Diversity Alone Isn’t Enough—Here’s How to Create a Sense of Belonging
Est. Read Time: 3 min.
By now, you’ve probably seen the statistics about the link between diversity and business performance. One 2018 study found that companies with above-average diversity on their management teams report innovation revenue that is 19 percentage points higher than that of companies with below-average leadership diversity. And 2017 research shows that decisions made and executed by diverse teams deliver 60% better results.
But while creating a more diverse workforce and leadership team is important, diversity without inclusion and belonging isn’t enough. When employees feel left out or unable to bring their true selves to work, they’re less likely to be engaged, fulfilled, or happy, which can cause attrition to rise. On the flip side, research shows that when employees feel like they belong, job performance increases 56%, and the risk of turnover drops by 50%.
Think of it like this. Diversity is like being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance. But when people feel a sense of belonging, they don’t need to be asked—they can just get up and dance like no one is watching.
Here are a few steps you can take to foster a real sense of belonging at your company.
Realize there’s always room for improvement
While diversity is sometimes measured in terms of hard numbers, belonging is more difficult to quantify. The truth is, there’s no specific marker that lets you know you’ve achieved a culture of belonging—it’s something you need to consistently monitor and work toward.
That’s partly because, while intolerant attitudes and behavior can certainly make employees feel unwelcome, the barriers to belonging often aren’t so obvious. Even if managers and employees are tolerant and accepting, people may feel they don’t belong at a company if their workload is consistently unmanageable and they’re becoming burned out. Checking in regularly, ensuring work is distributed evenly, and working with employees to find out which tasks they enjoy most can go a long way to helping people feel supported and at home.
Recognize accomplishments big and small
In a survey by LinkedIn, the number one thing that employees said would make them feel like they belonged at their company was being recognized for their accomplishments.
Everyone wants to feel seen and appreciated. Train managers to give authentic praise on a regular basis and to recognize individual accomplishments in addition to team-wide triumphs. This could range from a simple thank-you email to a public shout-out at an all-hands meeting, depending on the scale of the achievement.
Act on feedback to make employees feel heard
Feeling heard is just as important as feeling seen. If employees aren’t comfortable speaking up about issues or believe their feedback falls on deaf ears, they’re unlikely to feel like a valued member of the team.
Holding regular one-on-ones with employees and distributing surveys are good first steps—but it’s critical for managers and leaders to take it a step further by visibly acting on feedback received. For issues that can’t be quickly solved, be sure to discuss what your company is doing to make longer-term improvements so employees know that you’re listening, and that you care.
Emphasize a shared mission and purpose
Working toward mutual goals is a powerful way to foster a sense of belonging. This can also help employees find meaning and purpose in their day-to-day work, which is good for engagement.
To place an emphasis on togetherness, focus on using pronouns like “we” and “us” when discussing team or company goals. Managers should also pay close attention to the words employees choose. If someone frequently uses terms like “the company” when talking about management, they may be feeling isolated, so take the time to touch base with them to find out if there’s anything they need.
Align HR technology with your diversity and inclusion goals
While belonging efforts will largely be driven by team leaders and department heads, HR can also play a role in ensuring these efforts are effectively prioritized and understood.
One way to do this is by relentlessly communicating the policies, programs, and initiatives that your company has put in place regarding inclusion and belonging. This helps to break down unnecessary barriers to information, so everyone can be clear about what support is available to them, what is considered unacceptable behavior, and so on.
An employee knowledgebase makes this easy by providing a one-stop shop for employees and managers to access the most up-to-date and comprehensive guidance. And when this information is stored in the cloud, team members don’t need to visit a physical HR office to find support, which ensures remote workers and those with mobility issues and other concerns aren’t left out of the loop.
If you’re a current PeopleDoc customer, you can also use the analytics within our HR Service Delivery Platform to proactively monitor what questions employees have about diversity, inclusion, and belonging at your company, and which policies or articles in your knowledgebase they’re accessing. This can help you gain a deeper understanding of what they’re interested in and where you may have gaps in the information you provide.
Effective diversity, inclusion, and belonging requires listening to employees. Hear Christa Degnan Manning discuss the importance of developing a voice of the employee program at your organization in this on-demand webinar, The Art and Science of Listening to the Voice of the Employee.
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About Laura Zifchak (Poggi)
Laura leads the marketing team for the PeopleDoc by Ultimate Software products in North America. She joined PeopleDoc in January 2015 to help HR teams learn about HR Service Delivery technology, understand how it benefits their existing business strategies, and become expert users of our platform as customers.
Laura has experience with bringing technical software solutions to market with prior leadership positions at both IBM and RTTS. She has an MBA from CUNY Baruch Zicklin School of Business, and a BS degree in Marketing from Siena College.
With years of practice managing teams through rapid growth and constant change, Laura is passionate about employee and manager experience, and using technology to help scale and improve operations.