Recruiting a diverse staff is good business strategy; it gives your company a broader reach and a richer voice that stands to strike more customers as familiar. Diversity yields financial rewards for businesses. McKinsey & Company's report Why Diversity Matters confirms: "Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians."
Cultivating a diverse workforce makes sense, but hiring diverse employees is just the first step. Ensuring cohesion requires thoughtful follow through. Your business can't retain a diverse team if some employees feel like outsiders in your corporate culture.
This is where inclusion comes in; this means making each employee understand that he or she is truly welcome and fully invited to contribute. Inclusion means that leaders respect all their employees, and make room for their differences.
When leaders demonstrate that they value all their employees equally, they position their staff to mirror that vibe. This creates a culture where everyone stands to feel like they have a place - like they belong. There's no insider club in a culture of belonging; everyone matters there. Fostering this kind of culture sets up staff to do their best work, individually and as a team.
Our new eBook, How to Create a Culture of Belonging, details belonging basics. Here's a preview of our top tips:
1. Flex Your Inclusion Muscles
There's nothing like the feeling of belonging - the thrill of fitting in. It gives employees confidence and faith in their own talent. Plus, it makes them feel like they've found their place, and that tends to make them want to stick around.
Glassdoor's Chief Economist Andrew Chamberlain explains it this way: "Belonging means feeling safe in the workplace to show your differences without being [marginalised] for it. . . By building a culture of belonging, underrepresented employees can feel more at home in the workplace - emotionally and culturally - so that they're more likely to stay, be engaged and creative at work."
Creating a culture of belonging means employees can be themselves at work. It means that managers and other leaders are paying attention. They get that fostering cohesion on diverse teams requires additional awareness and extra effort. This gives all employees opportunities to flex their inclusion muscles, which promotes personal and professional growth across the board.
2. Instill Authenticity
Truly embracing diversity means doing the humbling work of owning biases and exchanging them for a more informed awareness. It can be an emotional process, but it yields authentic self-growth. It can take time and effort, but it's worth it to fully educate managers and leaders. They can, then, deeply understand and impart their awareness.
This way, managers and leaders can build a culture of belonging in informed, authentic ways that encompass both their communication style and their leadership approach. Managers and leaders are cultural gatekeepers. Their authentic buy-in opens the door to truly fostering a culture of belonging.
3. Communicate Belonging as a Cultural Anchor
Consider those who are "meeting" your business for the first time, including interviewees. Imagine what cultural newcomers hear, see and feel when they read your mission statement, when they meet your management team and go through your interview process. What cultural values do they intuit?
Your mission statement anchors your brand. A nervous newcomer reads it urgently, wondering: "Could this be the place for me? Would I fit in here?" Picture that newcomer as you scan and refine your mission statement for inclusivity.
Next, consider what it feels like to interview at your company. What are interviewees' first interactions with your company like? What might they assume about your corporate culture from those interactions? Who meets interviewees when they arrive? Who interviews them? How might the make-up of that group feel welcoming or worrisome to interviewees?
Awareness and enhanced communication are vital first steps.
4. Foster Community
Belonging means feeling like you're a part of the group, both because of who you are and what you bring. Creating a professional culture of belonging means that employees find joy and fulfilment in doing great work. They feel comfortable and secure trying new things, stretching in new ways and speaking their minds. They are in a safe place where they can experiment and build without fearing humiliation, exclusion or failure.
Providing employees with fun bonding opportunities gives them a variety of ways to forge a sense of belonging. Team events, outings and activities give your staff exciting, low-stakes opportunities to get comfortable together.
Author and educator Brené Brown explains: "What we know matters, but who we are matters more." Creating a culture of belonging means welcoming your employees to bring their real selves, plus what they know, to work each day. It earns you a winning culture where employees are well-positioned to feel complete and where they're inclined to stay.