Working for a company whose bread and butter is helping businesses get the most from their talent, I cannot overstate the importance of belonging. It’s not a tagline – it’s how each individual truly feels about their situation and the organization they work for.
Get it right and it benefits both employees and employers. So little wonder it’s something increasingly being talked about at board level. But while many organizations have come a long way on equity, diversity and inclusion in recent years, belonging still lags far behind. And there’s a good reason for that – it’s the hardest part of the puzzle to solve.
The EDI&B layer cake – sweet when you get it right
In my time working in this area it has been rewarding to see the growing realization of the importance of E, D & I. But it’s never going to be a case of ‘job done’. It is something all companies and their workers will need to continue focusing on. And it is only once equity, diversity and inclusion are firmly embedded in companies that the belonging element starts to take shape.
Think of it like a tiered cake – diversity is the bottom part. That covers any dimension that differentiates us. Next is equity, which is how we are eliminating barriers to full participation and fair opportunities in the workplace. The tier on top of that is inclusion and how we empower people, regardless of their diversity, so they are seen. And the icing is belonging – how do people experience equity, diversity and inclusion in the organization. Do they feel they are valued and accepted and can be their true authentic selves?
Unfortunately, in some circumstances divisive political culture and strong polarizing views in the media are driving a wedge between us and making that goal harder to achieve.
Walking the walk on belonging
Randstad’s latest Workmonitor report underlines the importance of belonging to today’s workforce. Over half of respondents said they would quit if they felt like they didn’t belong. And many wouldn’t even take the job in the first place if the company didn’t meet their values.
Belonging is more nuanced than E, D & I. It’s also not all about the big ticket initiatives – it’s about the day-to-day things that seem little on the surface but turn out to be bigger. Is every meeting inclusive and diverse? Are all the voices in the room represented and heard equally?
Allyship is key here. Everyone can help ensure that there are no invisible people. You cannot be promoted or selected for new opportunities if you cannot be seen and heard. It’s important to remember that some people get a place at the table almost automatically – it takes a conscious decision to get others there.
EDI&B is not an isolated function or an adjunct to an HR function. You also can’t approach it as a tick-box exercise – it’s about changing hearts and minds.
We’re all responsible
Here are three ways companies can start making progress on bringing a sense of belonging:
- All senior colleagues need to lead with empathy. This means connecting their values to their actions and remembering the human aspect of their role.
- Companies need to focus on building psychological safety through having trust, transparency and accountability. This means everyone should feel comfortable holding others to account and helping them address any shortfall.
- Don’t underestimate the role of business resource groups to educate, and build communities, awareness and connectivity. Make sure they are celebrated and listened to.
It is every person's job in your organization to impact equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging. People often underestimate their role as allies and their power to make a difference. We are not going to unlock the puzzle of belonging overnight, but together we can start to make progress on creating workplaces where everyone feels they are a piece of the jigsaw.