Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB): A 2023 Overview
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, or DEIB, is something that we’ll be seeing more and more of in the near future. How exactly did we get to DEIB from D&I? Why is it so important? And how can you foster DEIB in your organization? Let’s find out!
What is diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging?
The shift from DEI to DEIB is one of the 11 HR trends we identified for 2022 and beyond. In said article, we describe pretty accurately what diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is and how we got there:
“The field of diversity and inclusion has never evolved more rapidly than in the past two years. We have learned that the more traditional ‘diversity and inclusion’ (or D&I) is not enough in a society that is inherently biased. This has helped the field move towards ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion’ (or DEI).
But being diverse, equitable, and inclusive is not enough to create a work environment that helps people get the best out of themselves. It will, therefore, not be fit for the new era of work. Even a workplace that has every intention of being DEI sometimes fails to retain employees from underrepresented groups because they don’t feel like they belong.
Belonging at work adds to the DEI equation. If we put our philosophical hat on for a second, we could say that, on the one hand, it is about “longing to be”. On the other hand, it is about “being for long”, representing an affective and a temporal dimension. Belonging in the workplace brings a shift towards psychological safety and real inclusion.
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DEIB represents being a long-term, integral part of the organization. This is what organizations and HR teams are increasingly realizing.”
Now, for the more data-minded readers amongst you, let’s throw in some data about belonging in the workplace, shall we?
- It positively affects retention. 40% of respondents with a strong sense of belonging rarely think about looking for a job elsewhere, versus 5% of respondents with a low sense of belonging.
- It boosts productivity. 45% of respondents with a strong sense of belonging say they are their most productive self at work. Only 6% of those with a low sense of belonging say that.
- It’s the best kind of employer branding. 51% of respondents with a strong sense of belonging would recommend their company as a great place to work, versus 4% of those with a low sense of belonging.
What’s the difference between inclusion and belonging?
In a nutshell, and put simply, inclusion involves efforts and behaviors that can be fostered by the organization or actually by the people in it. Belonging is something that employees themselves feel and results from your inclusion efforts. Let us explain.
An inclusive work environment is an environment in which people feel safe. They don’t have to be afraid to show their real personality, their talents, and aspirations, but also their insecurities, doubts, and worries. It’s a place where everybody can bring their whole self to work and freely express their opinion.
To create this kind of environment, everybody in the organization has their part to play. It’s up to the leadership and management in the company to set the right examples, of course. Building an inclusive environment involves fair and transparent employee policies, as well as inclusive hiring and compensation practices.
However, each employee also actively contributes to this inclusive workplace. Think, for instance, of behaviors like:
- broadening one’s understanding of unconscious biases,
- actively listening to what one’s colleagues have to say,
- and amplifying the voices of others.
In an ideal scenario, a sense of belonging is the outcome of these efforts and behaviors. Belonging means that employees feel accepted as members of a group and connected with the company.
A sense of belonging is a basic human need, also defined in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
Belonging also has to do with someone’s intrinsic motivation; an internal motivation that they experience because they feel included and valued. They enjoy the work they do and find it valuable and interesting, and it gives them fulfillment.
A sense of belonging is fostered by a shared sense of purpose and connection. So if you have people in your organization that share the same values (and intrinsic motivation), this will positively impact their sense of belonging. We’ll zoom in on ways to do this in the section below.
Inclusion and belonging are closely connected. In essence, if your organization isn’t inclusive, it will be very difficult for people to feel that they belong regardless of your potentially shared values and their own intrinsic motivation.
How to foster DEIB
Let’s have a look at seven ways to help you do everything you can do on the organizational side to foster DEIB and make people feel like they belong. The rest, as we said, lies with them, their values, and intrinsic motivation.
1. DEI is the base to build on
This one is pretty straightforward. In a work environment that isn’t diverse, inclusive, and equitable, it will be challenging – not to say impossible – for people to feel that they belong.
Lorraine Vargas-Townsend, Chief People Officer at ESO, had something interesting to say about this in a podcast interview we had with her:
“I think looking at diversity is just a snapshot. Start looking at inclusion and belonging, and the way everyone in the company can prosper and thrive, and you start to look at how you pay all different kinds of people at every level.
What is the mix of people that you have at every different leadership level? Are all of the voices in the room equally heard and equally celebrated? And can every single person contribute their own unique gift in a way that feels safe? If so, then you know that you have inclusion and that you have belonging, and that actually leads to real diversity that’s sustainable and that makes a difference in your company’s performance.”
2. Focus on purpose
Now more than ever, people are looking for a purpose in what they do. In the workplace, this means that they want to resonate with the mission (i.e., the ‘what’ and the ‘how’) and vision (i.e., the ‘why’) of the organization they work for – or are looking to work for.
Let’s look at a couple of (well-known) examples.
Offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.
To create a better everyday life for the many people.
We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives, and ultimately, the world.
So, mission and vision it is, but what does this mean in practice? First of all, it’s time to take a look at your organization’s own mission and vision. How are they formulated? Do they still reflect the core of what your company is about? Or is it time to finetune them here and there?
