Workplace diversity has been hailed as a key progressive development in the modern working environment, not least due to it being anti-discrimination by nature. But diversity and inclusion are not without their problems, and for some, time is finally up for it. For Balance and Belonging, however, it has arrived.
It might seem shocking to turn our backs on such important ideals. At its core, diversity and inclusion stipulates that no-one should be excluded from work opportunities because of their ethnicity, gender, age, sexuality or any other category of being.
Yet, despite its positive purpose, statistics show that the D&I model is not quite hitting the target. In fact, according to research carried out in 2018 by the US-based Atlassian software company, and published in their State of Diversity Survey, participation in D&I initiatives had halved, while only 40% of workers believed the inclusion rate of under-represented groups in their company needed to improve. What is more, less than 30% of those under-represented groups had representation, retention or a sense of belonging.
The reasons for the flatlining of initiatives? Well, that is attributed firstly to ‘Diversity Fatigue’, with committed efforts draining individuals over protracted periods of time and often resulting in no tangible progress. And secondly, the sheer size of the issue means that many advocates feel overwhelmed by the task of promoting a change.
Little surprise then that many experts have concluded that a new focus is needed: Balance And Belonging.
What Is Balance & Belonging?
It might not seem obvious that elements like developing balance in the workplace and a sense of belonging amongst employees can be an adequate replacement for building diversity.
But there are very real benefits that simply having a diverse workplace cannot, not least building camaraderie and providing employees with a sense of purpose. Employees feel connected with co-workers, and when their work has a clear meaning, they feel part of the workplace because their work has meaning.
And according to social psychologist Dr. Abraham Maslow, ‘belonging’ is the third most significant element in his Hierarchy of Needs that people need to achieve satisfaction and fulfilment, behind ‘self-actualisation’ and ‘esteem’.
And according to research carried out by US career and life coaching platform BetterUp, companies can reap real bottom-line benefits when their employees feel a sense of belonging. In fact, high belonging rates were linked to job performance increases of 56%, a 50% drop in turnover risk and a 75% reduction in sick days.
3 Ways To Build Balance And Belonging
- Team Not Company Focus
- Promote A Sense Of Belonging
- Update Policies
One of the chief issues with diversity and inclusion initiatives is that efforts are focused on ticking the necessary boxes to benefit corporate reputation. This means that although diversity can be spread across different departments, it is often found in lower-ranking positions.
But when focus is firmly placed on boosting teams to maximise performance, a company can gain a genuine competitive edge. When the right recruits are brought in, they can make a real impact which in turn will boost their own sense of value to the team.
How can you make under-represented groups feel they are wanted and valued? Recruiting them onto the team is only one step; a second is engaging with them and ensuring they have the skills needed to make the impact they want to make.
We already know how vital employee engagement is, but corporate engagement is equally so. Companies need to create a workplace where team colleagues can speak openly, sharing knowledge and experience, and brainstorming proposed solutions to problems. Outside the team, foster informal 1-to-1 chats about progress and improvements.
Create clear policy documents and design interviews aimed at accomplishing balance in teams as well as addressing the diversity challenge. These should ensure that, when it comes to considering new candidates, values are aligned and culture is a good fit. They should also provide avenues through which under-represented groups can grow within the organisation.
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