Diversity and Inclusion will continue to be at the forefront of discussions at the top levels of many organisations in 2020. We are all aware of the work that is being done in this space and the developments in the area over the last ten years or so. But whilst we have achieved a lot and brought key challenges to the boardroom table, there is still something lacking.
The progress we have made so far in D&I has been through the support of people who have an affiliation to a diversity characteristic or believe that it is the right thing to do. But we have now started to stall, and I believe that we need the power of the majority if we are really going to move the dial on inclusion in the workplace.
This brings us onto Belonging and why it is such an important area of D&I. We have strengthened diversity to a certain extent by recognising that people are different and that individuals have protected characteristics. As organisations we have been working hard on creating a truly inclusive workplace that is reflective of the diversity we see, but how will we know when we are truly inclusive? That's where belonging comes in − the output of true inclusion is a sense of belonging for everyone.
You might be wondering what belonging looks like. I believe it is the feeling that you can bring however much of your authentic self to work as you like, and that you feel appreciated and confident that you can contribute being you.
There is a lot of research in this space and it all suggests that not only is belonging something we all crave for, but it is something that can unite all of our people. Belonging is a concept that every single person within an organisation can back and feel that they are a part of as they do so – therefore bringing everyone into the conversation.
In the context of work, a recent piece of research by EY showed that when people feel like they belong, they are more productive, motivated and engaged, as well as three-and-a-half times more likely to contribute to their full, innovative potential. So it is not only great for people, but it’s great for business.
A sense of belonging unites the efforts of D&I to create a truly inclusive workforce. A workforce that can help support the advancements of our efforts to achieve the success we’re all after without leaving any group behind. And one in which every single person can feel that they can truly be themselves.
Creating a sense of belonging for our staff is not a science but more a process of reverting back to our basic principles of human interaction while disrupting our normal patterns within those interactions. Checking in on new members of your team, being open to, recognising and incorporating new approaches and ideas. Encouraging people to offer diverse or dissenting opinions. Asking others, ‘what points of view have I not yet considered?’ These are some of the simple interactions that we can disrupt and view through a different lens.
We can also address behaviours that inhibit belonging and further support those who don't have a voice or are overlooked by creating opportunities that allow them to speak up and contribute. We need to clearly define the importance of valuing cultural and stylistic differences. We can also ask for perspectives from multiple team members and allow everyone to have an opportunity to share their thoughts during meetings, even if they differ from other opinions ─ that's what challenges the norm and how new ideas are born.
We should explore how teams can support each individual’s personal and career aspirations, needs, interests and styles. Through supporting informal networking opportunities to gain experience and collaborate with others. It is important for us to be clear on the fact that differences are an asset and that we should openly share ideas and leverage diversity of thought.
Finally, the key thing we can do is to be honest and transparent. No one expects everyone to know everything, especially when it comes to diversity. But asking questions and exploring differences with the right intent is key to creating a sense of belonging for the whole workforce.