Belonging is a basic human need. It’s community and connection. It’s a shelter, a safe place, a place that anchors each one of us to this world. Belonging comes from the sense each person is free to be themselves, to express themselves. It is not assimilation.
Belonging is a fundamental piece of inclusion.
The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed significant racial and gender inequities in the workplace. Employment losses across racial lines were sobering. Statistics show that four times more women than men dropped out of the workforce in September 2020.
There are reasons why this is happening, and organizations need to dig deep to see how some policies and structures contributed to the slide. Perhaps much of this inequity could have been mitigated with smart, inclusive policies.
With so much chaos in the world right now, organizations have the unique ability to create a safe place of belonging and inclusion in the workplace. Managers and senior leaders can build belongingness with their words and actions. Organizations must have a structure that supports belongingness.
This is how:
1. Take your organization’s temperature with a DEI survey. Take the guesswork out of how your organization is holding up. With research-based survey questions and benchmarked data, you can get a litmus test of your organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion actions.
2. How family-forward are your work policies? Caregivers need extra support. Period. Women shoulder most family caregiving responsibilities – from young children to aging parents – and women of color have been especially affected by the pandemic. Creating family-forward work policies helps: later morning meeting times, a computer room available for children to attend virtual school, flexible work schedules, subsidies for childcare or in-house child care services, programs for internet access at home, computer loaning and more. This is not “fluff”. This is essential to keep women in the workforce.
3. Establish trust. Belonging and trust are intricately linked. It’s natural to feel more “trusting” toward people who think and look like we do. Managing diverse teams means establishing trust between collaborators.
a. Listen more than you speak.
b. Solicit feedback from everyone. Then act on it. c. Use our free online suggestion box to get real-time feedback on initiatives and ideas.
d. Cultivate gratitude.
e. Be honest about the good, the bad, and the ugly.
4. Find ways to connect. Develop an inclusive culture that gives everyone the chance to interact and learn from one another, in both meetings and informal settings.
a. Share “impact” stories about collaborators in all levels of the organization. These get-to-know-you segments humanize a workplace (especially if it’s particularly big).
b. Consider hosting a potluck (lunch) or more casual breakfast meets & greets so everyone can participate. After-hours cocktails, the racquetball court, golfing on Sundays etc. exclude some powerful voices.
c. Don’t forget about remote workers! Include them in casual encounters and be intentional about changing meeting times to give collaborators from different time zones a chance to connect.
5. Accountability is key toward creating a culture of belongingness. Establish belongingness metrics and create strategies specific to your organization’s culture, mission, vision and goals. Hold collaborators, leaders, and senior leaders accountable for reaching these goals.
Belonging drives employee engagement. Employee engagement drives success. With organizations struggling to get through this crisis, taking care of your collaborators, valuing their contributions with inclusive actions and policies can mean the difference between building an equitable workplace and losing top talent.