As humans, we have a deep need for connection and belonging. Dating back to Maslow’s work in 1942, we know that only physiological needs (water, food, shelter) and safety needs (security) are more important than connection and belonging. Once we feel safe physically and physiologically, we next seek belonging and connection from others. As a tribal species, being with others is paramount. We cannot survive on our own.
So, what does this have to do with diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
We spend a lot of our time at work. Our workplace has to fulfill those same needs. First, we have to have our basic needs met (breaks, work conditions, access to water/food) and then our safety needs (safe work setting). Next, we seek to belong with the work tribe. We want to connect with who we spend 40-60+ hours a week with.
In fact, Harvard Business Review recently shared a study where they found that “40% of people say they feel isolated at work and the result has been lower organizational commitment and engagement. US businesses spend nearly $8 billion dollars each year on diversity and inclusion trainings that miss the mark because they neglect our need to feel included.”
Being included is being human. Even for very introverted people, they want to feel seen, heard, and belong. Despite our best efforts on diversity training, the trainings often miss the mark because they are one and done “check the box” activities that do not feel genuine to people. Often, they are optional and trainers like myself are “singing to the choir,” not the people that really need to be in the room. To solve for this problem, I recommend being very intentional with the why for the training, have a road map of activities tied to that why, and set the expectation that everyone will participate in this.
Those that are in the majority group are most important to be included. As they are often included every day because they hold more positions of power, they need to feel a part of this as well. The majority group is typically made of white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, men. If you identify with all of these five layers of privilege, you are not the problem. You are a huge part of the solution. You can leverage your privilege to help others. If you do not identify with any one of these markers of privilege, you are likely underrepresented. And, if you identify with more than one of these markers, you likely experience intersectionality and experience more subtle signals that you do not belong.
Everyone can be an ally for those that are underrepresented. What to be an ally for those that are underrepresented? Show up to a space you normally would not enter because people look or feel different, speak up when you see somebody do something unhelpful, get educated on your biases (we are all biased) and practice tools to be more inclusive.
Belonging is not fluffy, it drives business results
HBR also shares, “belonging is good for business. High belonging is associated with a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days. For a 10,000-person company this would result in an annual savings of more than $52M.”
These are some staggering business numbers. Who does not want more to add to their bottom line or lower turnover and sick time? Yet, HBR and others have been reporting on this for decades and results do not match up. Why? Diversity and inclusion work is hard. It takes commitment long-term and we like short-term business results. I challenge you to commit to the long game that diversity training requires. Your team will be better and so will you.
Being an ally requires bravery and courage and you do not have to do it alone
Struggling with where to start your inclusive leadership journey? We have ideas. Join me on Lead Like an Ally to get your free 7-day preview of our online program, watch our 2-minute video, and listen to our podcast.
Still have questions? Message me at Julie@NextPivotPoint.com. I respond personally to every message I receive.