Encouraging belonging and diversity at work
We live in an incredibly culturally diverse world. Here in Australia, over 50% of our population were born overseas or have a parent born overseas. With such a multicultural society, the average workplace will comprise people from many different backgrounds. Everyone has their own cultural experience and brings to work their unique perspective.
While most organisations have developed and implemented policies and commitments to encouraging diversity and belonging, we all have a role in making sure everyone feels included, respected, and like they belong in the workplace. This year’s Harmony Week has the theme ‘Everyone Belongs’, so here are some ways to encourage belonging at work.
Building a culture of belonging involves making people feel seen and heard. This involves clearly communicating and encouraging diversity in the workplace. Many organisations now develop diversity strategies and policies with commitments and targets promoting diversity and representation in the workplace. These documents typically feature the organisation’s practices, plans, and priorities to encourage greater representation, inclusion, and support for people from different backgrounds. Beyond cultural diversity, these documents also often encourage support for other diverse groups, such as people with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ individuals, mature aged workers, and gender equity strategies and commitments.
By familiarising yourself with what your organisation is doing to help encourage belonging, you can better understand where you fit in the broader workforce. This can also help you know how you can support and be supported by your employer and colleagues.
The most important way to encourage belonging at work is to listen to, learn from, and connect with your colleagues. We are all different, and the people around us have many experiences we might not know about. The easiest way to begin to connect is to open up about your life. If you share a bit about yourself and your life outside of work with a colleague, they’ll feel more comfortable doing the same.
The other important part of connecting with others is understanding and support. This involves educating yourself about diverse cultures, histories, and challenges and adopting an intersectional understanding of diversity. Remember that while a significant emphasis is placed on empathy and connection, you will not always be able to empathise with some challenges and experiences. Empathising requires you to be able to relate to those experiences, and you might not have ever experienced the same thing. However, you can sympathise and understand more about what is happening. This is vital in ensuring everyone feels like they have been seen, heard, and supported.
Supporting your colleagues also involves vocalising appreciation, highlighting efforts and lifting one another up. By respecting and encouraging work/life balance and collaborating to achieve shared goals when working closely with others, you can help make people feel happier and more supported at work.
People feel like they belong when they can openly be proud of their identity and the organisation they work for. Pride is only made possible by representation, connection, and support and is a direct result of an open, inclusive, and diverse workplace.
If you’re living in Sydney, chances are you have seen a lot of the word ‘pride’ in the past month, with Sydney WorldPride wrapping up just a few weeks ago. While pride can become a buzzword around Mardi Gras season, it is relevant at all times of the year for both LGBTQIA+ pride and other diverse groups. We need to express and encourage diversity year-round, not just during harmony week, pride month, or on days of visibility.
Belonging is more than just corporate jargon. Making people feel like they belong in a workplace comes back to each and every one of us. It means ensuring that diverse people are represented, within the organisation, in leadership roles, and in communication. It requires human-to-human connection and a sense of community that people feel supported by. And when people feel represented, connected, and supported, they can feel proud of their identity and the organisation they work in. We all have a role in ensuring everyone feels like they belong.
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Featured image courtesy of Unsplash
Amelia is a Sydney-based writing and communications enthusiast working at UTS Careers as a Communications Assistant. She is a current UTS Student, studying a Bachelor of Communications (Creative Writing & Advertising), and a Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation. She is passionate about creativity, storytelling, and the art of a well-timed gif, and has a vast collection of crazy socks.