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October 12, 2022

Building a Culture of Belonging: Insights from Business Leaders

5 Minutes
Stephen Massey

There are many good reasons for employers to cultivate belonging at work — the mental health benefits of feeling connected to others; the gains in performance when employees feel valued and secure; a workplace free of divisive, disruptive conflicts.


And, as Levi Strauss & Co.’s Head of DEI programming, Christina Glennon, said at our briefing on belonging last week:

“If you don’t have a workplace that is intentional around belonging… then no wonder you are at risk of losing your best and brightest talent.” 

MORE KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Belonging encompasses psychological safety — the ability to take risks and be vulnerable. A workplace culture of belonging is also one of pluralism, where employees hear and understand others’ perspectives and know they are safe to respectfully disagree. Building this culture, and improving without shaming, is a skill that may take training.
  • At Walmart, belonging is an extension of the company’s founding values of fairness and access. Interim Chief Diversity Officer Kabir Kumar told our audience it’s important for companies to be clear with their employees about what they stand for — and how a focus on belonging can bring in employees who “feel left out of the DEI conversation.”
  • Our country’s polarization started outside the workplace, but the workplace is where we can help address it. The key is positive interactions with people you might not otherwise interact with. As Sheri Klein, VP of Campaign Development at the Ad Council, said, the workplace is one of the last best places where that happens.
  • For Levi Strauss & Co., belonging is modeled from the top down, which includes accountability from leaders if they get it wrong. Companies may want to make belonging part of their professional development series — it doesn’t happen by accident.


For more insights from the business community, you can watch the full briefing here.


GO DEEPER INTO WORKPLACE BELONGING

For employees, the three most important factors of belonging are: 

  1. Feeling valued for their contributions
  2. Feeling welcomed, included and connected
  3. Being comfortable sharing their opinions 


To learn more about the state of workplace belonging in America, check out the 8-minute presentation on the Belonging Barometer that Dr. Nichole Argo, Director of Research and Field Advancement at Over Zero, delivered to our audience.


WHAT COMPANIES CAN DO

Here are five key steps for companies, from our all-new Employer Guide, which provides tips and advice from business leaders to put each step into action:

  • Identify and live your corporate values. Allow employees to experience your stated values in consistent ways.
  • Create a culture of respectful communication. Feeling secure enough to speak freely is a sign of psychological safety and belonging. Invite bold conversations at work, even about non-work topics.
  • Listen to your workers and tailor your approach to their needs. Go deeper than annual surveys and your existing demographic data, and enlist employee resource groups (ERGs) and allies to develop programming.
  • Integrate belonging into company structures and policies. Belonging begins with hiring and onboarding, and should extend to employees of all seniority levels through mentorship, workstyles that play to employee strengths, and purposeful connection.
  • Measure your progress for continual improvement and accountability. Set transparent metrics that incorporate feedback from all employee groups, and make them part of individual performance objectives.


NEW RESOURCES TO ASSIST YOU

We’ve launched an all-new suite of employer resources to guide you through every step of creating a culture of belonging. Informed by the Belonging Barometer and conversations with leaders from top companies, these resources include:


These resources were developed jointly by the Health Action Alliance and Civic Alliance, in partnership with the Ad Council and Belonging Begins with Us. To join the Civic Alliance, America’s premier nonpartisan coalition of businesses united by a commitment to our democracy, email join@civicalliance.com.