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Belong to the group: 4 tips for an inclusive organizational culture

A new position, new environment, new colleagues, new team, new organizational culture. Over the years I have had the luxury of doing many new things. That meant that I had to acclimatize to a new team every time. See which way the wind blows, get used to it, get to know the culture. Everything was new, except the questions… I noticed time and again that colleagues who just met me saw me as a Moroccan woman, and therefore asked all kind of the same questions. Why I didn't wear a headscarf? Whether I was born in Morocco? Whether I felt more Dutch or Moroccan? I learned to deal with this better and better, especially through my work as a diversity and inclusion advisor.

Belonging as a basic need

We have a natural tendency to put each other in boxes - regardless of age, origin or culture. Labeling each other feels safe. I have already learned that these questions - which put me outside the group - said nothing about me, but everything about the other. Every time it was genuine interest, but mixed with little knowledge and experience with people from a different background. I knew from experience that after a few weeks I would get the comment that I am not "a Moroccan" at all. I would just be "Dutch", after all, I look like a "real" Dutch person in my actions. As people got to know me, my colleagues saw that we were not that different after all.

Patience seems to be a competence that every "outsider" must possess for the constant contact attempts of the ingroup. Unfortunately, this does mean that you as an employer sometimes lose a new member of your team when labeling the ingroup . But how do you, as an organization, create an inclusive culture in which new people feel "at home"?

Like Brené Brown said in "The gifts of imperfection": "Love and belonging are irreducible needs of all men, women, and children". I would like to add biculturals, LGBTQ people and young people to that. We all have a need to belong. The organizational culture is a given for many employees. Until someone comes along who is seen as "different".

Organizations focusing on recruiting new groups sometimes forget that this new group of people will and can easily leave when they don't feel "at home". Or as Brené Brown says: "not having the feeling of belonging". This seems like a waste of time.

“We put in a lot of energy, but it just didn't work out”, is a common statement from organizations.

Four tips for an inclusive organizational culture

Inclusion prevents a high outflow and reduces absenteeism for all employees. By implementing these four tips, you create more inclusion within your organizational culture.

  1. Provide a good induction program. For example, link the new employee to a senior employee in the beginning who introduces them to the work, both in terms of content and the unwritten rules. This gives the new employee the feeling of being supported. If possible, link this new employee to someone who looks like him / her.
  2. Create an open culture where open communication and curiosity about the other are central. In an inclusive organizational culture there is room for differences and different ideas. You use is each other's differences (strength) in a team. Talents are therefore optimally utilized, and that is reflected in the results! (Mayer, Warr & Zhao 2018)
  3. Provide (further) growth opportunities and promotion options for everyone. Equal opportunities for all target groups, women, men, biculturals and young people. Monitoring, such as target figures and data collection, can support this. Make sure that you treat the "special personal data" with integrity (Diversiteit in Bedrijf 2018).
  4. Most importantly: Make sure that the approach is supported by the managers and that they are sufficiently equipped. Managers are an important key to success. New employees who feel supported by the manager more likely feel like they're going to be part of a team. Managers also determine who gets a promotion, how conflicts are resolved, who is hired and who receives a bonus. Knowledge and attention to diversity and inclusion among managers is therefore crucial. Make sure they know how to ultimately use inclusive leadership .
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