Belonging must be the goal of organizational cultures to achieve DEI excellence and engage and retain talent. It is an individual experience developed through organizational priorities on maturing the culture and promoting authentic and inclusive interactions with others. It requires trust and is fragile – exclusive language that is defended as “well intended,” policies that exclude individual identities, and/or a lack of leadership support will erode any trust gained.
Building a culture of belonging starts with embodying the synergistic importance of all components of DEI.
- Diversity – representation matters - when we see others who look like us, we feel more connected
- Equity – systemic changes that remove distractions/detractors can advance our strive for justice through barrier-free access internally and externally
- Inclusion – environments that confront microaggressions, value employee contributions, and prioritize inclusive leadership, foster better outcomes for employees and customers
Talking about DEI alone is not enough. Listen, act, and lead:
- Reflect on your own experience: when have you felt you belonged vs. when you have not? What behaviors shaped each experience?
- Ask employees to share their answers to these questions:
- "When I look at my leadership, do I see what’s possible for me?"
- "Am I working harder than others to gain the same recognition?"
- "Do I see the importance of my contributions reflected back to me?"
- Words matter: Be aware of the IMPACT of your words; don’t dismiss as “assuming positive intent”
- Be responsive to concerns raised of individual experiences, no matter how “small” they seem
- Critically assess your organizational policies for inclusive language, dress codes, etc.
- Engage employee resource groups to better understand how decisions impact different communities, how your policies can be improved to be inclusive, and what you can do to improve trust with communities
- Focus on inclusive leadership competencies and embed accountability for behavior change