Inclusion and a sense of belonging are often mistaken to mean the same thing.
A sense of belonging is a feeling an individual gets from being one’s authentic self while connecting with a community of people in a meaningful way. Meanwhile, inclusion refers to the intentional actions of a community to accept individuals and their differences. The act of inclusion provides the safe and supportive environment necessary to develop a feeling of belonging.
Building an inclusive culture where different voices are heard, valued and respected is one of the goals of diversity, equity and inclusion training and the sense of belonging it fosters encourages collaboration and individuals to do their best.
When you build an inclusive culture, you set the table for employees to feel a sense of belonging that has real benefits. Research by Glint, a US software company, found that employees with a strong sense of belonging are over six times more likely to be engaged than those who don’t. People who felt they belonged also performed better, were more willing to challenge themselves, and more resilient if they failed.
Here are 4 ways to create a greater sense of belonging within your organization:
1. Build Trust from the Top Down
To belong, employees must believe an organization cares about them and trust they play an integral role, irrespective of their differences and background. Trust grows when leaders express their support for inclusion, share experiences when they were excluded or shamed, and explain why a sense of belonging should matter to the organization and all employees. According to LinkedIn, 47% of professionals who are proud of where they work say it’s because the company leadership has created a positive culture where they can be themselves.
2. Reduce Unconscious Bias and Microaggressions
The first step to making individuals feel like they belong is to create a safe environment in which they can be themselves without the fear of being ridiculed or rejected. Minimizing unconscious bias and microaggressions in the workplace is essential to cultivating a sense of belonging for all employees. Being on the receiving end of these negative words and actions undermines an inclusive culture by making people feel judged, misunderstood, excluded, unwelcome and unsafe.
3. Be an Ally and Mentor to Co-Workers
Allyship can go a long way toward building a sense of belonging. A study by professional services company Ernst & Young found that 39% of employees felt the greatest sense of belonging when their colleagues checked in with them personally and professionally. Simply asking how a co-worker is doing and truly listening to their answer is a great way to make them feel seen and valued. Mentors can also help employees feel they are a valued part of something bigger than themselves by listening, showing empathy and opening doors for individuals to meet people, participate in new opportunities and contribute in new ways.
4. Invest in Behavior-based Training
Creating inclusion is a continuous effort to clear barriers, appreciate everyone’s unique backgrounds, adopt new habits and practice them daily. Making behavior-based training an ongoing part of a multi-pronged diversity, equity and inclusion strategy teaches employees the difference between somebody being “included” versus feeling they “belong.”
A sense of belonging is created when employees perceive an organization truly values them as individuals. By building a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion, organizations provide a psychologically safe and supportive environment for individuals to be their authentic selves, become more engaged, contribute in new and exciting ways, and emotionally bond with colleagues.
Sign up for a free trial of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training course: