Creating a Culture of Belonging Through DEI

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, the word “belonging” refers to feeling comfortable as a part of a particular group because they welcome you and accept you. It’s a simple enough concept, yet not one that every employee recognizes in their work environment.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs and strategies were integrated into the workplace in the 1960s. But they didn’t gain popularity until the early 2000s – a time when systematic discrimination was just beginning to be addressed in workplaces and educational settings. 

 

While workplace culture has had over 50 years to implement robust DEI strategies, the reality is that there’s still a long way to go before all employees feel like they belong. So, how do you create a culture of belonging through DEI strategies?

Designing a Strong DEI Strategy

Creating a culture of belonging starts with a well-built DEI strategy. There are two key levers that you need to focus on in order to make your DEI strategy a successful one: benefits and culture.

Benefits

The term “benefits” in a DEI strategy translates to “what’s in it for me?” Do the benefits your company offers help your employees be motivated enough to increase productivity at work? Are all employees able to take advantage of the benefits offered? Taking a moment to analyze benefit packages in place and who uses them from a DEI perspective can help you choose benefits that are advantageous for all employees.

Common Benefits That Help DEI

  • Health Benefits
    It’s a lot harder to feel like you belong when your employer doesn’t place enough focus on your health, whether physical or mental. In the United States, 77% of generation Z agree that mental health should be a topic of discussion in the workplace. Ensuring affordable options for healthcare is a way of communicating to employees that they matter and that their health matters.

  • Paid Time-Off
    The burnout effect is real and its symptoms go beyond your employee’s poor sleeping schedules. Ensuring your employees can take time off when needed without payroll punishment is a quick way to strengthen your DEI strategy.

  • Flexible Work Schedule
    The post-pandemic corporate world was forced to adopt a more flexible work model in order to accommodate employees’ needs. As companies have slowly adjusted to “new normal” working conditions, having flexibility with work schedules remains a strong enabler for DEI initiatives. According to a Future Forum’s April 2022 pulse survey “desire for flexibility remains strongest among underrepresented groups.”

Culture 

Your company’s culture is the determining factor in whether your employees come back the next day. If an employee’s day-to-day interactions are unfavorable or they feel mistreated in some way, chances are your corporate culture is experiencing a dosage of toxicity, which is probably creating high turnover rates. In 2021, 1 in 4 job seekers said the most critical area of investment to improve company culture was DEI.

Creating a positive work culture helps connect employees to one another, especially those in underrepresented communities. Successful DEI strategies ensure that every employee feels valued and that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. 

DEI Strategies poster

Cultivating a Culture of Belonging

All the factors discussed above are what create belonging and enhance company values. Diversity shouldn’t be a box to be checked. Diversity is the force that drives an organization’s absorption of perspectives, cultures, and innovation. Moreover, a well-designed and executed DEI strategy is a strong enabler of employer engagement. Engaged employees encourage belonging.

Why should you pay attention to engagement?

Because engagement drives sustained organizational culture and performance. 

Engaged employees are:

  • Absorbed in their work.
  • Demonstrate a high level of effort involvement, mindfulness, and accountability.
  • Personally value and identify their work. 

Three Drivers of Engagement

  • A Reason to Engage
    Engagement is based on an employee’s willingness to participate in his role at the workplace. In order for employees to have an innate desire to be part of a team, they have to figure out whether the job itself is motivating enough to want to interact.
  • Freedom and Safety to Engage
    Along with enough motivation to seek interactions in the office, trust is a key factor in engagement. Employees want to feel like they have the freedom to, not only be who they want to be but also not feel pressure to be like everyone else. They'll steer away from engaging if they don’t trust their coworkers or have faith in the leadership team.
  • Capacity to Engage
    Something that makes engagement an important measure is that it has the ability to either increase quit rates or improve retention. In the United States, companies with high employee engagement are 21% more profitable. Yet, engagement heavily relies on an employee’s capacity to engage. If employees feel drained or stretched to thin, they’re not emotionally available to engage more at work. Having the ability to renew energy is a key factor in establishing consistent engagement patterns.

Any threats to the drivers of engagement have the power to impact performance, and ultimately negatively impact the culture of belonging. 

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that while a company needs rules and regulations to function, it also needs to tap into employees’ need to belong.  Creating a culture of belonging means that every employee should feel encouraged, appreciated, and motivated to do the hard work it takes to run an organization. This not only drives a culture of belonging but a culture of innovation. 

  • Inclusion is a behavior that we own.
  • Belonging is a feeling we create in others.
  • Driving a culture of inclusion and belonging is a strategic imperative. 

 

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