Thought Leadership

7 Ways to Prioritize Belonging and Inclusion Within Your Team 

Sometimes DEIB can be hard, especially if you’re new to it. If you haven’t started, you’re probably wondering, “Where do I start?” And if you have started, you may be wondering, “Where do I go? Why isn’t this working?”  

In my time leading our DEIB consulting practice, I have had unique opportunities to study some of the most inclusive teams out there. What have I learned?  

No matter where you are in your journey: focus on progress, not perfection.  

In studying and working with inclusive teams, I have found that they stay grounded. They stick to what has been proven to work, stay the course, and understand real change takes time, repetition, and consistency. 

For leaders aiming to harness the full potential of their teams, cultivating diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) is essential. When skilled people work together on a team, they have the ability to produce more than the sum of their parts. An inclusive team catalyzes unique perspectives, fosters creativity, and drives innovation. When done properly, it’s a key part of talent strategy. 

Looking to unlock the power of DEIB on your team? Let’s take a deeper look at why it’s important and practical ways to make it a reality. 

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What Is a Diverse and Inclusive Team? 

There is no single formula for a diverse team. By its nature, diversity recognizes the unique individuality of people from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. When you cultivate a culture of belonging where team members can contribute their creativity and innovation, you may be surprised at the diversity of perspectives that emerge. 

A diverse team is not just about visible differences like race, gender, or age, although these are relevant factors. It delves into the nuances of individual experiences, socioeconomic backgrounds, educational histories, cognitive styles, physical abilities, and personality types. Every person carries insights shaped by their life’s journey. 

From driving creativity and boosting employee morale to reflecting the customer base, diverse teams are a powerhouse of potential. However, diversity on its own isn’t enough to drive success. Inclusion is equally critical.  

When everyone feels welcome and valued, teams can leverage the diverse strengths of each member. An inclusive workplace thrives on mutual respect and collaboration. When team members feel valued, heard, and empowered to contribute, that’s belonging. 

Here are seven practices that can help you prioritize belonging and inclusion within your teams. 

1. Start with Commitment from Leadership 

Leadership plays a pivotal role in the execution and success of DEIB strategies. A strong commitment from the top sends a clear message to all employees about the company’s values and expectations. 

When leaders align with their DEIB purpose, set goals, and challenge past practices, they set a precedent for expected behaviors for the organization. Inclusive leaders understand that belonging is essential to driving business results.  

A few ways to demonstrate commitment to DEIB can include: 

  • Investing in change efforts 
  • Conducting DEIB trainings 
  • Launching employee resource groups (ERGs)  
  • Creating sponsorship programs or upskilling and reskilling programs 

2. Implement Inclusive Recruitment Processes 

An inclusive hiring process can help mitigate bias and cultivate diverse teams. With this approach, you can build a robust and agile workforce with ease and efficiency.  

Job descriptions are a good place to start. But beyond this, diverse hiring panels and structured interviews can all support inclusivity. By being deliberate and thoughtful in recruitment, companies lay the foundation for a truly diverse and inclusive workforce. 

3. Conduct an Honest Assessment 

Intuitive systems and procedures that measure DEIB in your organization are a great way to gauge the business’ understanding of where the gaps are—staying adaptive and responsive to evolving needs. 

Consider implementing strategies to identify your company’s current strengths and areas for improvement. This can look like: 

4. Implement Inclusive Benefits and Policies 

Inclusive benefits and policies signal to employees that their unique needs and identities are recognized and valued. Great examples are offering flexible work schedules, recognizing non-traditional families, or providing nursing rooms for parents returning to work. 

Mental health support and digital accessibility for your workforce can also greatly affect employees’ lives and increase inclusivity. Recognizing and celebrating diverse cultural, religious, and regional holidays and observances is an impactful way to honor the different backgrounds represented in your organization. 

5. Encourage ERGs 

ERGs are more than just social or support groups; they are catalysts for change, driving equity and inclusion from the grassroots level. By encouraging and supporting ERGs, you provide a platform for employees with shared backgrounds, experiences, or interests to connect, collaborate, and contribute to the company’s culture. 

ERGs create safe spaces for employees to share challenges and offer support without fear of judgment. They lend themselves to effective mentorship programs that can be instrumental in career growth and boost employee retention

Another powerful application of ERGs is as a feedback channel. While isolated employees may suffer without speaking up, a group that recognizes a shared experience can suggest policy improvements and help make the workplace better for everyone. 

ERGs can assist HR teams in outreach efforts—helping attract diverse talent. Collaborations between ERGs lead to intergroup understanding, shared events, and a more cohesive workplace culture. 

6. Foster a Culture of Psychological Safety 

When employees feel heard, seen, valued, and safe to be themselves, it enhances their well-being, which can drive collaboration and overall organizational success. For instance, encouraging constructive dissent can lead to better decision-making and innovation.  

In the context of DEIB, a culture that promotes psychological safety can also look like: 

  • Regular feedback channels like anonymous suggestion boxes, digital platforms, or periodic surveys 
  • Town hall meetings, forums, or workshops about DEIB 
  • Training sessions on topics such as active listening, unconscious bias, and inclusive communication 
  • Clear protocols for addressing and resolving conflicts so employees know the steps to take if they encounter an uncomfortable situation 
  • An environment where employees feel comfortable challenging prevailing opinions or offering alternative viewpoints  
  • Acknowledging and rewarding employees who actively champion inclusive behaviors 

7. Lead with Vulnerability 

By leading with vulnerability, you enhance your capacity to actively listen to diverse viewpoints and craft win-win policies that align with employee needs and company success. 

By leading with vulnerability, you create an environment where empathy thrives—enabling you to be more self-aware and reflective. With this approach, leaders can proactively address any of their unconscious biases, setting a positive example for everyone they collaborate with. 

Create an Inclusive Workforce 

Diverse teams can harness their collective strengths to drive innovation. As part of Evergreen’s talent services, we create outstanding outcomes for our partners by embracing diversity, attracting the best people, and adapting to overcome any challenge. Put our depth of knowledge and expertise to work for you

Learn more about Korryn here, and connect with her on LinkedIn.