The most successful organizations in the world understand the importance of fostering a culture built on trust, equity, and belonging. These leaders know that tying diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) principles to operational processes is the only way to get there — it’s a business imperative, and it drives desirable business outcomes.
- Organizations that value and invest in a culture driven by DEI&B outperform others by as much as 400%.
- Research from Great Place To Work® also shows workplaces in the top quartile grow revenue more than three times faster than their less-inclusive rivals.
Those that have committed to building great workplace cultures will tell you, DEI&B is about driving positive change by embracing unique identities and perspectives throughout every process and every level of your organization. DEI&B shouldn’t be its own strategy, but rather a foundational part of your organization’s entire business and people strategy. There’s no way around it, and there are plenty of ways to get it right and make an impact.
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: It Has to Be DEI-and-B
To start, you’ve got to humbly accept that what got you here won’t get you to where you truly want to be. Robust and empowering DEI initiatives have been implemented at workplaces around the world, but leaders miss the mark when they fail to cultivate “the B” – a true sense of belonging for all.
You can invite all the right people to the party and ask them to dance, but if you've stopped short of creating an environment where all people are free to be themselves -- to dance like nobody's watching -- then your DEI&B efforts will stall. In every organization, belonging has to be at the heart of it all.
Achieving a sense of belonging can only happen when employees trust that whatever makes them unique will always be welcomed and celebrated. You want your people to bring their whole selves to work — that’s how you unlock creativity. Let them know that their voices are heard. Their intersectional perspectives, ideas, and lived experiences are meaningful. Empower them to tap into their unique talents. Help them understand that their work has impact by showing them how their contributions are making a difference.
If you do this correctly, each and every employee working for you will know that they belong and can reach their full potential, just as they are, within your organization. Loyalty and intent to stay soar. The talent you’ve trained and invested in becomes talent you keep and talent that will recruit others to your organization so that they can also experience a great company culture.
“Uniquely you, uniquely valued”
As you can imagine, belonging is at the center of all people-focused initiatives here at UKG. Our purpose is people, and that purpose can only be realized when our employees feel respected and safe bringing their whole selves to a workplace where everyone has a voice. Uniquely valuing our employees, as well as our customers and partners, helps us realize our corporate purpose — it’s as straightforward as that.
To help others learn and grow, we’ve opened our DEI&B Playbook and recommend these actions to foster belonging in the workplace:
- Cultivate belonging from the start. In addition to adding diversity to your teams, focus on fostering a welcoming culture to recruit individuals who feel empowered to bring their authentic selves to work from day-one. Doing so will organically expand and exponentially enhance your culture.
- Set baseline culture expectations. Don’t leave any employees behind. Help your teams form a common understanding of complex topics, like unconscious bias, micro-aggressions, and intersectionality, and empower them to regularly model the inclusive behaviors that are core to your culture by providing ongoing DEI&B-focused foundational learning opportunities. Regardless of whether training is a requirement for your entire workforce population, strive for 100% participation — set a goal and make it happen. What get measured, gets done!
- Learn by listening. Being curious is a good thing. Make a deliberate effort to seek out and understand your employees’ perspectives. Survey them and engage them directly on areas of opportunity. Ask questions and don’t be afraid of the answers you may hear as the feedback will make you a better and more inclusive leader. And don’t overlook your employee resource groups (ERGs). These aren’t just an effective means of building belonging and community at work. ERGs are a gold mine for collecting valuable feedback and insights that can help shape organizational policies and programs for the better.
- Everyone plays a role — especially leadership. On a global scale, all leaders have a responsibility to prioritize and evangelize the strategic DEI&B initiatives that are leading their organizations toward a more inclusive and equitable future. This drives accountability internally; employees come to understand what is, and isn’t, a priority for their organization. People managers should play an active role, too, and require continuous coaching to proactively minimize unconscious bias and maximize positive impact on their teams.
Belonging: The gateway to building trust and powering innovation
I love how eloquently UKG Chief People Officer Pat Wadors describes it in an article from Quartz: “Belonging feeds a healthy and productive workplace. When people can’t be themselves, they waste time, energy, and effort trying to blend in. Belonging empowers us to channel that mental energy to other pursuits, be it our personal passions, activities with our family and friends, or problem-solving at work.”
In short, all employees want to feel like they belong. When they do — when they’re free to be themselves and dance like no one’s watching — they’re more accepting of themselves and others. We start to have more honest conversations at work. You see trust build, relationships grow, and productivity swell.
We know that people who feel like they belong will work harder and stay longer. It’s easier for people to find purpose in their work and see the abundant opportunity that’s right in front of them when they’re not too busy cloaking their true selves and trying to blend in.
There’s no substitute for a great culture, but it has to be great for all. That’s the aim for DEI-and-B.