Diversity Equity & Inclusion Part I: Belonging

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are topics at the forefront for organizations today, in fact 69% of executives rated diversity and inclusion as an important issue (Childress, 2018). With DE&I at the forefront, organizations have a responsibility to be transparent and engaged about their strategies and the impacts those have on both culture and their bottom line. McKinsey found that organizations that are identified as more diverse and inclusive are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors (Hunt et. al., 2015). When it comes to diverse teams, they are 87% better at making decisions (People Management, 2017) and when that connects with management teams, it can lead to 19% higher revenue (Lorenzo, et. al., 2020).

Diversity and inclusion matter.

In this series I will explore key areas around diversity, equity, and inclusion and discuss practical applications to drive change in these areas. In part one we look at the concept of belonging.

Belonging is a part of our humanity. We need it to thrive. When belonging is fractured, individuals in a group setting begin to feel unsafe in their authentic expression of self and can begin to cloak or mask, that is to pretend to be something they are not in order to fit in with a majority (Wadors, 2019).

In many organizations employees representing groups with the least privilege exist with the undisclosed expectation that equity can only be achieved through assimilation or conformity (Jacobs et al., 2022). This actually reduces belonging because the safety and burden of change is placed on the party from the minority group.

Research by Johnson suggests that individuals in the majority might mask 20% — 25% of the time. Minorities however may mask anywhere between 50% — 80% of the time (Johnson, 2021). Masking is born in cultures where expectations are incongruous with authentic expression. Cultures like this drive down an individual’s sense of trust and safety in the team to which they are a part.

When people feel they belong, truly and authentically, they perform better, are more engaged, and more productive. If you really want to impact belonging in your organization, you need a tiered approach.

At an organizational level, you need vision, at a group level you need accountability, and at the individual level you need awareness.

Vision

A clearly articulated statement around diversity, equity, and inclusion is vital. It becomes the standard and lighthouse by which all movement must align. It means something to your clients who engage with your teams on a regular basis. It means something to the candidates who are exploring positions at your organization and are vetting whether or not you are truly invested in the things that matter to them. Most importantly, it means something to your employees who want to know where you stand and want to be proud of being part of an organization invested in DE&I. In fact, Wadors found that “67% of millennials say they will only work for diverse companies. So now when they come in, they want to see the difference when they walk in your hallways (2019).”

Accountability

To support belonging at a group level it starts with managers and leaders. Managers and leaders set the tone for culture. If a manager operates from a place of exclusivity or privilege, biases will prevail and diversity efforts will be hindered. This is especially true in a global context, “every place has its history of exclusion, its discrimination, its web of attitudes and systems that fuel and justify marginalization (Dukach, 2022).” Leaders and managers alike must be ready to explore their own bias and their own expectations to create an inclusive culture.

One way managers can make a direct impact is through feedback. “Research has shown that managers are more likely to give actionable and in-the-moment feedback to men more than to women. Similar dynamics have been observed based on race, ability, and sexual orientation (Jacobs et al., 2022)”. Managers and leaders must be prepared to give concise, relevant feedback when appropriate to all members of their team. When leaders operate within the sphere of inclusion “they enhance identification with the team which in turn improves team performance (Shore et al., 2018).”

Awareness

Each individual must reflect on their own words, actions, behaviors, and tendencies and question whether those support respect and belonging or if they perpetuate a degree of exclusivity or isolation. It takes widening the aperture on ourselves as individuals and the organizations to which we are connected so that we can authentically experience the richness of a global worldview.

As a concept, diversity, equity, and inclusion go well beyond the minimum of doing what is ethically sound. For organizations to truly make an impact on DE&I it has to go beyond training and initiatives and reach deeply into every individual so that it can truly transform culture.

References

Childress, J. (2018, March 15). 6 HR & recruiting stats you need to know for 2018 (and beyond!). US | Glassdoor for Employers. https://www.glassdoor.com/employers/blog/6-hr-recruiting-stats-you-need-to-know-for-2018-and-beyond/

Dukach, D. (2022, January 1). DEI gets real. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2022/01/dei-gets-real

Hunt, V., Layton, D., & Prince, S. (2015, January 1). Why diversity matters | McKinsey. Www.mckinsey.com. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/why-diversity-matters

Jacobs, L., Quartarone, M., & Hemingway, K. (2022, February 2). Do your diversity initiatives promote assimilation over inclusion? Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2022/02/do-your-diversity-initiatives-promote-assimilation-over-inclusion

Johnson, S. (2021). Diversity and inclusion in a global enterprise. LinkedIn Learning.

Lorenzo, R., Voigt, N., Tsusaka, M., Krentz, M., & Abouzahr, K. (2020, July 17). How diverse leadership teams boost innovation. United States — EN. https://www.bcg.com/en-us/publications/2018/how-diverse-leadership-teams-boost-innovation

People Management. (2017). Diversity Drives Better Decisions. People Management. https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/experts/research/diversity-drives-better-decisions

Shore, L. M., Cleveland, J. N., & Sanchez, D. (2018). Inclusive workplaces: A review and model. Human Resource Management Review, 28(2), 176–189.

Wadors, P. (2019). Diversity, inclusion, and belonging. LinkedIn Learning.

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