In a workplace, belonging is not just about individuals mindsets– or deciding to get along and eventually belong. Workplace structures, leaders, cultures, and groups drive a culture of belonging.
This draft Belonging Framework, developed by Silicon Valley’s Change Catalyst & adapted by Brisbane’s Mitchell Services, describes a continuum of belonging through stages. We love collaborating with I&D thought leaders, and in 2017 & 2018, Mitchell Services teamed up with Change Catalyst, sponsored byLaunchVic to deliver Inclusive Startup workshops – empowering founders to create inclusive start ups from the beginning. This Belonging Framework was introduced early in the workshop, and resonated strongly with Australian startup founders and their ideal culture. Change Catalyst has presented this framework in workshops globally and heard universal feedback; building belonging is critical to Inclusion & Diversity progress.
Note that stages are not always sequential; experiences can move people back to previous stages.
Stage 1- I feel welcome
Individuals are aware of a focus on equality and the organisational focus on meritocracy (treating everyone in the same way), rather than a focus on uniqueness (leveraging people’s different experiences/ perspectives/ backgrounds as a competitive advantage). Sometimes we hear leaders at Stage 1 say ‘we are colour-blind here’ or ‘gender doesn’t matter’ or ‘we don’t care whether you are yellow, black or white- everyone is welcome’.
Stage 2- I am safe
Individuals are aware of internal or public communications supporting highly visible programs or underrepresented groups and workplace support groups (such as ERGs). Individuals feel they are valued, accepted, and respected—and able to perform in a positive work environment. Groups feel safe to discuss difficult issues and problems- they have a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking (refer further to Amy Edmonson’s research on psychological safety).
Stage 3- I am engaged
Individuals are vested in contributing unique ideas and perspectives on what works well and what doesn’t work well, and are included in actions or programs for creating equitable workplaces.
Stage 4- I commit to being here
Individuals consider themselves responsible for creating an inclusive and diverse environment in alignment with the organisation’s core values. Leaders commit to taking collaborative action.
Stage 5- I belong
Individuals do not question whether they belong, even if there is a negative event. Brene Brown’s research found that men and women who have the deepest sense of true belonging are those who have the courage to stand alone and are comfortable- and made to feel comfortable- to bring forward unique perspectives. Leaders at Stage 5 say “we do care about the differences our people bring- and we do want to hear how those differences shape their perspectives and value add to our organisation”. There is an organisation focus on bringing your whole self to work, supported by leaders expecting and seeking to have their perspectives challenged by all.
Why a draft framework? Thinking changes. We work with clients constantly which informs our frameworks. Check back to this page for further updates to our thinking. Also, please acknowledge the framework source if you chose to reuse. We love sharing but we adore professional integrity and referencing rigour. We’d love to hear how it’s helped you to progress Inclusion & Diversity.