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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Gratitude for our diverse differences creates a bridge to belonging

When it comes to corporate training and DEI programs, it’s easy to get in the habit of thinking over feeling.

Gratitude for our diverse differences creates a bridge to belonging
[alfa27 / Adobe Stock]

Social belonging is a fundamental human need, hardwired into our DNA. And yet, 40% of people say they feel isolated at work, resulting in lower organizational commitment and engagement.

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Belonging is defined as “the feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group or place.” For people to feel like they belong, the environment needs to be a diverse and inclusive place.

High belonging is linked to a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days. But belonging isn’t a concept or a skill you can learn through training—it’s a human experience.

And yet, the EY Belonging Barometer study suggests that 40% of working adults feel ignored in the workplace, resulting in lower organizational commitment and engagement. Despite the $8 billion collectively spent each year on DEI training, nearly half of working adults feel disconnected from their jobs and negatively perceive the company where they work.

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Maya Angelou said it best: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Many corporate training and DEI programs expect employees to reference something that was said on a Zoom slide. This causes them to miss the opportunity to feel together as a team. If you’re looking to create belonging within your community, here are three ways to do so.

GIVE GRATITUDE OFTEN

Gratitude not only strengthens relationships, but it also shifts negative thoughts and behaviors into more positive ones by broadening and building social and mental resources. By sharing your genuine gratitude with others, you’ll start to create a more connected environment. Deep and robust human connection is the key to inclusion. This is because people are more likely to support, protect, and empathize with those they believe to be similar to them. Therefore, feeling connected within a group leads to feeling included in an organization.

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Create an anonymous gratitude board where people can easily share their appreciation with others. Or have a workshop where everyone writes a gratitude letter to someone they haven’t appropriately thanked.

SHARE YOUR SUPERPOWER

Tough times build resilience, courage, and other traits that make us who we are today. Tough times also forge our superpowers—how we show up to better the world because of what has occurred in our past. For instance, your superpower may be that you are a compassionate leader because you went through an adverse experience where someone lacked compassion. Or you’re an advocate for work-life balance because you saw your mom struggle with working full-time and being there for you.

We all have superpowers, and no two superpowers are the same. It’s important to share our superpowers with others so we can begin to understand and advocate for people on our teams. Start small with a storytelling lunch-and-learn so everyone can share their experiences. Or, offer to support a different kind of project than you typically work on.

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CREATE ALLYSHIP

To create belonging, we must bridge the gap between our differences and celebrate these differences together. We can forge belonging by sharing our life experiences and collaborating on culture. By building allyship with someone who has had different experiences, everyone can experience a sense of belonging. In turn, this can reduce loneliness and increase motivation to spread the feeling of belonging throughout the team.

Increasing belonging in an organization is not only good for business; it’s good for the people.

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Chris Schembra – The science of using Gratitude to get through hard times.

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