Diverse perspectives and thinking, equitable processes, a welcoming environment, and enabling all to be their authentic self.
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging have been integral components of workforce performance for years. But recently, our research shows that these factors have become significantly more important to employees worldwide. Our research also proves that diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging drive engagement, performance, and retention.
And it’s no longer acceptable to simply measure these components — employees are demanding that action and progress must be made at the organizational and leadership levels.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion lead to a sense of belonging for employees — which is a direct driver of engagement across the organization. Belonging is an outcome measure, it can’t be forced on employees by managers, it has to be cultivated with communication and actions from leaders. When action is taken effectively, it leads to a sense of “I feel like I can be my authentic self at work.”
Belonging often surfaces as the top driver of engagement, or a feeling from employees that “I want to work harder, stay longer, and care more.” If employees feel as if they belong, they feel more engaged. Congruently, the drivers of belonging are often very similar to the drivers of engagement. Levers such as effective communication, growth and development opportunities, recognition, and trust, for example, that impact engagement also impact belonging.
It is important to note that while the drivers are similar, they can also be mutually exclusive. It is possible for employees to feel engaged but still feel they don’t fit in or feel like they fit in but are not engaged. This leads to the importance of effective measurement to determine where the action is needed most.
Focusing on DEIB is important not only because of its impact on business outcomes, it’s also the right thing to do. Research has shown that inherently there are unconscious biases and inequitable practices at play that enter into leadership decisions within almost every organization. The fact that many biases are unintentional underscores the importance of pinpointing where inequity may be happening and addressing it so everyone reaps the benefits of an engaging and motivational employee experience.
As a business return, accelerated performance and increased retention is an outcome of belonging. Connecting the dots between the impact of belonging and engagement leads us to a higher-performing workforce that sticks around.
The WSA model for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is a validated model based on current and historical research from the WSA benchmarking database that houses data collected from millions of employees. Our most recent validation study in 2021 included over one million respondents from organizations ranging in size from 60 to 65K+ employees across more than 15 industries such as manufacturing, financial services, food services, and healthcare.
We begin with the following three-item index, that when combined becomes our overall measure of belonging:
We then collect as much data as we can around diversity facts within the organization to deep-dive into the current diversity structure of the organization.
Then we look into the top-down drivers of belonging to understand the level to which the company is creating a culture of belonging and equitable processes throughout the organization.
Next, we measure the bottom-up drivers such as:
We then cross-reference this data with fundamental drivers of engagement because our research shows that belonging and engagement are often driven by similar psychological constructs.
All of this comes together to produce the following:
There are three outcomes of a belonging survey. The first two focus on improving diversity and creating equitable processes. This happens through an intersectional analysis performed by WSA consultants to identify gaps such as groups that aren’t paid equally or given promotions at the same rate as other groups, etc. This answers the question: Are we fostering practices and processes that drive diverse teams?
The remaining outcomes focus on fostering a culture of belonging. To do this, we run a priority analysis to identify the items that drive belonging. Often times, there are similarities between this analysis and the engagement analysis. If this is the case, these items become the top priority for improving both engagement and belonging.
It’s important to note that culture of inclusion and culture are one and the same — these are not separated ideas or initiatives. Culture is the collective attitudes and behaviors shaped in wide-ranging and durable ways. Culture norms define what is encouraged, discouraged, accepted, or rejected within a group.