Over the last few years, diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace have become an increasingly hot topic. In 2015 McKinsey published a study with staggering statistics revealing that racially diverse companies tend to outperform industry norms by 35%. The data is a clear case for diversity and inclusion. For organizations to effectively create a culture where their employees feel confident to express their true selves, organizations need to consider the idea of belonging.
To put it simply, diversity can be defined as your mix of people while inclusion can be defined by how well your people mix. With D&I, we are considering things such as gender, race, culture, sexual orientation and age. What’s lacking in this concept, however, is the actualization of fully accepting people for their unique traits that make them different from those around them. The idea of belonging may seem like a warm-and-fuzzy notion, but the practicality is quite simple; when you allow your employees to feel like they belong to your organization, they will feel more confident in their abilities to represent themselves authentically. People who “belong” feel comfortable expressing ideas, sharing experiences and contributing to a group when they know that their input is valued.
The Impact of Belonging
In the last four years, the search term “employee experience” has increased by 140% on Google. It’s clear to companies that talent is a necessity for their business to be successful, and if your people are enjoying their experience, their performance will be better. So how do companies ensure that their employees have a good experience? You help them belong to a community – your community. Humans are genetically wired to want to belong: to their local communities, to their families and to their friend group. In fact, recent findings have shown that belonging to a group of coworkers can be a better motivator than money alone. Companies need to acknowledge the individuals within their organization and accept each of these individuals for their authentic and true self.
Pat Wadors, an SVP of Talent Organization at LinkedIn, spoke about her experience with D&I in her Harvard Business Review Article: “Diversity Efforts Fall Short Unless Employees Feel That They Belong.” She went on to say, “D&I grabs my intellect, but not my heart. D&I initiatives are necessary to win the war for talent, to find and hire a diverse workforce, and to ensure fair practices, but they aren’t sufficient.” Organizations need to understand that D&I alone isn’t enough and the mentality of “checking boxes” for diversity hiring doesn’t cut it.
Implementing Belonging to your D&I Initiative
Adapting your D&I initiative to incorporate belonging can be a simple transition with a lasting organizational impact. A study conducted by LinkedIn identified that employees feel like they belong when they are: recognized, allowed to express their thoughts and have the ability to make contributions. To make a move to a more belonging culture, follow these easy action items:
1. Get to know your people: Every employee in your business or team has a different story to tell, and you should get to know that story. Communicating with your employees on a deeper level will provide the opportunity to understand their workplace needs and create a more inclusive environment.
2. Dedicate your time and attention: When soliciting conversations to get to know your people, give them your full attention. Put down the cellphone, ask follow-up questions so they feel heard and listened to and always let them finish their thoughts before jumping in or interrupting.
3. Personalize your introductions: When introducing people to your team to others, personalize the introduction. Include things outside the job title to show you know who they are as a person.
4. Open it up to others: Don’t be the first one to share ideas in a meeting. Open it up to others, get the conversation flowing before inputting your ideas. This encourages a space where diverse views and opinions are valued.
By following these simple action items and communicating the importance of diversity, inclusion and belonging to your organization, you are well on your way to ensuring your people have the best possible experience who have the tools and platforms to outperform your competition.