The Future of DEI: Cultures of Belonging in the Workplace

February 20, 2024
Subscribe to Our Newsletter     

In the contemporary landscape of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, the idea of belonging emerges as a powerful and indispensable component. Despite the emerging and persistent resistance toward DEI, the imperative for accomplishing DEI goals remains unequivocal. Most chief executive officers and their teams agree DEI is critical for the growth of their business. It’s not a matter of sustaining DEI efforts but rather of elevating them to a new paradigm centered around leadership and belonging.

The statistics underscore the urgency of this shift: a staggering 75% of employees have experienced feelings of not belonging at work. These sentiments correlate with a 77% increase in stress levels and a startling 109% rise in burnout rates. Conversely, environments fostering high degrees of belonging witness a 56% surge in job performance and a 50% reduction in turnover risk.

Belonging is the future

The idea of belonging extends beyond rhetoric; it serves as the linchpin for talent cultivation, performance enhancement, and organizational resilience. At its core, belonging necessitates trust, psychological safety, and alignment with purpose—cornerstones on which thriving workplaces are built.

The evolving dynamics of the modern corporate landscape accentuate the dichotomy between performance imperatives and fostering a sense of belonging. The risk of burnout, disengagement, and toxicity looms large in environments where hierarchical structures stifle human connection and purpose. The imperative for leaders and organizations to pivot toward a more humane, agile, and inclusive ethos can’t be overstated.

The cultivation of belonging necessitates a systematic approach anchored in concrete principles: advocacy, trust, safety, access, and opportunities. These pillars serve as the scaffolding on which inclusive cultures are built—facilitating equitable talent processes, fostering trust, embracing dissent, ensuring fairness in decision-making, and nurturing learning and growth opportunities.

What are the payoffs?

The dividends from cultivating belonging are multifaceted and profound. Equipped with resilient leadership, organizations navigate the complexities of the future with dexterity. Underpinned by a culture of belonging, employees deeply engaged in the organizational fabric drive retention, growth, and high performance. Such environments not only inspire but also attract top talent and aid organizations in the talent battleground. In addition, cultivating belonging engenders resilience, improved well-being, and a clearer sense of purpose—all of which fosters a positive cycle of trust and engagement.

RHR International believes the future of DEI lies in a profound transformation toward cultivating cultures of belonging within organizational ecosystems. It’s a journey marked by systemic change, pragmatic interventions, and unwavering commitment—one in which we acknowledge, quite simply, that better humans make better leaders and that belonging and performance go hand in hand.

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.