Throughout the last ten years, diversity and inclusion initiatives have been high on organisations' agenda in an attempt to build high-performing diversified teams and win the war for talent.
Numerous studies show that this attempt has failed and the overall number of minority employees in leadership positions has hardly changed. It is fair to say that the matter can be examined from two perspectives, one from the leaders striving to build successful diverse teams and one from the minority employees.
For leaders building their teams, implementing diversity initiatives is a logical and rational decision. They undertake these initiatives in order to establish fair practices and ensure high performing teams by tapping into broad talent pools. They are however insufficient.
When it comes to the minority employees themselves, the matter becomes more emotive rather than pragmatic. An employee will not be motivated to voice an opinion or step out of their comfort zone if he or she is simply a number, a gender or an ethnic box contributing to satisfy workforce planning statistics. In order to achieve the full potential of employees, allowing them to progress within organisation, they need to have a sense of belonging.
The importance of satisfying the need of belonging is backed by ample research.
One intriguing study supporting this notion explains that the pursuit of connection and belonging is intrinsic to human nature. We are genetically compelled to belong as it allows us to survive and develop. Furthermore, a recent study in neuroscience states that social needs are commanded by the same neuro-systems as the basic human needs, such as the need for food and water. Finally, research shows that a great number of employees are motivated at work more by the sense of belonging and attachment to peers than by monetary incentives.
One particular study by Greg Walton, a psychologist at Stanford University, demonstrates that creating a sense of belonging among minorities eliminates stress related to the lack of it, therefore substantially enhancing physical and emotional wellbeing and consequently increasing performance.
The same study also explains that the feeling of lack of belonging is widespread, although not many people admit to it openly. The findings have been frequently registered across various groups of employees.
Diversity and inclusion initiatives only make sense if along with them, organisations create a culture that allows employees to have a sense of belonging. Opposed to numerous initiatives and processes that are already in place across organisations, this initiative does not require a company-wide policy change. With a level of consideration and empathy in everyday dealings, you can start creating a culture which cultivates a sense of belonging among your teams. In order to kick-start this initiative, you can consider the following questions.
Does your organisation carry a culture which truly focuses on the people, beyond their role in the company and their responsibilities? Are the employees being invited to the meetings, debates and discussions and their opinions being truly listened to and taken into consideration? Are employees being given roles that convey true ownership, trust, and opportunity for impact?