Human Resources Expert Kessewa Heaton on the Strengths of Diversity

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are set to supercharge small business success. According to one expert, studies consistently prove that companies with strong diversity achieve results, outperform competitors, attract top talent, foster innovation, and more.

SBBC caught up with Kessewa Heaton, People Consultant & Mediator and HR Lead Associate from My Smart HR, to hear her tips for small businesses and thoughts on why accessibility matters.

Kessewa Heaton, People Consultant & Mediator and HR Lead Associate from My Smart HR.

Working with Small Businesses

“There’s a unique satisfaction in supporting small business owners,” said Kessewa, who has been an entrepreneur herself. “Small business owners often wear numerous hats, and their capacity to handle multiple aspects of a business that would be the purview of different people in larger businesses is something that the public does not fully appreciate,” she said.

Kessewa loves working with small businesses, especially to help provide an objective view and guidance to help them navigate tough decisions and HR issues that might be pushed aside amid other responsibilities. “It’s not uncommon for small business owners to overlook HR challenges, and addressing them is crucial to avoid serious consequences for their businesses,” said Kessewa.

HR challenges for small businesses

Kessewa’s hope for small businesses facing HR challenges is that they resist the temptation to handle it all alone.

“Take a step back and evaluate the hours spent on tasks; consider multiplying it by your hourly worth. Did you get the best value for your time, or could it have been better invested elsewhere? Recognize your expertise and acknowledge that unless HR is your forte, dedicated HR support is often a wise investment,” said Kessewa.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to HR, and Kessewa encourages small business owners to review their options, whether through a contract agency, a retainer arrangement, or a part-time employee.

Kessewa wants small business owners to remember that HR support is a specialized service.  “A dedicated HR professional can efficiently handle complex HR issues, allowing you to get back on the road and focus on what you do best – running your business. It’s an investment and insurance that ensures your business operates smoothly,” she said.

On Connecting to BC’s Small Business Community

“Speaking at the Victoria BGT is important to me because I’m passionate about accelerating relationships and sharing insights that can save valuable time for fellow business owners,” said Kessewa. She is a fourth-generation Vancouver Islander and hopes to pass on what she’s learned in her personal experience and her family’s history with small business ownership.

“Contributing to the education and inspiration of the small business community on Vancouver Island is my way of giving back and fostering the continued success of our local businesses and our communities,” she said.

Accessibility and Equity

“Beyond the ethical imperative, there’s immense power and innovation potential in bringing people of diverse backgrounds together,” said Kessewa.

“Studies consistently show that companies with a richer mix of gender, ability, and race backgrounds achieve superior results, outperforming competitors. Diversity not only enhances decision-making but also fosters innovation, attracts top talent, and improves overall business performance,” she said.

Kessewa sees some clients struggling with fear on their journey of improved accessibility and equity. “Fear to get it wrong, the fear of not knowing, or not knowing how or who to ask,” said Kessewa.

“Feeling behind in knowledge and action sometimes leads to inaction and thus has them falling further behind. As someone who is a minority with invisible disabilities, I enjoy coming into an organization or meeting with a leader and making it a safe space to ask questions rooted in the intent for positive change.”

While accessibility is a positive strategy to include and enhance at any stage of business, “the earlier, the better,” says Kessewa. “Incorporating an accessible and inclusive strategy right from the beginning is the most effective way to create a business culture in which this approach is normalized.”

An Accessible Future

Kessewa said that the upcoming Gen Z and Gen Alpha generations emphasize the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. “Failure to meet these expectations can lead to talent leaving for more inclusive workplaces,” said Kessewa.

“Embracing the rich mix our changing world offers in the workplace and consumer spaces positions businesses to not only meet expectations but also to reap greater rewards in terms of talent, market reach, and overall success,” she said.

Small Business BC is Here to Help

SBBC is a non-profit resource centre for BC-based small businesses. Whatever your idea of success is, we’re here to provide holistic support and resources at every step of the journey. Check out our range of business webinars, on-demand E-Learning Education, our Talk to an Expert Advisories, or browse our business articles.