You’ve checked every box on the list of necessary diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) imperatives in efforts to transform your company, and still, it may feel like something is missing. It’s the B for Belonging.
“Belonging” is a relatively new term in the world of diversity, equity, and inclusion. You may even be wondering are inclusion and belonging not similar enough? I say no: the difference between inclusion and belonging is the difference between being invited to a party and being comfortable enough to dance. Many DE&I strategies include initiatives that emphasize belonging, perhaps, without that intended purpose. However, as things evolve, there is a greater need for focus to intentionally be placed on belonging as an aspect of DE&I.
An EY Belonging Barometer study discovered that 40% of workers feel ignored at work. This speaks to a lack of belonging and failed efforts at inclusion. Inclusion and belonging are often confused for synonyms of each other, but inclusion actually contributes to a sense of belonging. Inclusion is making sure everyone has a seat at the table but belonging is the feeling that everyone appreciates your presence and even recognizes the value you bring to the table. In the DE&I world, belonging is essential to inclusion, and inclusion is essential to culture and, ultimately, a company’s functionality.
Some may assume a lack of belonging in the workplace can be attributed to being isolated, underestimated, or overlooked by peers and management. This may suggest there is a lack of understanding in how some team members approach work. Communication, leadership, and collaboration styles vary depending on someone’s personality, upbringing, and experience. Often team members who are from underrepresented communities may have approaches to workplace collaboration and communication that can be misinterpreted. Black women frequently make mention of how their assertiveness in their workplace is perceived as aggression. People who experience social anxiety have been perceived as standoffish or lacking buy-in due to their quiet disposition at work. Being misunderstood can lead to a sense of isolation, and your DE&I work should seek to address that.
Your first step in achieving belonging through your DE&I efforts can be simple: make understanding and validating each team member’s work, communication, and collaboration styles an area of focus in your DE&I programs and initiatives. The goal in DE&I is not just to make people aware of the variety of diversity around them. It should also inform your team of how that diversity can present itself in a work setting, and through understanding, how it can strengthen the team.
A company that successfully implements its DE&I values and initiatives is a company that will last through the next era of business. Employees with a sense of belonging have a personal interest in improving the company in other ways that promote equity. It’s not enough to just hire diverse talent or enforce diversity training: belonging is the secret ingredient to success for your DE&I efforts.