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  • Date posted:24/07/2023
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Diversity and Inclusion are common workplace topics, but there’s more that needs to be done. Companies have Chief DE&I Officers, but it isn’t enough. The next stage of DE&I is ensuring Belonging in the workplace.

Following a Lift Up Live session, we had further discussions with Abam Mambo, a global keynote speaker, employment lawyer, and culture expert, regarding Belonging and its place at work.

We’re honoured to be able to share her thoughts and experiences.

What is Belonging?

First and foremost, belonging is a feeling. According to psychologists like Abraham Maslow, it is one of our fundamental human needs, and this need does not disappear when we show up at work.

Because belonging motivates human behaviour, Abam believes it is the key to cultural transformation and, consequently, business growth that organisations might be overlooking. She sees belonging as the outcome to which diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives should aspire.

Diversity is being invited to the dance, Inclusion is being asked to dance, and Belonging is feeling free to dance however you like.

This belief and the available research on workplace and organisational belonging led her to create the Belonging Quotient®.

The Belonging Quotient is a philosophy and framework that helps leaders, brands, and organisations cultivate a culture of belonging. that boosts recruitment, engagement, productivity, performance, and retention.

When Abam first started working, she remembers people telling her to “keep feelings out of the workplace”. Abam doesn’t fully agree with this statement, given that most people will spend a third of their time at work. Trying to deny our feelings for such long periods can prove detrimental to our mental and emotional health.

As a feeling, Abam defines belonging as a combination of four things, being:

  • seen,
  • heard,
  • respected, and
  • valued.

Why is it important for individuals to feel like they belong?

During our conversation, Abam listed the three belonging imperatives that explained why belonging in the workplace has such a profound impact. They were:

  1. The Human Imperative — Belonging is a fundamental human need.
  2. The Timing Imperative — Aside from sleep, we spend most of our lives at work.
  3. The Success Imperative — People with a sense of belonging perform 56% better.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at each of these imperatives.

Abam’s Experiences

During our conversation, Abam recounted a personal story of how she was made to feel as if she didn’t belong.

Abam had recently moved into a new role as a Senior Director, and was one of two black people in the entire building.

A few weeks into this role, Abam discovered that a member of her team was actively denying that she was their boss behind her back.

Needless to say, this compounded Abam’s own concerns about not meeting their expectation of what a Senior Director looked like.

In her own words, her team member’s comments “almost erased everything, and that stuck with me for a very long time”.

Reducing Stress

One of the biggest benefits that Belonging has on individuals is that it dramatically reduces stress. While looking into research regarding the most challenging moments in our lives, Abam noticed that 3 work-related issues were in the top 5. These are:

  • Losing a job,
  • Changing a job, and
  • Problems at work

The remaining 2 were the loss of a child or spouse, and the end of a marriage.

Work features incredibly prominently in our lives, so it’s only natural that factors at work cause us significant stress. If we feel like we belong at work, this stress is reduced substantially.

It’s Good Business

“When you walk into that room, when you feel seen, heard, valued, and respected, you’re much more likely to stay, to bring your best, and continue doing your best”.

We know from research by Gartner and Qualtrics that people who feel a sense of belonging perform 56% better, and are 30% more productive. Consequently, employees who feel as if they belong have an 80% higher chance of staying within your company, which reduces costs of rehiring and training their replacement.

Compare this to an employee in an unwelcoming environment. They’re far more likely to leave your organisation, which means employee turnover alongside the costs of that job going vacant until you can find a replacement.

Research has found that for a 10,000-person company, this translates into $10 million in savings per year. So even ignoring the morality of creating belonging, it makes good business sense.

It Starts With Leaders

Everyone in an organisation has to work together to create a culture of belonging, but it has to start from the top. Business leaders have to speak up, and be instrumental in creating change. Sometimes, leaders (especially white male leaders) think that they don’t have the credibility to lead on diversity and inclusion issues.

When leaders are ultimately responsible for every aspect of the business, it’s up to them to start and join the conversation.

As an example, Abam said “in the event of a car recall, I can’t imagine the CEO of General Motors saying ‘I can’t talk about the car because I’m not an engineer.’ We need your leadership. We need your power. We need you in this conversation.”

Learn More About Abam & Belonging

Are you interested in learning more about belonging in the workplace?

Keep your eyes peeled for the follow-up post coming soon!

And if you want to learn more about Abam’s other insights, or want to ask her any specific questions, we strongly urge you to connect with Abam on LinkedIn and learn more on belongingiq.com!