Our healthcare system must work hard to increase diversity within their workforce and create an inclusive environment. Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) strategies are necessary for health systems to provide the best care possible to an evolving population.
A sense of Belonging is equally as important. Just because an employee is working in an organization, it doesn’t necessarily mean they feel they belong there.
The feeling of belonging is a fundamental human need. It is an extremely powerful force. Without it, your D&I strategy could fail.
The term Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DI&B) was created by Pat Wadors. She said, “D&I may capture your head, but belonging captures your heart.”
“When someone is different and insecure and they get to be authentic and are welcomed in a team, we can unlock their super powers and bring out the best—not only in that person, but the team and, therefore, the product, the service, the company, the world,” says Wadors.
Covering or masking is when someone tries to fit in with the dominant culture and downplay who they really are. Research from a Deloitte study of more than 3,000 people found that 61% of people cover at work, even more so if they are Black (79%) or LGBTQ+ (83%).
Neuroscience researchers have found that exclusion lights up the same regions of the brain as physical pain. “Being excluded is painful because it threatens fundamental human needs, such as belonging and self-esteem,” says Dr. Kipling Williams of Purdue University.
When someone feels excluded over a long period of time, and every day they have to return to an environment where they feel like they do not belong, they’ll end up leaving.
Dr. Christine Cox of New York University’s Langone School of Medicine has identified six areas that are enhanced by inclusion and worsened by exclusion: intelligent thought and reasoning, self-care and self-improvement, prosocial behavior, self-regulation, a sense of purpose, and well-being. Each of these items represents real financial gains or losses for teams and organizations.
According to Wadors, in order to create a culture of belonging, teams and managers should reflect on three questions:
- How does your organization celebrate differences?
- As an employee, do you feel safe if you make a mistake?
- Does someone at work care about you?
A Forbes article mentions, another way that a sense of belonging can be nurtured is by creating a stronger sense of community. A sense of community can be nurtured by regular interactions and collaboration. We tend to stereotype people less and are less fearful of difference when we are more familiar with them or spend more time with them.
But most importantly, there must be trust. Employees should have trust in the company’s mission, in the leadership’s vision and in their goals. Once every employee feels that they belong in the organization, this will lead to a more positive and inclusive workplace.