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Diversity & Inclusion, but what about belonging?

27th Apr 2022
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Practical ways to create a culture of inclusion and belonging at work

Diversity and inclusion policies are starting to gather momentum amongst organizations. But what can leadership do to ensure they’re building a more diverse workforce where employees feel included and valued? 

Many businesses have a workable D&I policy, but this must be extended to foster a sense of belonging for their people. ‘Belonging’ may be a tricky subject to define, but one that is critical to building a high-performing, sustainable organization. 

We share our thoughts on the difference between diversity, inclusion and belonging. Giving practical tips on how to implement diversity within your workforce. We explore how companies can overcome obstacles to create a psychologically safe space where belonging can flourish.

Defining diversity, inclusion and belonging

All employees should experience a sense of belonging in their jobs. With one third of people's lives spent working, it’s crucial that everyone feels accepted and supported. Not only this but there’s a long list of benefits that companies will experience by building a diverse workforce (scroll down to read these). Organizations must prioritize diversity and inclusion initiatives in order to ignite this feeling of belonging for their people and see the positive impact. 

First, it’s helpful to define the differences between the three.

Diversity: 

  • Hiring a wide range of diverse individuals to add value to the business and create a positive impact. 
  • The practice of including all people and embracing differences which can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.
  • The understanding that each person is unique and recognizing this as well as respecting an individual’s difference

Inclusion:

  • The creation of an equal environment where all feel comfortable and respected.
  • Places control within the hands of the organization. As leaders can choose who obtains a seat at the table.
  • Is built within the infrastructure of a company: the policies, procedures, leadership structure.
  • Equity and inclusion needs to be created within the cultural values of an organization.

Belonging:

  • A natural step on how those included can thrive, which in turn helps to increase retention and improve engagement.
  • The opportunity to be part of a work community - a space where safety and trust is respected.
  • Gives employees the opportunity to make mistakes and push back where necessary, without negative consequences.
  • It can exist in teams but needs to be amplified throughout the whole organization.

Creating inclusion can at times be overwhelming, so management must not make decisions behind closed doors.

The benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Every culture, every nationality, every single person sees the world in a different way. Similarly, they each have different knowledge, perspectives, and points of view. It’s this diversity that drives innovation and creativity. By understanding the vast benefits that a diverse workforce brings, leaders can expect to see their revenue increase. A study showed that organizations that confront inequity and racism can see up to a 58% increase in revenue, along with an improvement in employee job satisfaction and loyalty. When employees are all respected and valued, they feel a sense of belonging, and this is critical to increasing an individual's commitment towards an organization.

Diversity brings a different skill set to problem solving, which helps promote creativity. This fuels innovation, which increases productivity and therefore a direct influence on revenue.

Practical steps in implementing Diversity and Inclusion

Company culture needs to encourage activism in its workforce to help push through more inclusive policies. By seeing diversity in the workplace as a positive thing, will in turn help foster empathy. 

So how can organizations achieve this?

  • Start by having honest and open conversations. These may be difficult to begin with. Push through and it will bring rewards. Actions based on feedback are necessary if trust is going to be built.
  • Gain data. But make sure it is the right data. Engagement surveys that ask the right questions, along with in depth one-to-ones, will help create actions that benefit all.
  • Give yourself a year of learning. Learn the language and terms surrounding this topic. This will help make the discomfort comfortable. Invest in training to stay ahead of the curve.

Practical actions that can foster belonging

  • Create a storytelling experience of how people can create belonging within an organization. Use a digital medium to create a narrative that improves accessibility and inclusivity. Conversational content can help people connect in meaningful ways.
  • Create an emotional connection through one-to-ones. Managers should get to know the person by dedicating the first 10 minutes to creating a dialogue. Consistent practice will help ease the flow of conversation.
  • Talk about wins and worries. Humanising a work conversation will help put anxious managers at ease. Start small.
  • Management needs to create a sense of psychological safety for those wishing to speak honestly, or share their concerns. Make sure there are actionable feedback loops.
  • Deep dive into data on how cultural influences are affecting your people. Look at how this differs with location, departments, genders, roles and tenure.
  • There needs to be office etiquette around virtual/ present meetings. For example, no side conversations and ensure everyone is ‘being present’. Everyone needs a say around the table to help drive change.

With the current transient nature of the workplace, patience is needed and this can't be rushed. Fear may paralyse management into inaction, but vulnerability is good and needs to be embraced. Be brave. Mistakes are inevitable, so don’t hide behind them, learn from them and grow. Training for all levels of a company is essential. By incorporating belonging into D&I training will help foster a healthy culture of inclusion and belonging throughout an organisation. With a heightened awareness of cultural sensitivity comes great responsibility. Companies need to be careful that diversity and inclusion does not become an item to check off a list, but rather a natural part of an organization's culture, one where differences are celebrated.

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