Essential in all aspects of our lives, belonging is a necessary foundation for building a productive and happy life. Especially in the workplace, where an increasing diverse workforce brings inclusion opportunities, many employees struggle with belonging, particularly those who bring broader diversity to their workplace than previously experienced. As an essential human need that drives motivation, employers need to create an environment that supports belonging.
Oswald’s Women’s Leadership Council took on this topic by bringing together leaders in Northeast Ohio who had overcome belonging challenges. Moderated by Roxanne Elliot, Certified Leadership Master, Speaker & Author, the discussion joined diverse thoughts and suggestions surrounding resolutions to this challenge.
The panel consisted of:
- Tim Downing, Chief Diversity Officer, Ulmer & Berne
- Camilla Negret, PwC Office of Diversity
- Tari Rivera, Founder and President Regency Construction, of one of NE Ohio’s Female Business Enterprise (FBE)
Other active participants in the audience included many women of color and men. While struggles were present, stories told focused on tools used to achieve belonging and positive outcomes.
Some key points always include:
- Know yourself, be true to yourself and belong to you first.
- Belonging is showing up being unapologetically who you are, always.
- Leaders need to understand what it takes to create belonging for their employees, is it invitations to certain meetings, a title, a deeper personal connection?
- Belonging is each person’s responsibility – what can you do to belong, what can you do for others?
- When you are feeling you do not belong, reach out to others, they may feel the same way and you can support each other.
- Work to increase awareness in your workplace about what belonging means and the importance of inclusion, speak up when others appear to be unaware.
- Be intentional, aware and unafraid to advocate to lift others up.
- Create your own personal board of directors to help guide and support you in this mission.
- Share your experiences and lead by being vulnerable to increase your chances of having a genuine connection, creating belonging for yourself and others.
- Give yourself and others the permission to lower walls, learn and share needs or concerns.
- Embrace relentless curiosity by asking questions to understand others; curiosity is the opposite of judgement.
- With five generations solidly in the workplace, appreciate the value of generational intelligence.
None of us will always feel in all moments that we belong and will belong forever, but owning your belonging, listening for self-doubt and knowing who you are and your purpose will empower us all to reach belonging.