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  • Writer's pictureAbbey Salvas

What Exactly is Belonging?

Updated: Apr 23

Originally posted on the Mattingly Solutions Blog.

When we talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion, the outcome that is of primary interest to us is belonging. But what is belonging? What does it mean to feel like you belong?

Belonging is the feeling that one’s authentic self is valued, respected, seen, and heard. The feeling of belonging often gets lumped in with inclusion. Inclusion is the behavior that leads to others’ feelings of belonging.

How do you measure belonging?

A key challenge when considering belonging is how to measure the feeling that one belongs. It’s important to avoid confusing it with the things that lead to one feeling that they belong – diversity, equity, and inclusion. The best way to measure a feeling, therefore, is to directly measure belonging via survey items.

Some example items to measure belonging are below:

  • I can be my authentic self at work.

  • I feel valued at work.

Respondents would answer the above items on a scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree.

Surveys can assess belonging along with diversity, equity, and inclusion (such as through the Mattingly Inclusion and Belonging Assessment) or in general engagement surveys.

How is belonging different than diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Diversity is “the presence (and amount) of difference within a given setting,” with our focus being on the setting of the workplace. (Mattingly, 2022). Equity is “the fair treatment of all employees regarding the accessibility of information, opportunities, and resources considering the different circumstances each employee faces.”

We define inclusion as “actions that make others feel valued, respected, seen, and heard. Inclusive behaviors enable members from different identity groups to fully contribute their unique perspectives and contributions to the workplace.” (Read more about inclusive behaviors in our book, Inclusalytics).

So how does belonging differ from these core concepts? Belonging is what results from organizations doing D, E, and I right.

It is important to note that all three elements on the left side of the equation are essential for belonging to be the result. For example, if a trans woman sees other people like her in the organization but doesn’t see these individuals equitably advancing through the organization at the same rate as individuals that are apart of majority identity groups, she is unlikely to truly feel like she belongs in her organization.

Why is belonging important?

Belonging is instrumental, both for employees and their organizations. For employees, feelings of belonging contribute to more positive feelings at work and higher levels of engagement with the work they do every day. For organizations, this engagement, then leads to better productivity, which in turn leads to profits.

This equation, from DEI to belonging to profits, can be instrumental in making the case to your executives as to why DEI is worth the investment.

Looking to advance DEI through data-driven insights in your organization? Contact us at Plan to Action today to drive meaningful change, together.

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