Building a Culture of Inclusion and Belonging

Posted on March 30, 2022

What can you do to form a bridge between inclusion and belonging within your organization? One where every individual, no matter what background or identity feels safe, seen, and heard?

In my previous post on the importance of creating a culture of belonging, we looked at the current data on how a lack of inclusion and belonging can hit the bottom line, and how important it is to build an intentional strategy for increasing employee morale, innovation, speed, efficiency, and agility. Studies have shown1“Maslow and the Motivation Hierarchy: Measuring Satisfaction of Needs” https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/amerjpsyc.126.2.0155?refreqid=excelsior%3Aeaddc723f4ef43a1878cce2f274aff52 that the need for a sense of belonging is on the same level as our intrinsic need for love.

Because human needs are embedded in each of us, so fundamental that it impacts us greatly– it makes sense that the need for belonging show up in the workplace, and not just in our personal lives.

The consequences of missing this critical element lead to deficiencies in other areas: motivation decreases and spills over into how we think, emotionally regulate, and react. When creating an exceptional company culture, we must dig into the complexities in the acronym of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (and Justice, as we upgrade from DEI to DEIJ) and take action– actual strategies that are implemented instead of claiming DEI as a priority– without achieving any goals.

According to SHRM in partnership with Harvard Business Review and Trusaic2https://shrm.org/about-shrm/Documents/DEI%20Infographic%20-%20Final.pdf?, 65% of companies say that DEI is a high priority, but 39% of organizations fail to implement DEI practices and 30% don’t have KPIs or OKRs in place to measure their efforts. in my next post, we’ll cover how companies can collect and analyze data on their inclusivity so they can track the actions that raise the bar– but for now, let’s start with the building blocks of creating a culture of belonging.

This post gives you action items to kick off your own company’s strategy, though each business has a different structure and “way of doing things” that make it difficult to create change (we will cover effective change management in another post!)

Building an Intentional Culture of Belonging

  1. The keys to success start with listening. Ask the difficult questions. Hold space and listen. Encouraging conversations allow everyone in the room to contribute their experiences, which are most likely not shared by the majority of their coworkers, thus creating empathy, connection, support, allyship, and understanding.
  2. Continually seek ways to distinguish yourself from environments that don’t welcome everyone, including that outside of work. Observe how historically marginalized humans are treated in different surroundings. The more you look, the more you will see unconscious biases, microaggressions (subtle and often unintentional discrimination), and a lack of diversity in clusters of people who spend social time together. These insights help open the eyes of those who have never experienced discrimination, opening up the doors for even more empathy and a more active push towards actionable change in your organization.
  3. Encourage everyone on your team to speak up and be their most authentic, human selves instead of “putting on a show” to try and fit in with a world that has historically undermined them– instead, embrace a culture of authentic acceptance.
  4. Create safe spaces, such as open-door policies, for confidential conversations where employees can bring sensitive topics and trust that they will be heard and understood.
  5. Ensure that leadership at all levels are continuously educated on identifying racist behavior or language, use inclusive language (for example, “hey everyone!” instead of “hey guys!” and using preferred pronouns), and behave as champions and role models for the rest of your team on a daily basis.
  6. Create a plan that is defined, accepted, and practiced by all stakeholders, with qualitative and quantitative data that you review on a regular basis to continuously improve efforts that will make the greatest impact.

In an upcoming post, we’ll dig deeper into how to effectively collect and use data, as mentioned in #6, so your company becomes a standard, recognized organizational lead for building change.