Think about a time in your life when you felt most included. What was going on, and how did it feel?
Now take a minute and think about a time in your life when you felt excluded. What was going on there, and how did that feel?
I remember a time at one of my past employers, it was in the first few weeks after I joined. We were in a very large meeting, more than 10 people. The meeting was conducted in a language which I knew at least one person did not understand at all. This person was on their laptop the whole time, typing away. I would have bet my salary that person didn’t feel included in the conversation. Sadly, this person resigned not long after. And I didn’t get to ask how much belonging, or not, influenced the decision.
It’s human nature to want to be included. Belonging helps you achieve your potential. We know this from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
This simplistic hierarchy applies especially to our careers because we invest so much of our time in them. Employees who feel included will be more confident in their ability, and in turn, more productive. Conversely, people who don’t experience psychological safety, or who feel they need to present as a version of themselves in order to fit in, will be less engaged and look somewhere else to meet this human need.
The words diversity, inclusion and belonging get thrown around quite a bit. I once heard someone explain them like this:
“Diversity is like being invited to a party, inclusion is being asked to dance, and belonging is dancing like no one’s watching.”
A diverse workplace is one where skilled and qualified people are welcomed to work regardless of their demographics (e.g. race, ethnicity, gender, age and marital status) and background (e.g. physical abilities, sexual orientation, religious and political beliefs).
A workplace is inclusive when all its employees are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organisation’s success. Diverse employees feel valued, welcome, integrated and included in the workforce. They don’t feel isolated.
It is easier to feel included if most people in your team and company look like you.
However, companies who embrace diversity will attract a wider range of candidates with more language skills to interact with a broader client-base. A more diverse talent pool also brings a larger variety of skills and experiences, which leads to more innovation. And I shouldn’t have to tell you that millennials, who will make up more than half the workforce by 2020 (that’s next year, by the way), will not want to work for you if your work culture isn’t attractive. And I am not talking about bean bags.
If you’re not yet convinced of the powerful benefits of diversity, then you can read this article which has further arguments and evidence.
You may have noticed that often it’s the same people who speak up in meetings. You may think this is simply your senior members or top performers. But, it could also mean that others don’t feel safe or included enough to speak up – and you are missing out on their contributions during the meetings.
At the next team meeting, pay careful attention to the following:
You’ll notice that people code switch. While this may sometimes be needed for effective communication when collaborating, this can also mean that someone is hiding part of who they truly are, like their home language, culture, dialect, etc. It is then important to create a space where those employees can express their authentic selves at work.
Another clue is that your staff turnover rate for diverse employees are higher than the company’s staff turnover average. People who don’t feel included are more likely to be lured away.
Diversity and inclusivity starts with hiring.
Crucially, make sure your leaders are equipped with both Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Cultural Intelligence (CQ), because they should model inclusive behaviour in a tactful and mature way. Your leaders should:
Finally, recognise each individual’s contributions in the moment, not just in private. This can be done in meetings or allow peer-to-peer recognition through a social media platform such as Hi5.
When employers pay their employees, the minimum they expect in return is obedience, diligence and intellect (skills and experience).
But this makes up only 20% of the employees’ potential contribution. Wow! What an opportunity gap!
Contrary to common belief people are not obliged to contribute the remaining 80%: their initiative, creativity and passion. They don’t have to go the extra mile.
This is what you’ll typically observe in the case of disengaged workers. They’ll clock in for work, do as they are told and contribute just enough to keep their jobs, and then they’ll clock out.
When employees feel included, when they are part of the mission, they’ll feel like they belong. People who feel like they belong are more likely to go the extra mile.
Is your team tapping into its full potential, or are you missing out big time?