How to manage a belonging audit

April 19, 2022 |

Research shows that the majority of decision makers in organizations are white men over the age of 45 – the so-called ‘pale, stale and male’ brigade – and it is all-too normal.

The fact is, many women get to a certain level in the organization and then self-select out.

The approach to inclusion that most organizations take is to give people the opportunity to progress – but with an unspoken proviso that they must then ‘include’ themselves.

The reality, however, is that female senior leaders are often lonely in their positions and find the culture in the leadership teams intolerable. They feel unheard and insignificant. And so the group-think associated with the homogeneity of leadership teams continues.

By comparison, having a belonging culture focuses on diversity, inclusion, engagement, psychological safety and wellbeing.

A belonging audit combines the power of qualitative data with the lived experience of employees to understand who in the organisation has a sense of belonging and, more critically, why some people don’t. While it may uncover some ‘elephants in the room’, It should nevertheless provide insights that organisations can use to build a truly transformational plan.

Key things to consider when conducting it:

Get leaders involved

It’s important to ensure the senior leadership team is prepared to understand and ready to address any challenging insights that may present itself. If there really is no appetite for addressing anything that arises, then conducting the audit risks marginalizing people even further.

Engage participants

The message you want to craft should be one that signals the positive goal of wanting to understand the extent to which people feel like they belong in the organization. This should help to drive engagement with the initiative – if only, at this early stage, out of curiosity. 

Create the survey

It is critical that any belonging survey feels different. It shouldn’t have all the same questions that are typically included in engagement or D&I surveys. Include questions that will make people sit up, and which will also convince them that this time you mean business.

Give people the ability to make real choices to – even if they sound uncomfortable to hear.

Engagement with the process has to ensure that the respondent feels in control, so you should make it clear that there is no obligation to answer any of the questions.

But if respondents don’t answer a question, this in itself is useful information when it comes to the analysis.

Analyse the data

The data you get back should tell you where the belonging hot spots and cold spots are. Survey platforms provide extensive guidance on how to cut data and do different analyses if you are not working with a dedicated data analyst. In general though, be curious and look how the data can provide real insight.

In short, get creative, dig deep, and keep asking questions about what the data is telling you. The more curious you are, the better you will understand the lived experience of your employees.

Source: Talent Management & HR, April 2022

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