Successful DI&B Programs need Leadership Engagement

September 6, 2023
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Who doesn’t like to feel that they belong? Turns out, that feeling of belonging is key to the success of your diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DI&B) efforts. So, how do you cultivate it in a workplace setting? RHR International Senior Partner Orla Leonard and Senior Partner Cristina Jimenez offer insights into how you can use identity, empowerment, and trust to give your teams the benefit of belonging.

It’s a radically different professional world: concepts such as transparency, authenticity, and identity sharing are taking center stage in building successful workplace cultures. You’ve probably already made significant changes in your organization related to diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Are you feeling good about it, or is something still missing?

No doubt, diverse teams are impactful:

  • 59% report an increase in creativity, innovation, and openness
  • 87% report making better decisions

But it’s likely company leadership needs to do more. Entering a space isn’t the same as feeling welcome there, and creating a team with diverse members doesn’t automatically mean everyone’s comfortable—what’s important is a sense of belonging. Belonging is developed through a work environment in which everyone can safely present ideas, challenge them, and contribute to decisions springing from ideas without repercussion or retaliation. Belonging is key, and to create this sense among team members, DI&B programs should include three important characteristics of the new office culture:

“Entering a space isn’t the same as feeling welcome there.”

1) Identity: What’s our common purpose?

For a team to have a strong sense of identity, they need a shared purpose, mutual goals, and understandable targets. Each team member also needs to understand their individual role and how they contribute to team success. Leaders should make time to discuss with team members their aptitude, skills, and abilities so they can understand what members bring to the team and consider them for career development opportunities.

2) Empowerment: Do we all have it?

Empowerment drives belonging by profoundly influencing the dynamics between team members. It dictates who exerts influence in meetings and decision-making, and it requires leaders to ensure that the opportunities to speak, lead, and make decisions are shared across the team.

3) Trust: Is it safe?

Diverse teams should have trust in abundance—it’s what allows team members to bring their entire selves to work, voice their wants and needs, and feel confident they won’t be negatively impacted by speaking about mistakes and concerns. Trust also allows leaders to have credibility with the team and members to accept direction from one another. Cultivate this characteristic, especially because it’s crucial to everything you want to accomplish.

“Diverse teams should have trust in abundance.”

Support diversity, equality, and inclusion via identity, empowerment, and trust.

Diversity, equality, and inclusion are critically important in today’s workplace, but leaders can forget that it’s not sufficient just to tick the DI&B box. By creating an environment where employees operate with a clear identity within an equitable power structure and through mutual trust, belonging can manifest itself in amazing ways.

We offer experience and expertise.

After more than 75 years, RHR International remains a pioneer in leadership development and the premier boutique firm in this field. Today, RHR is big enough to bring you the experience, resources, and data-rich products you need and small enough to devote ourselves to your leadership endeavors.

We welcome your interest and look forward to helping you develop your leadership strategy.

Orla Leonard is a senior partner in RHR International’s London office and the head of the Team Effectiveness practice. She is known as an energetic, creative, and solutions-focused leader as well as a highly effective executive coach.
Cristina Jimenez is a talent, leadership, and culture expert with 20 years of industry experience. She is a senior partner and the global head of RHR International’s Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging practice and has been instrumental in the firm’s own cultural transformation.