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4 Ways to Cultivate Greater Diversity in Your Business If everyone looks, acts and thinks the same, you could be missing important business opportunities. Here's how you can recruit and retain a more diverse employee group.

By Gwen Moran Edited by Frances Dodds

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When Frito-Lay's Hispanic employee affinity group provided input for a new guacamole-flavored chip, the result was a new $100 million product. And while creating a more diverse employee base probably won't add nine figures to your bottom line, it could put you more in tune with more potential customers.

"If everyone looks the same and thinks the same [in your business], you're probably missing out on some important opportunities," says Mason Donovan, co-author of The Inclusion Dividend: Why Investing in Diversity & Inclusion Pays Off (Bibliomotion, 2013).

Creating a more diverse workplace requires a combination of recruitment and policy initiatives. Here are four of his best practices.

1. Go where your candidates are.
If you've made a habit of hiring through your network or soliciting resumes through job ads, you may need to make some new connections to ensure that you're recruiting the most diverse pool of prospective employees possible. For younger recruits, this could mean reaching out to historically black colleges and universities, historically Hispanic college and universities, university-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups, and other varied groups to let them know about your company. Alumni associations of these organizations can help you recruit more seasoned employees. Be sure that any job ads include an acknowledgement that you encourage diversity in the workplace and reinforce that concept with any recruiters or executive search firms you use.

2. Use social media.
LinkedIn can be a wealth of contacts for companies looking for diverse candidates, Donovan says. Search LinkedIn groups and you'll find organizations like Professionals with Disabilities or Later Life Professionals. In addition, create a company page for your firm and highlight your commitment to diversity.

Related: 4 Hiring Mistakes Most Entrepreneurs Make

3. Develop diversity-friendly policies.
Same-sex spousal benefits, work-from-home, and flex-time are some of the benefits that help attract a diverse workforce. Flex-time and telecommuting benefits to accommodate employees with disabilities who may need additional time to get to work or who might be better suited to working from home. Emphasize the importance of inclusion in your workplace by setting your expectations in your employee materials and through your management team, Donovan says.

4. Stay in tune with your employees.
As your employee base grows more diverse, create a way for staffers to share input, suggestions and concerns to maintain harmony and reinforce an inclusive culture. In some cases, human resources training can help employees understand and respect differences can be effective, Mason says. But it's important for employees to feel comfortable and engaged to retain them and get the best work and ideas they can deliver.

Related: Learning to Love Working With Millennials

Gwen Moran

Writer and Author, Specializing in Business and Finance

GWEN MORAN is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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