Diversity and inclusion efforts look toward "belonging"

Posted on Monday, May 20, 2019 by Abby Draper

Diverse group of people working together at a large table.

By Rebecca Kerr, OSCPA communications intern

Diversity and inclusion are undoubtedly of great importance in the workplace, but there might be a “what now?” phase once these programs are implemented and start to take form. Sure, now you have great, diverse and talented set of individuals on your team, but how do you keep them engaged and happy with their work life?

Many researchers and experts have said the key to this is an employer-lead focus on “belonging,” which is defined in a recent Forbes article as “developing a deeper connection with others by sharing your authentic self and receiving acceptance in return.”

The Forbes article cites creating a strong sense of belonging for all your employees has significantly positive effects for your business. The three that Rebekah Bastian points out in her Forbes piece are the cost of assimilation, comfort speaking up and hiring and retention.

Bastian writes about how if there are spoken or not spoken sets of “rules” or “norms” at a company that can be exclusionary to some employees, many people, primarily minority groups, might “put themselves ‘on guard’ – in order to avoid potential biases or discrimination.” She says this kind of defensive strategy makes some employees gear their thoughts and energy toward a façade rather than their work or being themselves.

In terms of “comfort speaking up,” it is not surprising that having a diverse set of decision-makers improves the quality of the decision. However, “if a diverse set of employees is hired and then invited to the table to help make important decisions, but there hasn’t been an investment in creating a sense of belonging, many of those employees may not feel comfortable expressing opposing ideas.”

Perhaps the most business-centered advantage of creating a work environment of belonging is the higher frequency of employee retention and recruitment it usually facilitates. Employees do not want to behave in ways they perceive to be “acceptable” or “preferable” for either fear of discrimination or a desire to be liked or accepted and belonging helps prevent this.

According to Culture Amp, six ways to foster belonging in your workplace are as follows:

1. Know how you’re tracking
2. Social bonds
3. Trusting relationships
4. Be intentional about inclusion
5. Bring belonging out into the open
6. A shared vision makes all the difference

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