Belonging is increasingly being added to the workplace lexicon alongside diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defined belonging as the feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group or place.
Social Scientist, Roy Baumeister and Duke University Professor of Psychology, Mark Leary posit that ‘belongingness’ is such a fundamental human motivation that we suffer severe consequences of not belonging. They claim that a person experiences these consequences within all of their social circles, including within their family, friends, co-workers, religious community, and in other aspects of his or her life. Belonging is an inherent desire in humans as we seek to be a part of something greater than ourselves.
Culture Amp, the global workplace resource, undertook a study on how to take diversity and inclusion to the next level in the workplace with a focus on belonging. They surveyed over 7,000 individuals from 35 organizations, mainly in the tech sector, polling them on topics like fairness, voice, opportunities, purpose, and decision making. What they learned is that a person’s workplace commitment, motivation, and pride are directly tied to a sense of belonging. It is important to note that the study showed that all three concepts, belonging, diversity, and inclusion, are “inextricably linked and need to coexist to create the best employee experience possible.”
Belonging can also be tied to bottom-line financial benefits within organizations. In an April article in Forbes, Jonathan H. Westover, Ph.D. writes that “high belonging was linked to a whopping 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 annual savings of more than $52 million.”
This September ViacomCBS held its annual Inclusion Week under the theme “Be You, Belong.” More than 20,000 of the company’s employees across the globe registered to participate in some 80 sessions. The keynote was offered by Dr. Robin DiAngelo, author of “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.” There were conversations between Ford Foundation president, Darren Walker and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund head, Sherrilyn Ifill about social justice in the U.S. Other speakers included Time’s Up CEO, Tina Tchen, Professor Ibram X. Kendi, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, LL Cool J, plus CBS chief, George Cheeks. CEO, Bob Bakish engaged in a talk with Tyler Perry, and also spoke at another session during the week.
Jason T. Williams, senior vice president, Global Inclusion Strategy at ViacomCBS, Office of Global Inclusion, sees belonging as a natural evolution within companies. “Before, it may have been about checking a box, or looking at who is in the room, or who is in the pipeline,” he says. “Belonging is never having to hide your true self. It is being able to speak with authenticity and earnestness about what it means to have an organization that reflects D&I.”
“Inclusion Week was first held by ViacomCBS in the UK three years ago,” said Williams, and in 2019 it was also held in the U.S. This year the global recognition was held virtually due to the pandemic. “The week was about taking this beyond what we think of as diversity and inclusion and giving everyone in the organization a toolkit to help them and their fellow employees have a sense of belonging.”
Here are some tips to develop a sense of ‘belonging’ in your company.