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Why Belonging Is Important at Work: Employee Engagement and Diversity

Belonging is a fundamental need for human beings. The feeling that you don’t belong can be as stressful as physical pain. When you add elevated fears about health or economic uncertainty, belonging at work becomes more important than ever for employee engagement.

When employees feel they don’t belong, whether experiencing day-to-day pain or special circumstances such as working remotely during a pandemic, it damages their ability to focus and engage. This is why leading organizations are rethinking their work on diversity and inclusion, and they’re adding a new focus on belonging. They’re calling this work “diversity, inclusion, and belonging” (DIBs).

Why diversity and inclusion are not enough

Diversity and inclusion are not new topics for most organizations. For a while now, organizations have recognized that the changing demographics of the world at large and their customer base necessitate improving the diversity of their workforce. The ethos of “our workforce should mirror our customers” has been a talk track for CEOs for a long time.

While organizations have made progress in diversifying the global workforce, opportunities for improvement still exist, such as the representation of women in management roles, where the pace of progress has been excruciatingly slow.

But more to the point, the work of diversity and inclusion initiatives doesn’t end with improving representation. Recent headlines have taught us that it’s entirely possible for CEOs to outwardly talk about improving diversity at the same time that toxic practices from overt harassment to microaggressions make it difficult for individuals to thrive inside their organizations.

Even when there is a focus on improving representation, not all organizations are intentional about creating a culture that is truly inclusive of differences, in which everyone feels accepted, can be their best selves, and do their best work. And even for organizations that understand the value of pursuing greater inclusivity, diversity and inclusion initiatives aren’t yielding desired outcomes. One big reason for this is the lack of collective ownership toward creating more inclusive workplaces where everyone can bring their unique self and feel accepted.

Best practices for diversity, inclusion, and belonging feedback programs

For organizations that want to use employee engagement surveys to support their DIBs strategy, Glint recommends the following five-step approach:

  1. Align: Make sure your organization has a common perspective on why DIBs is important to your success and culture.

  2. Listen: Seek to understand experiences across different parts of the organization, including critical talent segments and diverse populations.

  3. Inform: Review what’s working and not working in your strategy, and what you need to do to strengthen your DIBs program.

  4. Enable: Coach teams and leaders to build inclusive practices in the way they work. Provide quick access to their team’s feedback so they are empowered to own it.

  5. Check-In: Make time to measure progress, course correct, celebrate, recognize, and learn together.

Building a culture with strong focus on inclusive practices is a journey, and belonging is at the heart of it. It’s a unifying conversation in which everyone can participate and everyone has a role to play in making progress.

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