Every day, someone is starting their first day at work. There’s probably excitement, hope, and some apprehension. They’ve got the job, but they may be thinking, “How can I make an impact?”
Bringing new hires’ backgrounds and experiences to the workplace is just a part of a successful equation for diversity and inclusion. In my workplace at Experian, it’s important to us that our teammates also have a sense of belonging. This isn’t just the smiling face that shows a new teammate to their desk or invites them to lunch; it’s also encouraging and welcoming their ideas and perspectives.
Most of us are aware of the macro trends around employment. One-in-four people do not feel valued at work, and the ones that do are generally in senior positions, according to a recent report by the International Labour Organization. This kind of perception has led to global trends like The Great Resignation, in which marginalized workers—especially those feeling excluded— are leaving their jobs in record numbers to escape bad working conditions. Another oft-cited trend is “quiet quitting,” where workers still complete their duties and nothing more. As leaders, it’s incumbent on us to create an environment where employees feel like they don’t only belong, but thrive.
When employees feel accepted and connected in their work environments—when they feel they belong—a company can expect consistent productivity and strong leadership. A sense of belonging is certainly easier said than done. It takes an honest and sincere commitment to ensure the best interests of the employee are at the center of your efforts to create an inclusive environment. This means consistently surveying the workforce, building channels and forums for feedback, and multiple open (sometimes uncomfortable) conversations with your teams. At Experian, we share our efforts on this front as part of our Power of You: 2022 Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report to see how we’ve done in our commitments to these values.
Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This always reminds me of my commitment to treat people with respect and kindness—to make inclusion a reality for all of my team members.
For me, this means leaders must embed respect into everyday practice. Whenever I walk into a building, I greet everyone—from the person mopping the floors, to the security guard. Every. Single. Person. Incorporating these kinds of basic habits can help guide you throughout the rest of your work, especially if your mission is to promote a sense of belonging and inclusion. If such practices are incorporated as part of your personal ethos, it will help you celebrate all dimensions of diversity in your organization: regardless of religion, race, gender identity, persons with disabilities, or socio-economic position.
Methods for achieving inclusion are endless. Here are some of the programs that have worked for us at Experian:
Employee Resource Groups
We established Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) at our campuses all over the world that reach upwards of 21,700 employees in 30 countries. Our ERGs are composed of different ethnicities, cultures, and affinities and cultivate a sense of belonging by giving outlets for employees to get to know colleagues who don’t work in their business units. They also focus on developing employees to help us think through product strategy and what we bring to the market. Our ERGs have been very successful in elevating voices and driving positive impact across the organization, according to Great Place To Work and other employee sentiment surveys.
Competitions for Good
Fun little competitions can be leveraged to connect to a company’s wider goals and ethos. For example, our hackathon gives teammates the opportunity to bring their innovative ideas to the forefront while connecting to our mission of financial inclusion for all. Through this competition, teammates contribute to our business strategy and drive products for the future to create a better tomorrow. Imagine if you had an idea, and your company said, “We’ll give you resources to build upon it.” We do that through social innovation funding. This gives employees the ultimate sense of “I matter. I can make a difference. I can drive impact.”
We have gaming, sports, and lifestyle clubs that solidify mutual trust and friendships among teammates while promoting a necessary balance between work and play.
We are active in the communities in which we live, work, and serve. We encourage everyone in our company to give their time and talents to the causes in life that are important to them. To that end, we offer 16 hours a year as part of our benefits for team members to spend with causes or organizations they care about.
The bottom line is that, when an employee feels they are appreciated as an individual at work, they will bring their A-game to the workplace. Inclusion leads to innovation. When you’re made a part of a team and celebrated because of your unique individuality, you are more likely to feel comfortable sharing new ideas that might initiate prosperous initiatives for your company.
Belonging goes together with having a diverse workforce. Companies need to make that extra effort to find employees beyond the standard recruiting and online job postings. For Experian, that means participating in various partner conferences such as Stonewall, Out & Equal, UnidosUS, Grace Hopper Celebration, National Urban League, Ascend, and Disability:IN, where we have a higher chance of investing in diverse talent.
We all want to progress, make a living, and achieve greatness in what we do, which is why feeling like we belong in a corporate setting is a major factor in becoming stronger professionals. An organization that acknowledges and utilizes the rich benefits that come with a diverse team of workers will help the company focus on responsible and consistent growth.
Although we are not perfect, our organization is consciously and continuously improving our inclusion efforts for our employees and for the communities in which we operate. It’s my hope we will see more companies following suit in the new year.