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Do you know why 'Belonging' is so important in today's workplace?

We spoke with Isabelle Phillips and Charlotta Oberg, co-founders of Mindfulness for the Global Village, about the new Framework for Belonging and Inclusion, and asked them five questions...

 [Click the image below to download the six-page framework document]

1. So, Isabelle and Charlotta, can you tell us what 'belonging' really means and why it is important in today's workplace?

‘Belonging’ describes a feeling of being valued, welcomed and heard. It is knowing that you can be yourself without being judged or excluded. It has been said that diversity is like being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance, and belonging is dancing like no one is watching. 

Why does a feeling of belonging matter? 

Belonging helps create a high-performance state of mind; one that can be easily accessed when we feel included. It is a basic human need, along with things like shelter and safety. When we don’t feel like we belong, we stop thinking clearly and our performance can suffer. Studies show that loneliness may be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and can even increase our chance of a premature death by twenty-six per cent. This is why whole societies are starting to focus on increasing belonging; for example, Britain now has a Minister for Loneliness.

For organisations, belonging is more than a nice feeling; it’s a leadership objective essential for the creation of a high-performance workforce. When people know that they belong, they know that their contributions will be heard on their merits and not dismissed or overlooked because of who they are. As a result, they are more likely to contribute and to care, and this includes expressing different points of view. These differences can help avoid ‘group think’, when everyone thinks in such similar ways that the group misses vital insights or chances to produce ideas. 

As one of our clients, the CEO of an organisation, said: “We are a leadership team who all live in the Eastern and Inner Suburbs, and work creating services for people who live further out West. Of course we are going to miss something! To understand their needs, build trust and avoid ‘group think’, we need input from the people we serve.” Their solution was to create a diverse and inclusive environment, which makes belonging possible and attracts a broader range of people into their organisation.

The power of belonging isn’t just that it releases chemicals in our brain that make us happier, less stressed and smarter. It is that when everyone belongs and when all voices are heard, new and better ideas can be generated and organisations can truly reap the benefits of diversity. 

2. So how has this new Framework for Belonging been developed?

As co-founders of Mindfulness for the Global Village, we [Phillips and Oberg] brought together a diverse group of professionals - representing 24 industry sectors and a workforce of over 40,000 Australians - including the Supply Chain Sustainability School. These leaders shared perspectives on how to harness the benefits of workforce belonging, and together created this framework.

Among the group was only one Diversity and Inclusion consultant; the rest represented a wide variety of functions, from a CEO to a General Manager of Sustainability, and from finance managers to engineering managers. Their insights were collected and distilled to a list of ‘nudges’ most likely to help move your organisation towards increased diversity, inclusion and belonging. You can learn more about the co-creation process here

3. How is the new Belonging Framework meant to be used?

This Framework has been created for those who are ready to take action in their organisation, even if that means starting with baby steps. At times we all feel bogged down in the detail or overwhelmed by negativity. So this is an opportunity for leaders to extricate themselves from ‘paralysis by analysis’ (over-thinking everything), and instead to start shifting minds and organisations towards belonging.

They can use this Framework as a guide by:

  • planning some organisation-wide approaches
  • driving belonging through the specific diversity and inclusion actions that speak to them, including the 44 in this Framework, and
  • taking their leadership to the next level as they assess the next generation of leaders to progress the organisation’s brand and goals.

Using this framework, leaders can start looking into the actions they will take, and in which order. The Belonging Framework nominates actions that support individual performance, and which connect to the organisation’s bottom line and to the clients they serve. The Belonging Framework also helps leaders to ‘move the dial’, not by convincing people about the important of diversity and inclusion but by getting them to take real action that drives belonging.

4. So how can organisations of different sizes benefit from using 'nudge'-type actions such as those in the Belonging Framework?

Nobel prize-winning ‘Nudge Theory’ has shown us the benefit of simple tweaks that can improve health and sustainability for lots of people – using the power of a nudge in the right direction. We have translated this into inclusion ‘nudges’, which leaders can convert into high-impact results in their organisations. We collected the nudges of over 2,000 leaders that we trained in one large State Department. Together, they represent meaningful steps to increase belonging and drive performance and innovation in their organisation. 

Our clients tell us that diversity and inclusion policies are not enough in themselves; practical actions taken by individuals are what really change the sense of belonging. 

Sometimes, academic research leads the way, as in the case of Performance Reviews. Research show they actually diminish performance, but organisations still keep using them.

In this case, industry leads the way. Research provides valuable insights into equity gaps and diversity dividends, but business itself is ready to move forward by nudging their organisations towards greater inclusivity.

The Belonging Framework itself is a “nudge” for Australian businesses. It puts diversity, inclusion and belonging on the agenda, into the systems, and on the lens of the people you need to take along on the journey. 

Shantelle Thompson, Athlete & