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Encouraging Inclusive Conversations and the Power of Belonging

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Everyone in life is looking for a sense of belonging, a place where they fit in, be it at work or home, through religion, social circles or sport. People are driven by the need to connect with the world around them and form strong interpersonal bonds.

Never has this been more evident than during the COVID pandemic. Like many, I have taken advantage of the vast online resources now available and decided to explore diversity, inclusion and belonging and what it means to create an environment where every person feels free to bring their full selves to work.

Diversity, inclusion and belonging in the workplace

As the popular quote by Vern Myers goes, 'diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.'

Diversity is a fact and everything that makes you unique. For example; I am a son, I am a brother, I am Irish, I am left-handed.

It is all the things that we bring with us into the room, things that make us who we are. These are indisputable facts.

Inclusion is the act of getting someone involved, welcoming and acknowledging others regardless of their differences. In a work context, an inclusive workplace is a welcoming workplace. When employees feel a sense of inclusion and belonging they are at their happiest and will do their best work.

An inclusive workplace ensures those who work there feel like they belong. To create workplaces like this we need to hire for culture add, not the culture fit and actively seek out those who are different to us. That is inclusion.

Inclusive recruiting and retaining the right talent

We spend a lot of time focusing on recruiting and retaining the right talent. These are two separate entities but are influenced by a lot of the same factors.

A recruited employee who doesn't see themselves growing, progressing, surviving and thriving in the company are less likely to stay.

There is a lot of money spent on recruiting externally, looking for culture add, but if there is no focus on internal culture then that only deals with only one side of the coin.

So, the best way to retain your talent is to encourage high engagement through an authentic sense of belonging. If an employee has a high, even moderate sense, that they matter and feel valued, then data shows that their performance increases by 56%.

Their intent to stay with the company also increases by 50%. So, turnover (and the costs associated) reduce and performance increases all thanks to belonging.

Listening to your employees

Actively listening can be time-consuming but it's essential if you want to best serve your employees, clients and customers.

To encourage active listening and effective communication remove devices from meetings and genuinely try to understand the other person's point of view. Once you do, then you can process what the person is saying and how you interpret it.

A good tip is to actively repeat back what you have heard. 'This is what you have said, this is what I have understood, this is what I have done.'

People want to be heard and to be comfortable enough to share their ideas. If you really listen, you assimilate that information, you get smarter and that person gets heard.

You understand your people better and if there is a problem, you'll have the opportunity to fix it.

Being heard is one of the main factors of feeling like you belong and are appreciated. You don't have to agree, but if you're open to the viewpoint that's all that matters. This fosters an environment that encourages people to speak up and in time builds a better and more inclusive organisation.

Who needs to step up?

Diversity, inclusion and belonging are not the responsibility of HR, recruitment or management. It is the responsibility of the entire company.

Diversity and inclusion shouldn't be something that's only talked about in articles and training rooms. It should be felt in the hallway or your daily video meetings and in how we treat one another.

It is not a once size fits all, what it is in Japan will be different from what it is in America or Ireland. It is getting on the journey that is important and sharing what you learn so we can all get better.

We've made great strides in Cpl, our leadership team, for example, is now almost equally split male and female, our internal LGBTQ+ network is very active and we have really strong relationships with disability groups - but there are other areas we can and will improve on.

Roles models for DIBs should be diverse, international, from all areas of the organisation and from all areas be it a mom, a dad, LGBTQ, an introvert.

It's everyone's imperative to be inclusive and roles models can really help to shape that by sharing what works and what doesn't.

Leaders and role models must be vulnerable and brave, not only to say why this works and is important to me but also why this didn't and here is the lesson that I learned from it.

If you take one learning from this article, ask your employees regularly 'how are you today?' and stop to listen. If you care enough to ask the question, care enough to wait for the answer.

It is in those moments of sharing and at all levels that you can find the beauty of belonging and improve your relationships and organisation for the better.

If you would like to find more about incorporating a strong diversity and inclusion policy within your organisation please get in touch, we'd be delighted to advise.