Belonging Matters at Work

An often unspoken piece of a diversity and inclusion program is the creation of a workplace environment where everyone feels a sense of belonging. Belonging is the difference between a company that shows they’re employing D&I versus one that truly supports both by also nurturing it. 51% of LGBT workers, for example, told a Human Rights Campaign Foundation survey that they hide their identity to most of their co-workers. 10% added they quit their jobs because they felt unwelcome.

A company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program can make a tremendous difference. Not only will it instill pride, confidence and loyalty among the workforce, but customers will also recognize and appreciate the company’s values. An earlier article discussed ways in which companies could foster and promote D&I within their organizations. Adding belonging to the equation will elevate things even higher.

Unlike D&I which are actions, belonging is the result of an environment that a company creates through its actions. The goal is to promote and achieve a sense of support, security and psychological safety for all. Some things that achieve this include company financial support of causes that relish D&I and belonging. 

An Example

Sephora for example took things a few steps further by enlisting some of its own LGBT employees to plan and put on free Bold Beauty Classes for Confidence. This was geared to people facing major life transitions and was facilitated by Sephora employees who had already been down that road. Classes were held at select Sephora stores and a video tutorial was produced and made available for people who didn’t live near any of their stores.

Another form of empowerment and belonging is giving employees the power to decide where they volunteer on company time. Yet another is formation of employee resource groups (ERGs). These are groups of workers who have shared life experiences or characteristics and who gather to discuss ways they might assist similar charities or community organizations dealing with the same challenges. What a great way to foster a feeling of belonging through this empowerment!

Encourage employees to recommend awareness dates focusing on D&I and belonging. It’s simple for the company to promote and add some education for everyone else, but also highly effective in raising consciousness. Companies can take it a step further by offering learning opportunities or creating events and even donation campaigns on issues of high importance to its workers. The key is extending to employees the power to help decide.

Case Study

One company that strives hard in the area of belonging is Accenture. Besides actively promoting D&I, the firm regularly issues public updates on its progress, including a recent one for revised and higher D&I goals by 2025. During Pride Month, they not only celebrated the LGBT community, but also held numerous activities. Some included Instagram Live and Facebook Live discussions, local networking and celebratory events, and even a fireside chat with their CIO.

The addition of belonging to a company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives is a strong internal and community indicator of sincere commitment. And as various community and nationwide initiatives move forward in the coming weeks and months, companies that include all three have an excellent opportunity to be viewed as role models. 

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