When you are a start-up or SME, you might think that there are fewer opportunities to support your team members from the global majority (people who are Black, Asian, Brown, dual heritage, indigenous to the global south, and/or have been racialised as ‘ethnic minorities’) than large corporate organisations, due to the headcount in your business and your general resources.
However, as an SME you will be more nimble, used to doing more with less and creative in your approach and this will put you in a good position to take action to support your global majority team members.
Even as a solopreneur, you can extend the support that you give to global majority colleagues to the wider team, such as Board members, volunteers, freelancers, suppliers and contractors.
Here are eight tips for supporting your team members from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Shape your organisation with diversity and inclusion in mind
Representation of global majority team members at all levels matters because it shows your visible commitment to inclusion. If your organisation is small, you can enlist a shadow board of global majority members, partner with other organisations to bring diverse perspectives in and engage suppliers from the global majority.
Be an ally
As an ally you can mentor, advocate for and be a trusted confidante for those from the global majority in the workplace. This can look like giving advice and guidance on how to navigate a career, talking about them positively in rooms, amplifying their voice when they are being ignored, excluded or their ideas are not given credence, or being someone, whom they can safely share their challenges and opportunities with.
Ask for feedback specifically on your bias and be prepared to change
Taking the vulnerable and brave step to ask for feedback is a good way to support your team members from the global majority. They must feel safe to give you feedback without thinking that there will be adverse circumstances for them after giving it, and you must be open to hearing that you’ve handled situations imperfectly. You may need to do a lot of relationship-building to get to this point.
Collaborate with other businesses
Collaborating with other start up’s and SMEs can give you access to best practice, data trends and ideas to support your team members from the global majority. It also helps you to benchmark your progress and build accountability.
Collating data on the recruitment, retention, and career trajectory of your global majority staff. This data should also drill down to the intersection of their identities. For example, the experience of your Black women may be different to that of your South Asian neurodivergent men. Without the intersectional data, you may get the wrong impression that your organisation is inclusive when it’s failing groups of people.
Tune into the challenges
Keep up to date on the challenges that your global majority team members face in work and society, keep in touch with world affairs, watch documentaries, listen to podcasts etc, think about how you can show empathy, and acknowledge these challenges as well as find ways to remove the obstacles to their success.
Respect and appreciate differences
Many organisations recruit team members from diverse backgrounds but expect these colleagues to speak with the same accent and think and behave the same way as their White colleagues and as a result, the organisation don’t reap the true benefits of having a diverse team. Instead, celebrate and appreciate the difference, value unique and challenging perspectives, listen to the left-field idea, and spend time understanding where your colleagues may be coming from and what you might be missing.
Hire, manage and promote differently
Explore how you can be more inclusive in your recruitment process, maybe focusing on transferable skills instead of qualifications from specific institutions. How you can create a psychologically safe space as a manager so that your team members from the global majority can share obstacles that they are facing, make a change, or admit a mistake without adverse consequences. Instead of looking for a cookie-cutter image of leaders you’ve had before, look for difference and ask yourself ‘what is the value add that diversity brings’.
Every person from the global majority is different and unique, essentially your first step is getting to know your team members and that will guide you on how to support them.