Why Belonging goes deeper than Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity describes the breadth of range of talent – are you reaching and attracting people from many backgrounds, ethnic heritage, gender, sexual orientation, socio-demographics, parts of the world, different styles of thinking?

This matters because you need to appeal to best talent.

Inclusion means, actively including everybody in tasks, teams, conversations and developments.

This matters because it means the organisation is making the most of all of its talent, and because it means everybody has a fair basis to contribute to the organisation and fulfil their potential. It’s rewarding and motivating all round.

Belonging means being part of a group, sharing the confidence, security and allegiance that brings. Belonging is both individual and collective. It’s deeply programmed in our tribal nature. Belonging matters because it’s how we share effort and resources to get further faster. 

Diversity and inclusion describe characteristics: belonging is much more personal and emotive, it runs deeper.

Belonging is really where it all comes together: unity from our diversity, effectiveness from inclusion.

A positive sense of belonging carries directly into morale, productivity and effectiveness.

Belonging is hard-wired in our brains. Research in neuroscience and psychology shows that our need to belong is a basic human characteristic, and the pain of social exclusion – not belonging – is felt in the same receptors as physical pain. It shapes behaviour: we will be guided by our sense of belonging more than the stated rules. 

It’s how we pull together for collaboration – but it can also lead to conflict, if we define ourselves too far into separate tribes: and this is when diversity can become exclusion, or inclusion can become partisan.

Belonging is about commitment: from the employer to the employee, from employee to employer, and from employees to each other and to the business and communities they serve.

It’s how we achieve high performance and how we win.

From our Belonging Interview: Pat Wadors, LinkedIn

We interviewed Pat Wadors, when she was Chief HR Officer at LinkedIn, who led their great work in Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIBS as she puts it). 

She advocates strongly for the critical difference that belonging brings, deeper and beyond diversity and inclusion, or employer brand: 

“Diversity efforts fall short unless employees feel that they belong.” 

Yes, diversity and inclusion matter, but it’s how we help each other feel that we belong on the team, in our community, and in the organization that matters most.

Pat is now Chief Talent Officer at Service Now, and is encouraging the sense of belonging there. She has tracked the direct impact of belonging on performance, particularly in improved collaboration and pace of innovation:

“Companies need to focus on belonging moments – to create the space for someone to feel they belong. It makes it easier for people to give to others, and then they share back. That’s the power of belonging.”

 

So, ensuring a shared sense of belonging goes far beyond the traditional remit of diversity or inclusion or employer branding. It’s at the heart of high-performance and high-growth companies.

We’ll be publishing our full interview with Pat Wadors, along with interviews with other companies leading the way with a strong sense of belonging, in the next few weeks.