As the founder or marketer of a startup, you know a thing or two about staying on top of trends and taking a problem and crafting an innovative solution. You may have thought DEI (or diversity, equity, and inclusion) was a buzzword that would lose steam after the height of #metoo and social justice protests in recent years, but there are some big reasons why your startup should make sure it’s here to stay in your company.

Think your startup has the right diversity optics? If DEI isn’t built into your framework and not just for looks, you may be overlooking a key tool to guide success and recruit top talent to your startup.

Here are five tips for improving DEI at your startup:

Tie DEI to your mission to hone your “why”

The key to DEI success is to make sure it matters to you and your company. DiversityQ, which supports businesses in developing diversity and inclusion strategy, suggests tying diversity, equity and inclusion to your mission to connect both its importance to the work you’re doing. If you must, rebuild your startup’s mission statement to articulate both who you are and who your customers are through a DEI lens. This is especially important to keep top of mind when drafting future job postings, interviewing candidates, and considering opportunities for advancement within your team. 

Identify your areas for improvement and create an action plan

Once you’ve nailed down your “why,” you can move into fixing your “how.” Take some time as an executive team, or – even better – within each department, to analyze how your startup can improve DEI within the organization and in your customer and investor interactions. Use a SWOT analysis, create an anonymous form, or host a killer virtual brainstorm, to gather that feedback and create an action plan for improvement. 

Build company infrastructure to make DEI part of daily operations

One method that can – and should – be on your action plan is building out your solutions for diversity, equity and inclusion into your startup’s culture and the fabric of all operations. Leave no stone unturned when you’re considering where those initiatives matter, what can be made better by a diverse perspective, or how an opportunity or pitch can be more equal in opportunity or inclusive of more identities. Sound like a lot of work? Check out this podcast from The Diversity Movement on how to carve out time for the important work of diversity building for your startup.

Train, retrain, then train some more (yourself and employees)

Once the framework is built, it’s time to make sure you and your people are trained up. Take the time to meaningfully incorporate your teams into the foundational work of DEI improvements in your startup, then seek outside help to make sure you’re well trained as you work with each other, your clients, investors, and the public. Good DEI is a process that’s never quite finished, but keeps improving on itself. 

Hold yourself accountable

Finally, bring accountability to your DEI improvements. Build reporting and evaluating on DEI metrics into your board and investor reporting. You might also create an advisory group to take regular looks at how your startup is doing and where it’s falling short of the DEI piece of its mission. Another tool for DEI accountability and reporting is onboarding a solid PR firm. Using a good PR team, especially one which specializes in startups, gives you an edge in communicating the work you’re doing as a leader in DEI excellence to attract and retain clients, investors, and media attention.

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