Why Inclusive Workspaces Matter for Small and Mid-Sized Businesses

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This summer, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is hosting its next series of events to support Incorporating Inclusion—a research and education initiative established to demonstrate the corporate and community value of LGBTQ-inclusive workplaces. These forums are an opportunity for businesses, especially small and medium-sized businesses, and partners, to learn how to build inclusive cultures inside and outside their organizations.

These events are designed for leaders across business functions and roles, including human resources, diversity and inclusion (D&I), legal, corporate social responsibility, workforce and talent management, economic development and empowerment, and community partnerships.

On August 9, the Chamber and its partners at the Columbus Chamber of Commerce Foundation held a regional forum in Columbus, Ohio, where representatives from local businesses and nonprofits shared effective techniques for establishing innovative and authentic inclusion policies and programs, and how that can grow employee and community engagement.

Inclusion is Key to Employee Retention and Attracting Talent

Inclusion has a tremendous impact on a company’s ability to attract and retain talent in today’s tight job market, and creating an inclusive workplace requires taking intentional steps. At a time when the rate of employee turnover is the highest in 17 years, businesses must ensure workers feel valued, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, hair style, or background.

The U.S. Census predicts that millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. Studies show this generation of workers is willing to change jobs when organizations fail to make D&I a priority, especially when it comes to creating a workplace where everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity can thrive.

This issue was reinforced by the experiences of two local business owners who shared specific examples of how creating an inclusive workplace positively impacted their bottom line. Jennifer Evans is the development manager at Greenleaf Job Training Services, a vocational rehabilitation agency for individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment located in Columbus. She reminded employers struggling to fill open positions to focus on the skills a person brings to the job – or risk losing a highly qualified candidate.

Customers are a Critical Stakeholder

Chris Cozad, president of Alternative Auto Care, emphasized being treated with respect matters to customers too. As an openly lesbian owner in the auto repair business, Chris knows firsthand how this male-dominated industry is not known for being women-friendly. Regardless of who a customer is or what they look like, her all-female staff never makes assumptions about a person when they bring their car in for service. Members of the transgender community who are often denied service or experience harassment when engaging with small businesses are among her loyal customers because Alternative Auto Care makes them feel welcome.

Throughout the program, additional themes emerged from the speakers and attendees regarding how to create an inclusive workplace:

  • Make diversity, equity, and inclusion a priority; a one-size fits all approach will not work in today’s multicultural world.
  • Business leaders need to demonstrate an authentic commitment to inclusion by developing solutions based on input from stakeholders that matter such as employees and customers.
  • If you make a misstep, acknowledge the error and pledge to do better next time.

For business owners looking for guidance, the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s LGBT Inclusion Hub for Small Businesses is here to help. The Hub is an online platform that provides vital resources and tools small business owners can utilize to build productive, efficient LGBT-inclusive workplaces. This centralized platform includes business advice, solutions, and one-on-one expert support. These best practices can empower small employers who have the desire to engage in inclusionary relationships but may not have the methods or the time to build a program from scratch.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation will be hosting its next in-person Incorporating Inclusion event on August 31, 2022, in Charlotte, NC. Hope to see you there! Learn more and register for free today.