Most firm leaders want their team members to feel happy when they come to work each day. After all, happy employees are more productive, less likely to leave the firm, easier to work with and have better relationships with clients.
One of the ways to support employee happiness is to help them feel like they belong.
What is belonging?
Belonging is sensing that you are a valued member of a community. If inclusion is being invited to a party, belonging is feeling free to do your own dance and invite others to join you. According to Deloitte’s 2020 Global Human Capital Trends survey, 79% of respondents said fostering a sense of belonging in the workplace is important or very important to their organization’s success.
A sense of belonging can drive positive results for your firm, but it’s not as simple as making an effort to hire for diversity and promoting team-building in your firm. In fact, poorly designed diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives can actually leave certain people feeling overlooked or, worse, wondering if they were a token hire.
Creating a sense of belonging
With all of this in mind, here are three ways you can create a sense of belonging in your firm.
1. Approach diverse hiring carefully
It’s great that more firms are making an effort to hire more women, people of color, and people from diverse backgrounds. But diversity can’t be a short-term goal. It has to include proactive inclusion of diversity in the firm’s values, vision and strategic plan.
For example, say your firm is looking to hire a new staff accountant. A short-sighted plan for diversity might propel you to simply try to hire a person of color. But then that employee comes on board to a team where nobody else looks like them and feels like they were a token hire.
If diverse employees don’t feel like they’re part of the company culture, your good intentions could backfire. Focus on transforming your culture by creating an allyship committee or working with a diversity consultant first.
2. Improve your communication
When you’re working with a cultural divide, words matter. One easy way to bridge the communication gap is to think about how you ask the other person whether they understand what you’re saying.
Asking someone, “Do you understand?” might seem like an obvious way to confirm comprehension. However, a “yes” could mean that they understand the words you’re saying (but not your real meaning). It could also imply that it’s the other person’s fault if they don’t understand.
A better way to ask the question is to say, “Does that make sense?” Phrasing your question this way implies that it’s the speaker’s responsibility to explain better if the listener doesn’t understand. The listener is more likely to ask questions if they need further clarification.
3. Seek to understand
During a recent discussion on diversity, equity and inclusion, I heard an interesting story. A woman was responsible for training a new coworker from a different culture. Whenever she tried to explain something, her coworker would interrupt. Finally, she asked her coworker why she kept interrupting. As it turns out, in the coworker’s culture, interrupting to ask questions is a way to show interest.
That story is an excellent reminder of how cultural factors can influence the way people interact with each other. There’s no one “right” way to do things, and in a diverse workplace, people need to be open-minded, flexible and seek to understand others before getting frustrated.
Make an effort to understand your own implicit bias (we all have them to some extent!) and how they affect your interactions with others. This may be easier said than done, but making a conscious effort can go a long way toward helping other people feel a sense of belonging.
Creating a culture of belonging is ongoing — not a one-time event. So make an effort to value others and honor their unique contributions to your firm. This will help people feel like they belong in your firm and have a place there for years to come.
Do you need help with your firm’s hiring and talent strategy?
Boomer Talent Consulting can help you get clarity on your firm’s most critical talent objectives and create a go-forward strategy suited to your firm’s unique needs. Schedule a discovery call today to begin implementing an organizational structure that is positioned and accelerating into the future.
Katelynn Kolterman, Project Coordinator for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Katelynn is excited to work with a company that prioritizes allyship, cultural awareness and inclusion. Her primary focus is supporting Boomer Consulting’s Project Managers and handling events at the Accounting Innovation Center.