Culture Hack

Group of trendy Black adults hanging out on a fire escape

The Business of Belonging

Ideas and actions around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion have continued to evolve nearly two years after widespread civil unrest and protest transitioned from the streets to the boardroom. This year, attention has shifted to the “I” in DE&I, with inclusion taking center stage as companies look to expand what is encompassed in their efforts along with the scope of their impact. 

At the same time, inclusion is evolving to make way for the latest buzz idea…BELONGING. Belonging challenges companies to think in terms of “part of” vs. “apart from,” creating space for each employee to know themselves so they can be accepted and included as themselves.     

It’s an obvious area for companies to focus on, considering 40% of people say they feel isolated at work (exacerbated by the current state of work from home). When coupled with research that shows that increasing belonging (or reducing isolation) leads to a 56% increase in job performance and a 50% reduction in turnover, it’s easy to see why belonging is not only good for people, it’s good for business too. 

But, the corporatization of belonging is problematic at best, diluting and distracting from what it truly means to create a culture of belonging. A one-size-fits-all approach sits at the heart of many inclusion/belonging efforts, inherently forcing people into siloes of self-understanding, and rarely providing clear and appropriate paths back to acceptance and relationship as they are encouraged to become “part of”. Employees are often left with increased awareness of their need for connection, but few means of achieving. How do we get to a place where isolation isn’t an unintended consequence of belonging?

Myia Thompkins