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How SMEs can manage diversity, equity and inclusion costs

The workplace wellbeing landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. Promoting good practices and guarding against bad ones has become a key employer strategy. But cost is a barrier to progress for SMEs. How can they afford to keep pace?

How are SMEs performing when it comes to workplace wellbeing?

With regard to workplace wellbeing, Covid-19 has changed a lot for employers and employees, when it comes to both physical and mental health. Workers expect more from companies – in terms of provision and infrastructure. As a result, the role of diversity, equity and inclusion has grown significantly.

However, it is no surprise that the most visible development in this area can be seen at large organisations, which have the resources to expand activity, including creating new departments and roles, and regularly publishing updates on growth and achievements (often as part of sustainability reporting).

The picture is different for SMEs, in particularly smaller firms, not least as they have fewer resources at their disposal. Operations are comparatively smaller, with fewer employees involved in diversity, equity and inclusion monitoring and development. Nevertheless, there is a need for such policies and practices and they are increasingly important, both for existing employees and prospective ones.

What is blocking SME investment in diversity, equity and inclusion?

Figures from a new DEJI Digital survey suggest that some firms are struggling to keep up when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion infrastructure. For example, the research claims that two thirds of workers say that their workplace has no anti-discrimination or anti-harassment policies, while a similar amount point to a lack of clear and easy pathways to report discrimination or harassment.

In addition, 70% of workers say they cannot access supportive resources, such as counselling services, and 75% say that their workplace doesn’t offer training sessions to combat bias and to teach professional conduct.

For small firms, a major factor behind the shortfall in diversity, equity and inclusion infrastructure has to be cost. While these businesses can’t be expected to have the same provisions and policies as large companies, they should have a framework in place. However, this still comes with the price tag.

Diversity, equity and inclusion and how alternative lenders can help

It is hardly surprising that many SMEs are not up to speed with regard to diversity, equity and inclusion policies and practices. Given the current economic climate, finding the capital to invest is extremely challenging. But such development is a must, with mental health, age diversity and multigenerational working key areas for 2024.

So, how can firms spend while safeguarding cash flow?

Alternative finance can help.

Services such as invoice finance, asset finance and peer-to-peer lending are proving a vital source of capital for small businesses in the current funding climate (with 65% more SMEs experiencing difficulty in accessing finance from high-street banks).

These alternative finance facilities, which offer a more easily accessible, affordable and personalised approach to lending, are helping small businesses survive and target recovery, stability and growth.

This profile has helped cement the reputation of alternative finance in the business sector, with a new 2024 study showing that more and more SMEs are turning to alternative lenders to access larger-scale finance packages.

Small firm finance options for diversity, equity and inclusion policies

SME budgets for diversity, equity and inclusion are unlikely to be significant given the market pressures that they facing. However, changes to the workplace wellbeing landscape and to attitudes around employment and behaviour in general mean that investment in policies and practices is required.

Against this backdrop and given the retreat from small business lending by traditional bank, it is essential that owners and directors are aware of all the available finance options, including the services of alternative lenders.

To find out more about A&T Business Associates services, contact Steve Bowles on 01903 602211 or steve.bowles@atbusinessassociates.co.uk.

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