Belonging at Work

Many employers are researching and implementing new strategies to retain diverse talent. Several factors go into an employee’s decision to separate from a company. One of the most foundational concepts that is often overlooked is the need for belonging. Not only do employees need to feel welcomed beyond the initial interview and onboarding. They also need to feel valued, like they have a voice, and that they belong. The need to belong ranks three in Maslow’s iconic hierarchy of basic needs.

In Belonging at Work: Everyday Actions You Can Take to Cultivate an Inclusive Organization, author Rhodes Perry explains the science behind the human need to belong as well as the business case and the human imperative. He also offers five actions individuals can take at work, regardless of their role, to foster a sense of belonging.


5 Actions You Can Take

  1. Commit to continuous self-education. Education can come from literature, peers, and real-world experience. As a starting point, become familiar with diversity, equity, and inclusion terminology on a broad scale and within your organization. Build relationships with colleagues to learn about their cultural identities and lived experiences. Research challenges faced by historically disadvantaged populations. Participate in relevant conferences and community events organized by groups from different cultural backgrounds than your own.
  2. Apply an inclusion lens in your everyday work. Understand unconscious bias and the way it shows up for you. Utilize the platinum rule by treating others in the way they want to be treated. Create environments that allow all team members to contribute and gives credit for their ideas and work. Serve as a workplace sponsor for underrepresented groups by using your social and political capital to publicly advocate for them and support their advancement in the organization.
  3. Communicate the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) business case. Understand how DEI affects your role. If your organization has imbedded DEI into your strategic goals, become familiar with the plans. Work with other DEI champions to gain buy in from others who are not as knowledgeable or supportive. If your organization has not yet developed a DEI vision, mission, or strategy, research data points and examples from other leading organizations and bring this information back to your team. Identify key decision makers who can initiate the conversation with leaders in your organization.
  4. Get involved with workplace DEI efforts. If no formal efforts exist, advocate to start DEI programs. If opportunities do exist, show up and actively participate in DEI events. Join employee resource groups. Volunteer with or lead your organizations DEI advisory committee, council, events, or programs. Build cross-cultural relationships through mentorship or sponsorship programs.
  5. Take a leadership role. First, understand the diversity elements you bring to the organization that extend beyond race, gender, and sexual orientation. Be a spokesperson for DEI issues that are not necessarily your own. Advocate for including a DEI line item in the budget for professional development line that can be used for programs that support culture change.


What is one thing you’re doing to create a sense of belonging at your organization? Tweet us to share your examples!

A recommended reading list of similar resources can be found on the Learning and Education section of PIVOT, our D&I employer toolkit.


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