


Date: Thursday, February 21st

Time: 1pm-3pm

Location: MN Humanities Center

Cost: $40/person


Workshop description

Workplaces and organizations want their services and programs to be high quality, accessible, and inclusive.  Yet we often unintentionally design in ways that create barriers, promote exclusion, and lessen quality.  Universal design principles and practices can be used to design our programs and services - and communicate about those programs and services - in ways that help us achieve our goals.

About Strategic Diversity Initiatives:

Strategic Diversity Initiatives is a certified LGBT-owned and woman-owned consulting firm that serves clients nation-wide. With 25 years of experience, we specialize in advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts with an approach that is both strategic and sustainable. Our customized solutions include Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training, Emotional Intelligence, Diversity & Inclusion Assessments, and Diversity & Inclusion Coaching and Consulting.

Website: http://strategicdi.com/

PLEASE NOTE: We have invited a photographer/videographer to attend this event to capture photos and videos of Strategic Diversity Initiatives in action. All photos/video will be used for marketing and PR purposes only (website, brochures, social media, news releases, etc.). By signing up for this event, you are giving Strategic Diversity Initiatives permission to use images/recordings that may include you. Thank you!

Register via Eventbritehttps://www.eventbrite.com/e/universal-design-in-mind-inclusive-program-development-communication-tickets-54361213854

Accommodation requests can be sent directly to me: hannah.carney@strategicdi.com or 763-226-0139


We hope to see you there!


Now More Than Ever: Why Leading on Diversity & Inclusion Requires Emotional Intelligence

Strategic Diversity Initiatives is hosting a workshop on September 27th called Now More Than Ever: Why Leading on Diversity & Inclusion Requires Emotional Intelligence. 

A little more info...

Anne Phibbs, PhD, will be leading this training. She brings 25 years of experience leading on Equity & Inclusion.


Date: Thursday, September 27th

Time: 9am-11am

Location: MN Humanities Center

Cost: $50/person

Register via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/now-more-than-ever-why-leadership-on-diversity-and-inclusion-requires-emotional-intelligence-tickets-48130192702

Please note, space is limited and accommodation requests can be sent directly to Hannah Carney: hannah.carney@strategicdi.com

Our last training sold out, please RSVP soon!

We're a Certified LGBT Business Enterprise!

STRATEGIC DIVERSITY INITIATIVES (SDI) OFFICIALLY CERTIFIED AS LGBT BUSINESS ENTERPRISE® BY NATIONAL LGBT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Minneapolis, MN

March 26, 2018

Strategic Diversity Initiatives is proud to announce their recent certification as an LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE®) through the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) Supplier Diversity Initiative. The NGLCC is the nation’s exclusive certifying body for LGBT owned and operated businesses.

“America’s top corporations are eager to do business with the LGBT community,” said Justin G. Nelson, President and Co-Founder of the NGLCC, “which is reflected in the ever-growing list of NGLCC corporate partners.”

With this official certification, the NGLCC, its organizational allies, and corporate partners now nationally recognize Strategic Diversity Initiatives as a diverse supplier. SDI joins the growing ranks of over 790 certified LBGTBEs!

Strategic Diversity Initiatives is now eligible to participate in the NGLCC’s corporate partners’ supplier diversity programs, can take advantage of the vast educational opportunities promoted by the NGLCC, and can work to foster business to business relationships with other LGBTBEs.

About NGLCC

The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) is the only national not-for-profit advocacy organization dedicated to expanding the economic opportunities and advancements for the LGBT business community. With more than 140 corporate partners, and 59 local, state, and international affiliate chambers, NGLCC is the largest LGBT business development and economic advocacy organization in the world.

The NGLCC Supplier Diversity Initiative connects LGBT businesses with the tens of millions of corporate dollars being spent in the LGBT community each year. Today the NGLCC has nearly 140 corporate partners who recognize the LGBTBE designation when making procurement decisions and who all share a commitment to ensuring diversity in their supply chains.

For more information, visit www.nglcc.org or contact 202.234.9181.

About Strategic Diversity Initiatives