In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Pat Wadors, senior vice president of global talent organization at LinkedIn, shared the key element lacking from most diversity and inclusion initiatives: belonging.
Despite increased diversity efforts, we’re not really seeing a lasting impact on minority representation in organizations. Wadors drew from her own experience as a female in a male dominated industry to find the missing link.
“What I really wanted was those moments when I feel that I belong to a team, I matter, and I’m able to be my authentic self. I don’t want to be seen as a number, a gender, or an ethnic box….
“So during this process of self-reflection, I realized that what’s missing from the discussion is this notion of belonging. No matter their background, skin color, or gender, employees wanted what I wanted: to belong.”
According to a Stanford study, when threats to a sense of belonging are managed, stress levels are reduced and overall physical and emotional well-being increases. We have also learned that a culture that cultivates engaged and happy employees is a competitive advantage.
How can you foster a culture of belonging so your employees and organization reap the benefits? Wadors has a few suggestions:
1. Make introductions
Especially during the first 30 days, it’s important to foster relationships among your team and the organization as a whole. When you introduce a new team member, make it personal. Wadors recommends using the language of belonging by using the word “our” (e.g. This is Alex – she is a part of our engineering team).
2. Create an ongoing dialog
Ask questions about how they are and listen. Listening is one of the most important leadership tools you can hone.
3. Get their input
Include people in meetings and genuinely value their opinion and feedback. Listening is important here too.
4. Trust them
Delegating an item from your to-do list shows that you trust them to get the job done and can foster collaboration.
5. Give them your full attention
Show respect by fully engaging in whatever your colleague has to say. Put down your phone and make some eye contact.
6. Share your story
Mentorship and professional relationships can make or break a career. Help someone by sharing your own journey and listening to theirs. You’ll get a chance to share your successes and failures and you’ll hear another person’s diversity of experience.
The missing piece for many diversity and inclusion efforts has been a focus on the importance of belonging. By putting forth a little more effort to make sure your team feels a sense of belonging your entire organization may benefit as people experience greater degrees of respect, collaboration, enjoyment, and productivity at work.
How do you foster belonging in your organization? Let us know in the comments!