DEI strategies have been a hot topic in the business world over the last few years.

Even though it is mostly talked about in the context of large corporations, it still has a place in small businesses. But what is DEI, and how can you form a DEI strategy for your small business?

What is DEI?

DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. It’s a corporate movement intended to make a place in the workforce for people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. In order to understand how to approach that, it’s a good idea to define each term individually, then look at how they can come together to improve a company.

Diversity, in its simplest form, is a variety of something. When applied to people, it means people with different ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, genders, sexualities, and politics.

Equity is about justness and fairness. Not everyone has the same resources, experience, or education. Equity sees that disparity and attempts to make up for it by distributing resources and training. Equity distributes that according to need, whereas equality would distribute resources equally to everyone, whether they need it or not.

Inclusion is about making diversity welcome in an environment. Making it so that people of all backgrounds feel welcome in your company and feel safe contributing to discussions. Inclusion also means making sure that you have diverse perspectives at every point in the decision-making process and at all levels of your company.

Together, DEI is about making everyone feel comfortable in your company to encourage new ways of thinking that can help your business flourish.

Why is DEI Important?

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is important solely because it helps everyone feel welcome in their companies and communities. But DEI can help businesses too.

Word spreads quickly about a company’s culture and work environment, and whether it’s good or bad news is up to you. When you create a diverse, welcoming environment people will hear about it. People want to work in welcoming environments, so emphasizing DEI in your business will increase the talent pool you are hiring from. The larger and more diverse that talent pool is, the better your chances are for finding great, well-qualified candidates to work toward making your business better and more successful.

Plus, an inclusive environment helps you hold on to existing employees. No one wants to stay in an unwelcoming environment. Encouraging equity and inclusion makes your existing employees feel welcome and like they are an important part of your business. Being involved like that makes them want to stay at your company.

Some customers, especially younger ones, are willing to go out of their way to support companies that are committed to DEI. Even those people who won’t go out of their way might be swayed to your side if it comes down to a decision between your or a competitor.

The culmination of good employees and good public opinion is good business growth, and isn’t that what you want for your business?

How Can You Implement DEI?

Implementing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at your company requires a full strategy – it’s not a simple checklist. And before you can start planning your strategy you need to know where your company stands at the present moment.

Take the time to identify biases in your structure, policies, and hiring practices. Who are you hiring, who are you not hiring, and how are you making those decisions? Who is or isn’t getting promoted and why? Are your dress codes or attendance policies discriminating against any group of people? Take note of what you think you’re doing well on and what you think you can improve on, no matter how small it is.

Then, ask your team about the biases they may see within the company. Ask them a mix of multiple-choice and open-ended questions about specific policies and departments, and let them make suggestions of their own. Use an anonymous survey so that they feel like they can be honest without fear of retaliation. Not only will the survey help you identify potential issues, but it will help your employees feel like their opinions are heard and valued.

Once you’ve examined your survey results and your internal review, you can start forming your strategy.

Part of your strategy should be educating. Inviting someone to speak to your team about DEI is a great way to explain your DEI strategy and the reasoning behind it. Later, you can also bring in speakers to meet with certain parts of your team or have those departments attend webinars relevant to what they do. For example, your hiring team could attend a session on discrimination in hiring or making the application process more accessible.

A key part of your DEI strategy should be to take complaints of discrimination seriously. Issues should be reviewed by whoever in your company you think is best qualified to handle the issues and who you trust to be impartial in these cases. People who file complaints need to be able to trust that they will not face repercussions for filing a valid complaint.

In a similar vein, people need to be encouraged to share their opinions and suggestions without fear of backlash, even if what they say doesn’t match the majority opinion. After all, the I in DEI stands for Inclusion – the inclusion of diverse ideas and groups of people.


Committing to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in your small business can improve your company culture and increase your business growth. There are many things that should be part of your DEI strategy, but whatever you do, you always need to lead by example.

If you and your management team aren’t all on board, your DEI strategy is going to fail. Your employees look to you to set the foundation of your company culture and to enforce new policies and standards. If you ignore them, your employees will to.