By Adam Etzion, HR Analyst @ Gloat
February 16, 2021
When we talk about Diversity and Inclusion, the conversation tends to lean heavily towards the “diversity” part – but while we all know diversity in the workplace is extremely important, if it isn’t backed by inclusion, and, more specifically, fostering a sense of belonging among employees, it can quickly lose steam, and fall short of attaining the goals D&I programs were set up for in the first place.
Why does belonging matter so much, and what can companies do to ensure their diverse workforce isn’t just diverse, but inclusive and included as well?
Let’s find out.
So you’ve made sure your workforce is diverse by tuning up your hiring and candidate selection process, eliminating bias in the recruiting funnel and building a team made up of different ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds and genders – but what happens to these people once they become employees? Does your company’s culture change with them, treating them as equals in their ability to change and influence their environment, or do they begin work feeling like outsiders merely being accommodated by an already-established culture that wasn’t formed with them in mind?
Sadly, more often than not, the latter is the case – and this can have severe repercussions, both for individuals and for the company as a whole.
“I get paid well to do something I enjoy, and…[I’m] surrounded by clever, funny, like-minded people. And for 45 or 50 hours every week, I feel isolated,” an anonymous UK employee wrote in the Guardian, highlighting what it feels like to not be included. On top of the difficult emotional state this potentially places employees in, it has a significant detrimental effect on their productivity and engagement. When an employee feels alone or excluded, their ability to relate to wider team and company goals is significantly diminished, and long-term responsibilities become much more difficult to stick to and maintain. Ultimately, it’s an unsustainable situation that hurts employee and employer alike.
There are ways to combat this – but they require the willingness to change, not just from employees, but from the organizations they operate in as well.
Successful implementation of D&I programs cannot only create more inclusive and engaged environments; they actually boost collaboration within the company.
Inclusivity and a sense of belonging do more than just boost collaboration and engagement, though; D&I can be an important driver in almost any aspect of the business, enhancing everything from employee experience to earnings to supply chains.
But as companies change and shift their organizational structures, so must their D&I efforts change as well.
As companies move towards flatter hierarchies and pixelated, skill-oriented work architecture, traditional job definitions are beginning to break down, and are being replaced by more personalized, skill-oriented approaches, which allow for ad-hoc collaborations that come together and apart as specific company needs arise and are resolved.
This change therefore also requires a shift in D&I efforts.
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To ensure inclusivity and belonging, companies today must open up opportunities to employees in a democratic and egalitarian way.
It’s not enough to just have a diverse workforce; employees from under-represented groups must have access to the same chances as their more privileged colleagues, whether it’s in networking, mentoring or career opportunities. Without this kind of democratized access, marginalized employees will continue to struggle with marginalization.
Democratizing opportunities can and should be a company culture goal – but human bias is always a problem, even in the most well-meaning environments. Can any manager, no matter how good-intentioned, truly claim they make all opportunities equally accessible to all of their employees?
The fact of the matter is, the only way for employees from marginalized and under-represented groups to fully belong and realize their potential within the company, is for them to have unfiltered access to every relevant opportunity within the company, regardless of how good a fit their managers may think they’ll be.
But is that even possible?
This writer believes it is, with the help of employee-centered, AI-based tools like the Talent Marketplace.