The distinctions between Diversity and Inclusion is that they each require different types of attention. Organizations can’t achieve a sense of belonging without inclusion and they can’t have inclusion without diversity.
A conundrum exists, however, when a company has diversity without the behaviors necessary to achieve genuine inclusion. We must move past the idea of tokenism.
Hiring for diversity will lead nowhere if those new hires aren’t included in the places that decisions are being made. Policies and procedures must be established and leaders must behave in a way that ensures everyone’s voice is not only heard, but also encouraged to bring new and possibly disruptive ideas to the table.
Therefore the winning formula to create a sense of belonging in an organization is: Diversity plus Inclusion makes it possible to create [equal] Belonging.
The Binary Nature of Diversity
An organization either has a diverse workforce or it doesn’t. It’s that simple. To test for diversity in a workplace, simply look around and ask yourself, “Am I amongst people who are like me?” Yes? Great. “Now, are there people here who are not like me?” Yes again? Even better.
Answering yes to both those questions means the workplace in question has diversity. A negative response to either of them means that some work is still necessary to create diversity.
The binary nature of diversity—yes or no—makes it the easiest variable for an organization to accomplish. It’s simple enough for hiring managers and others in charge of talent acquisition to look for people of all races, religions, genders, etc. when onboarding new employees.
However, diversity is only one variable within our formula for belonging. Once an organization has addressed diversity through its hiring and promotion processes, they must then ensure inclusion, which is a little trickier of a concept.
Inclusion Involves Equity over Equality
Under the umbrella of inclusion comes two other terms of importance: equity and equality. Treating everyone equally isn’t going to contribute to belonging. That might sound counterintuitive, but it’s absolutely true.
For example, creating a sense of belonging in the workplace is not about treating black and brown people the same way we treat white people. It’s not about treating straight people the same as queer people or non-disabled individuals the same as disabled.
People with equality on their minds almost always have great intentions. They’ll say things like, “I don’t see color.” Or, “I love gay people; I have a gay son.” Some of the most liberal activists in the world may say something like “We’re all one.” While there is some truth in those statements, they’re sort of dumbing down the message, because they don’t take into account how the cards are stacked against people of marginalized identities.
Equity, not equality, is the crucial part of inclusion. When we treat people equitably, we acknowledge and account for the many ways in which social conditioning and systemic racism, sexism, heterosexism, and ableism have led to the marginalization and exclusion of certain communities of people. Leaders adopting an equity-mindset and behaving in equitable ways is a crucial step in fulfilling the formula for belonging in the workplace.
The Experience of Belonging
We’re all wonderfully different in many ways. It’s okay to recognize this. Better yet, we need to educate ourselves and understand the many ways in which some people, because of the way they look and the body with which they move around this world, have been given an automatic leg-up, and others have been given an automatic leg-down. Without this awareness and education, we have little hope of ever creating a workplace in which all people feel like they belong.
Belonging is an experience that can only happen when you have genuine diversity and inclusion. For example, let’s say that a recruitment team does an admirably proactive job of hiring people from diverse backgrounds. When those people start at the organization, if there aren’t inclusive policies, practices, and behaviors amongst the leaders and within the organizational infrastructure, they won’t feel like they belong. The ensuing effect is that they won’t stay. Does anyone with any form of self-awareness stay anywhere when they don’t feel welcomed and included?
Why a Sense of Belonging in the Workplace Matters
The absence of belonging is what causes low morale and high attrition. Only when a company employs a diverse workplace with the behaviors necessary to be considered inclusive will it create a true sense of belonging.
The results from the hard work that goes into enacting these ingredients can be extremely advantageous. When employees feel a sense of belonging, they take on a new level of care for their individual responsibilities, perform better, and become much more invested in the company. They might even display a sense of pride in where they work.
Carefully place diversity and inclusion into your company’s mixing bowl, ensure there is enough of each ingredient, and watch them carefully bake over a period of at least a few months. In the not-too-distant future, you should have a workplace packed with happy, comfortable employees who are working at peak performance because they feel like they belong.
For more information on how diversity and inclusion are key to creating an experience of belonging in the workplace, you can find You Can Be Yourself Here on Amazon.
DDS has spent 25 years introducing individuals, teams, and organizations to the fundamental joys and benefits of belonging. His company was a registered neuro-linguistic psychotherapist before moving to the US. The company’s staff are certified as an Executive Coach by the Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring. Before founding Soul Trained, DDS held a range of senior, executive, and C-suite roles across a host of sectors and companies, including Marks & Spencer Plc; Eurostar International; Crossrail Ltd (building a new railway through London); Sony Music Entertainment; and Essence Global, part of the world’s largest advertising company, WPP.