By Gilmara Vila Nova-Mitchell
Inclusion and belonging are closely connected concepts that reinforce and support each other within organizations. While they are distinct, they work in tandem to create an environment where all individuals feel valued, respected, and able to fully participate.
What are the real-life differences between the two? How can you build and foster them individually so they work together collectively? What should you keep in mind along the way in terms of practical application? Let’s take a look.
Inclusion as the Foundation
Inclusion refers to creating a culture and environment where all individuals are treated equitably, their voices are heard, and their perspectives are valued. Inclusion involves actively inviting and embracing diversity in all its forms, including but not limited to race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and abilities. It sets the stage for belonging by ensuring that everyone feels welcome, respected, and accepted for who they are.
Belonging as the Outcome
Belonging, on the other hand, is the result of an inclusive culture. It is the feeling of acceptance, connection, and being an integral part of your organization. When individuals experience a sense of belonging, they feel they are appreciated, are valued, and have a genuine connection with their colleagues and your organization. Belonging is a deeper emotional experience that comes from being included and accepted by others.
Inclusion Supports Belonging
Inclusion practices and initiatives provide the foundation for fostering belonging. When your organization actively promotes inclusion, you create an environment where individuals from diverse backgrounds can contribute, share their perspectives, and be fully engaged. Inclusion helps to break down barriers, reduce biases, and eliminate systemic discrimination that may hinder a sense of belonging.
Belonging Reinforces Inclusion
Belonging, in turn, reinforces inclusion by creating a positive cycle. When individuals feel a sense of belonging, they are more likely to actively participate, contribute, and support the inclusion efforts of your organization. They become advocates for inclusion and help to create an environment where others feel valued.
Inclusion and belonging are mutually reinforcing. A culture of inclusion provides the conditions necessary for individuals to develop a sense of belonging. At the same time, a strong sense of belonging enhances inclusion efforts by fostering a sense of ownership, commitment, and collaboration among employees.
If your organization prioritizes both inclusion and belonging, you lay the foundation for creating an environment where diversity is celebrated and individuals feel valued for their unique contributions. This leads to increased employee engagement, innovation, and overall organizational success. By recognizing the interconnectedness of inclusion and belonging, your organization can foster a culture that embraces diversity, promotes equity, and cultivates a deep sense of connection and belonging for everyone.
Gilmara Vila Nova-Mitchell
Gilmara Vila Nova-Mitchell has been helping organizations and leaders become more effective and inclusive through her engaging diversity and inclusion professional learning sessions, leadership development programs, and equity & cultural proficiency coaching for almost two decades.
Gilmara has worked with HR managers, chief diversity officers, and other leaders to create more inclusive work environments. Gilmara has collaborated with organizations from the private and public sectors in various industries. Gilmara has supported organizations to develop strategic plans, create equity-driven monitoring tools, create inclusive cultures, and learn about equity-driven leadership.
Born in Brazil, Gilmara moved to the United States in 2001. She holds a Bachelor of Multicultural Education from FUMEC University (Brazil) and an MSE in School Counseling from Drake University. Gilmara has focused on her doctoral studies in Organizational Behavior with a focus on trust in the workplace.