Corporate work on diversity, inclusion, and belonging has long lived under a shadow of avoidance, but this year’s renewed focus on racial justice has spawned a “visceral awakening” in the business world, LinkedIn Vice President of Global Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Rosanna Durruthy said at Glint’s recent Reimagine DIBs virtual event.

There’s “a leaning-in that we’ve seen from companies to understand that this isn’t something that’s happening out in the outer world.” she said. “This is something that’s happening in our world. We’re all a part of this challenging moment, and we all play an important role in this work.”

Rosanna spoke with Glint Head of People Science Consulting for North America Matt Roddan on how people leaders can help their organizations create a diverse and inclusive environment, one in which every employee feels a sense of belonging.

One of Rosanna’s top tips: Embrace this moment as a learning opportunity—but recognize that growth usually comes with an element of discomfort.

“Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is an important part of leading this work on diversity,” she said. “There are going to be moments in our interactions with others where we will make a mistake… and as leaders, the best thing we can possibly do is, in recognizing that the mistake has been made, to go back and own that.”

Understand how belonging happens

Employees are increasingly indicating that their happiness at work depends on whether they feel a sense of belonging at their organization, according to a recent Glint data insights report. Rosanna said people leaders can strengthen their organization’s ability to foster belonging by helping everyone understand that it’s a collaborative and ongoing act.

“Belonging isn’t necessarily something that happens as a result of one event,” she said. “It’s a co-created experience. You can’t give belonging to yourself. It’s created through interactions with others.” 

Citing the Coqual study Being Black in Corporate America, an Intersectional Exploration, Rosanna said employees tend to feel a sense of belonging at work as a result of:

  • Establishing and maintaining personal connections with co-workers
  • Feeling heard, seen, valued, and appreciated
  • Being recognized and celebrated as an individual

More than anything, these experiences come from an ongoing, organization-wide practice, but there are some things people leaders can do to help everyone feel like they belong. 

Managers are the key to belonging

While everyone in an organization is responsible for the work that goes into diversity, inclusion, and belonging, Rosanna said, managers in particular can have a big impact on belonging. 

A skilled manager will “bring this curiosity to learn about individuals, and not to categorize people by group, or to make assumptions about any individual’s experiences,” she said.

Many managers may take a humane approach to leading others intuitively, but most will benefit from coaching from people leaders. One place to start is to provide guidelines on how to have meaningful conversations around diversity, inclusion, and belonging with employees. 

“It’s not about having the answers, but it is very much about the willingness to listen, the willingness to hear and understand, and to be engaged,” Rosanna said.

Measuring DIBs progress

One way for people leaders to know where their organization stands on belonging, Matt said, is to use their employee engagement survey to directly ask employees if they feel they belong. Organizations can then set quantitative goals around diversity, inclusion, and belonging work. And Rosanna stressed that the qualitative work is how organizations will improve.

“The numbers are often an outcome, but the process itself are the actions, behaviors, and skills that we’re demonstrating in the environment that enable individuals who come from different backgrounds to not only feel at home… [but also] feel that they’re a part of the work that’s being done,” she said.

Organizations can create individual goals around DIBs work if it makes sense for them, but both Rosanna and Matt noted that it’s important to remember that every individual—and every organization—is on their own DIBs journey. 

“I wouldn’t presume that everyone is in the same space or that everyone has learned” how they can play a role in their organization’s diversity, inclusion, and belonging work.

And while this work is worthy on its own, Rosanna reminded people leaders that organizations that embrace diversity, inclusion, and belonging are more likely to see business success, pointing to research that found companies that embraced diversity outperformed their peers in profitability by 36% in 2019.

“I believe an inclusive future can be empowering,” she said. “And I really believe, when we look closely, the power of inclusion is that it drives growth.”

Check out these resources on belonging in the workplace. And click on the image below ⬇️  to watch the full conversation between Rosanna and Matt. 

Image of two people ready to have a discussion on diversity, inclusion, and belonging.