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Diversity: When Everyone Is Different, We All Belong

The value of belonging is essential to all people and organisations that want to thrive. And having a diverse team, full of differences that make an organisation’s outputs stronger, can’t be achieved without a sense of belonging. This is not just about including people at the table, but amplifying everyone’s voices, appreciating everyone for their differences and clearing barriers to truly listening to each other. By producing a sense of belonging through diversity and inclusion, people can show up as their full selves at work. As a result, workplace culture and comradery, and the bottom line, truly benefits. 

Sharing differences

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Some facts about me:

  • I have dyslexia
  • I am a member of the LGBTIQ community
  • I was kicked out of school
  • I have a broad Yorkshire accent
  • I didn’t have a fixed abode for long periods of time as a teen and young adult
  • I have lived in 16 different places, 7 different countries and 2 hemispheres

Now, you might be wondering why I’ve shared these things so randomly? Well, I’ve often found that anecdotes about the struggle to fit in, or the parts of ourselves that make us feel like an outsider (our differences), can be a powerful tool to nurture a sense of belonging among a workforce. When we share our differences we’re immediately valuing their impact. And when people listen to how those differences make you feel, you, in turn, feel that your insights, commentary and perspectives matter. 

It’s so important to lay the groundwork by creating this atmosphere of compassion and acceptance. Starting off with the idea that people should be compassionate to each other creates psychological safety. Safety is crucial to belonging, diversity, inclusion, equality – the whole shebang. 

In fact, in a report by Salesforce Research, it was found that: 

  • Employees who feel their voice is heard at work are nearly five-times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.
  • Employees who say their company provides equal opportunities are nearly four times more likely to say they are proud to work for their company.
  • Employees who say they’re able to be their authentic self at work are four-times more likely to say they are empowered to perform their best work, and nearly three times more likely to say they are proud to work for their company

Celebrating differences

HR luminary Pat Wadors, says that the number one question managers should reflect on when trying to create a culture of belonging is this: 

  1.  How does your organization celebrate differences?

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Of course, there are so many ways businesses can promote diversity and belonging – diverse hiring, reduced discrimination, economic empowerment, gender equality, being an ally. And we know the impact this has on a company’s operations – innovation, conflict resolution, employee development, employee performance, business reputation. Just to name a few of each. 

But I will argue, and so will Pat, that successful belonging efforts need to celebrate differences first, and they need to include and be felt by as many employees as possible. In order to have progress, you can’t just preach to the converted. Everyone has a role to play. A lot of the barriers to inclusion and equality directly relate to underrepresented populations, whether that’s gender or racial or educational, but the solution relates to absolutely everybody. Everybody shares, everybody celebrates and it’s done in a way that’s purposeful and meaningful on an everyday level. 

Here’s how:

  • Recognize the presence of differences 
  • Acknowledge the importance of differences
  • Respect the differences 
  • Encourage the contributions from every person 
  • Value what other people offer 
  • Celebrate differences
  • Empower every member of your organisation  

Considering my dyslexia, this blog was written with the support of Izzy Dugan – the ghostwriter who will always be seen. 

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