At Employee Fanatix, our mission is simple: to equip organizations with the intelligence they need to improve the quality of work-life for their employees. We’re continually inspired by our vision to help caring leaders shine by putting people at the heart of everything they do while empowering employees with the knowledge that their voice is valued and needed.
But the very core of what I do can be boiled down into one idea: true belonging. Diversity & inclusion, employee engagement, executive coaching, and all the other organizational development areas I specialize in connecting back to the idea of belonging, or the sense of being fully accepted and embraced as a team member. When you belong at work, you feel empowered to bring new ideas to the table, engage on a more meaningful level, and build robust interpersonal connections.
What does true belonging feel like? It’s hard to articulate, but you simply know it when you feel it.
A while back, my daughter was just starting high school. We had chosen a racially diverse school, as we thought she would feel most included if she were surrounded by peers who had similar identities. A few weeks in, however, she realized she felt woefully out of place and not truly included in any significant way. It just wasn’t a good fit, and the school made little effort to make it one. Ultimately, my husband and I supported my daughter in her decision to transfer schools, and she ended up choosing a school that was far less diverse than the first one. In fact, there were only a handful of students of color. But it became immediately clear that the ethos of the school was one of inclusion, as they completely embraced my daughter and her full potential. She knew she truly belonged.
It touches my heart to see the impact of inclusive cultures, especially since I can relate firsthand to my daughter’s feelings of exclusion. I’m the product of an interracial and interfaith marriage; my mom is white and Jewish and my dad is black and Christian. Growing up, my family was explicitly excluded from any family gatherings hosted by my maternal grandparents. I felt like the literal black sheep of my family. But navigating these complex dynamics eventually instilled in me the skills I needed to excel as a leader and CEO, and the perspective to identify cultures of true belonging.
My daughter’s experience serves as a reminder that creating an atmosphere of belonging doesn’t mean filling an employee diversity quota—just because you get underrepresented talent through the door doesn’t mean you have the infrastructure and culture-building acumen to keep them there. When it comes to the workplace, it’s obviously important that our workforce is diverse and accurately representative of our constituents. But it’s more important to foster an inclusive culture where that demographic diversity has the space to flourish and thrive. Not only is true belonging better for the well-being of individual employees, but it’s critical for business drivers, as well. A study found that an increased sense of belonging is linked to a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days. With data like that, the value of leading with your heart can’t be ignored. I argue we need to focus less on diversity and more on belonging, or in other words, less on the numbers and more on the people.