If, by the way, they are currently non-existent, then it might be time to start working on them…
Secondly, your mission and vision need to be visible. You want it to become virtually impossible for candidates not to notice your company’s purpose.
Here’s a simple yet effective example of this: Include your mission and/or vision in your organization’s email signature. By doing so, every email a candidate receives from a recruiter, hiring manager, or any other person in the company subtly shows the message.
3. Accept that your company isn’t for everybody
Not everybody can work in your organization, and that’s a good thing. We talked about exactly this in a podcast interview with Anna Buber-Farovich, the Chief People Officer of Australian Fintech company Zip.
Here’s what Anna had to say about your company not being for everybody and that being totally fine:
“We are quite transparent around what is possible. During our interview process, we hire against the why but also against how and then people see that our values are critically important for us. We inspire them to dream big with us.
In a war for talent, when it comes to the tech space here in Australia, you won’t be able to win on compensation or free breakfast. You can only win by creating meaningful opportunities for people to really have an impact and thrive to be the best.
And yes, we are also not for everyone. People who would like to have a more comfortable and, I would say, potentially more balanced work-life with the classic nine to five with a gym at the office will definitely not choose us as their employer of choice. But for people who are here to build innovative products and really make a difference in the world and creating a debt-free society that allows them to responsibly lend, but also repay and to learn how to be financially responsible, I definitely think that we are.”
Anna’s example shows us a couple of things:
- How to make sure your mission and vision are visible (by hiring against your why and how)
- Realize that your mission won’t be for everyone. However, for people who do resonate with your purpose, it will contribute to creating a sense of belonging.
4. Make it a conscious effort
Belonging won’t just happen, and this becomes even more challenging when your organization is growing rapidly. You need to be intentional about it. This can translate into many different things, but here are a few examples:
- For team managers, make sure everyone is being heard. If, for instance, you have people in your team who don’t easily speak up during meetings or group discussions, give them a friendly nudge. That doesn’t mean you put them on the spot. See if you can share the meeting agenda with them beforehand and give them the chance to prepare what they want to say.
- When you receive feedback, take action on it. This can also mean to say that this is not something you will (be able to) address right now. Radio silence will make people feel unheard, unappreciated, or simply ignored. This is not great for their sense of belonging…
- Another way to foster belonging is by offering people in your organization the opportunity to find their tribe within the tribe; an affinity group or employee resource group (ERG). These groups enable people to come together and build connections based on shared characteristics or interests.
5. Lead by example
Leadership has, as always, its (big) part to play. When it comes to building an environment that’s diverse, inclusive, and equitable, a place where people feel they belong, trust is a vital element.
But how do you build trust? In a podcast interview with us, David Hanrahan, the Chief People Officer at Eventbrite, had an interesting perspective on how to go about building trust:
“One thing that we have talked about in our leadership training is to start with empathy to build trust. So when I talked earlier about the BriteLand experience, it’s about being in a compassionate culture wrapped around an important mission. And so empathy and compassion is different than being nice, right? It’s different from being kind.
But a compassionate culture is one that also probably has vulnerability. So, if your leadership team is routinely vulnerable, and they talk about what their own hopes and fears are, what are the struggles that they’re dealing with in their life, that sort of shows you what it means to be a human.
Your leader is humanizing the workplace and is showing up as a human. As an employee and fellow human being, I’m then gonna start to trust you a little bit more because, okay, you’re a human, you’re a good person. And then, therefore, I’m going to give you a little bit more of myself. And so vulnerability in that sense, at least for us, is an important input to getting to trust.”
6. Truly include your gig workers
In today’s work environment, most companies have a workforce made up of full-time employees, freelancers, contractors, and other types of contingent workers.
Unfortunately, a lot of organizations treat their contingent workers differently than their ‘traditional’ employees. A few examples of what this can look like are:
- Not paying their contingent workers on time
- Failing to share all the information with them even if they need it in order to do their job properly
- Not including their contingent workers in team or company events
While it’s (perhaps?) understandable that organizations don’t always know exactly how to treat their gig workers from an HR perspective, this is not an excuse for any of the above.
It’s difficult to be a truly inclusive company if you’re not creating an environment where every type of worker, regardless of the duration of their contract, is ‘longing to be.’
This topic justifies an article in itself, but what it comes down to is: treat your gig workers as you treat your employees. Keep them in mind when working on your DEIB initiatives!
7. Be accountable
Whoever is ‘in charge’ of your organization’s DEIB efforts – most likely HR and the company’s leadership – should be accountable for its progress, or lack thereof.
Tracking your progress can take place in different ways; in a staff meeting, a company-wide survey, or any other method you see fit. Make sure you encourage input from all team members (including gig workers!).
Their feedback will allow you to take a step back and see the successes. You’ll also be able to identify possible areas of improvement that your business should look into.
On a final note
At the start of this article, we mentioned that the shift from DEI to DEIB is one of the HR trends we identified for 2022 and beyond. It is, however, not a trend in the sense that it is fashionable now and will soon fizzle out. Quite the contrary, we believe that DEIB is a force that will shape the world of work going forward. That’s why it’s essential to start adapting your efforts now.