The benefits of diversity have been recognized at scale. Among the many perks, diverse teams lead to increased creativity and increased productivity, which boosts revenue and returns. Diversity also improves a company’s reputation, making it easier to attract top-tier talent. But recognizing a need for diversity and acting on it are two different things.
By now, the tale is well-worn. X company releases dismal diversity figures, showing little improvement over last year’s stats. In response, X company hires a new diversity chief and then proceeds to operate business as usual, with little to no progress. Apple was celebrated for bringing on a diversity chief but failed to retain her — Denise Young Smith left the company in 2017 after less than a year in the role.
And Young Smith’s quick departure is indicative of the experience that diverse hires are having in workplaces across the country, whether they’re in the C-suite or a cubicle. The incompatibility results from misguided diversity and inclusion push in which diverse hires don’t actually feel included. Newly diversified workplaces can be a minefield for diverse hires, filled with microaggressions, no viable pathway to development, and no infrastructure to help employees learn the lay of the land. In turn, 40% of employees will leave a company after experiencing perceived harassment, bullying, or stereotyping. Even if work environments are unintentionally hostile, they can still send diverse hires packing.
Some experts have sent out the signal that inclusion should be every employer’s focus, not just the empty act of checking diversity off the company to-do list. But like diversity, inclusion has either been simplified to some basic, tangible measurement or tossed in the lap of a single executive, rather than woven into the DNA of the company.
The modern market can no longer afford tunnel vision on diversity metrics or empty talk of inclusion. It’s time for every hiring manager to shift their focus to belonging. Belonging is an innate human need. In our lives outside of work, we naturally gravitate toward various networks, be it the small community formed by our neighbours, a Facebook group of people who share similar interests, or an athletic league.
Belonging has tremendous benefits for us individually. A sense of belonging can affect how we view our accomplishments, how motivated we are to achieve tasks, how we persist during tough times, and how we handle stress. If belonging can do all this for us at home, imagine what it can do at work.
Employees who feel they belong are more engaged, regardless of who they are. But especially for new hires who are working amongst a workforce where they might be the “only one”, with no immediate connection to other employees based on their background, a sense of belonging can make the difference between excelling and leaving in favour of a more welcoming company.
When it comes to hiring, it no longer suffices to focus on diversity and inclusion. Company culture should be about belonging, a simple human need that everyone shares.