Creating a sense of belonging

Last night’s Symposium session on “Creating a Sense of #Belonging” by Cornell University made me reflect on the equal value of “hard resources” in achieving #diversity and #inclusion.

As organisations harness the potential of a salad bowl of demographic profiles (diversity), they need to create safe spaces and provide enabling mechanisms for people to confidently celebrate who they are and be affirmed of their value in the organisation (inclusion).

But at the end of the day, the question lies not much in what has been committed but more about what has been done. And further, essentially whether what has been done can be felt, seen or experienced and measured or validated. 

It is helpful to keep in mind though that while the challenge is to translate what is on paper to a profound impact on the lived experience, #DEI is no sprint; it’s an intentional process that requires time, shared ownership and careful management of expectations and even resistance. 

On to the hard resources part. Creating a strong sense of belonging is equally about investing in tangibles. These come in the form of policies, action plans, budgets, training and development programmes, and metrics, among others. Organisations need to bind themselves to deliverables, to prove that something has been done. When something goes awry along the way, it is good modelling for winning trust when organisations demonstrate vulnerability to their people, owning up to perhaps misjudgements and bringing everyone back on board to refocus and move forward.  

Parallel to this is for accountability to be established not simply as shared but intrinsic to one’s mandate in every tier of organisational leadership. It is vital therefore for organisations to focus on middle managers who handle teams and bind them to #DEI targets. For while senior or top management may remain to be the staunchest #DEI champion, cracks and disconnects could easily be created by middle managers who fail to inspire, empower, value and bolster a shared culture among their direct reports. Sadly, in many instances, in the absence of evaluation tools or feedback mechanisms, this situation could easily go unchecked. This lack of workgroup and immediate supervisor inclusion demotivates staff, fractures team dynamics and bruises staff regard for the organisation as a whole.  

(The diagram below from offers a good point of reflection.)

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