One of the things I love about my role is the window it provides into so many different types of businesses; I am nothing if not reliably curious (nosey some might say).
I spend a significant amount of time discussing how sharing your culture, EVP and authentic employee stories can be a hugely effective means of creating genuine engagement with candidates. As a happy consequence I get to hear first-hand what it’s really like to work for some of the world’s biggest employers; both the message, and the reality.
We want everyone who interacts with us – whether as a colleague, client or partner – to feel welcome, respected and valued for who they are, just as they are. We want everyone to know that they belong.
Messaging has always been important, but if 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that words and intentions are a good start, but without action, they very quickly feel empty and tokenistic.
In a year where people policies and working practices have been thrown into the spotlight by both COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, businesses need to do more than reference their ‘position’, they need to put their policies and pledges into action if they want to seen as doing more than paying lip-service.
Knowing when to speak and when to act
Back in May, when the horrific video of George Floyd’s murder went viral, sparking protests, riots and a renewed focus on the inequality faced by black people in the US and here in the UK, we as a business felt compelled to say something – to make our position clear – to add our voice to those supporting Black Lives Matter and demanding change.
By first asking if our words, actions, and behaviours are kind, we’re starting with the right intention.
After some thought and much agonising, we decided to take a breath and turn our gaze inwards and focus on doing – and not just saying – the right thing.
As a small business we have big aspirations – we want to be industry leading in terms of our products and the service we provide, but we also want to the best type of business in terms of our culture and working practices.
As we grow, we are committed to being diverse and inclusive, but for us it’s more than visuals, we want everyone who interacts with us – whether as a colleague, client or partner – to feel welcome, respected and valued for who they are, just as they are. We want everyone to know that they belong.
What is Belonging?
As a quick description, belongingness is the ‘human emotional need to be an accepted member of a group. Whether it is family, friends, co-workers, a religion, or something else, people tend to have an inherent desire to belong and be an important part of something greater than themselves’.
The word that stands out most to me here is ‘accepted’ – it highlights the difference between being merely invited (or worse – tolerated) and genuinely feeling like your presence is welcome, necessary and vital for those around you.
Another word that has featured heavily in my personal thinking is kindness; no one knows everything and we can’t realistically walk in everyone’s shoes – and let’s be honest, we don’t actually have to experience something ourselves to be able listen, accept and empathise. By first asking if our words, actions, and behaviours are kind, we’re starting with the right intention.
The destination is not the goal
Unlike traditional Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, which are usually measured by hitting quotas and targets, belonging is based purely on experience and feeling and has no completion point.
It’s harder to measure due to its subjective and individual nature, but that in itself is the point – we are all individuals with different experiences, challenges, skills and views and each and every person deserves to be valued and accepted just as they are – this isn’t a destination, it’s the foundation stone upon which everything else should be built.
Belonging at Meet & Engage
The work for us will be ongoing – as will our learning – but below is a summary of what belonging means at Meet & Engage; these are the principles which will guide our actions and shape our culture as we grow.
- Belonging is at the heart of our culture. It touches the way we work, the people we hire and the partnerships we build. It figures in our day-to-day decisions and our strategic direction.
- We know that we can’t know everything, but we are committed to listening, learning, and always striving to do and be better.
- Belonging is in the language we use; in our internal comms and our external marketing. It’s even in the technology we develop – we’re proud that our platform can give a voice to people from under-represented, excluded, or side-lined groups – and we will encourage our clients to use it for this purpose.
- No one should feel like they’re an outsider, whether they’re working for us, with us, or attending one of our events.
- We don’t want anyone to feel they need to be just like everyone else to fit in here. On the contrary, we want people to feel that they fit in because they are unique.
What comes next…
I said above, words are great, but to make them count they need to be followed by action. Now we know what we stand for, the work to back up our stance begins.
As our Belonging & Inclusion lead, I’m working with the wider business to set out the actions we need to take to really live up to our commitment.
Learning and sharing will be a big part of this, so if you’re interested in seeing our strategy play out, or sharing your thoughts, experience, or expertise with me, I would love to hear from you. You can get in touch with me at: firstname.lastname@example.org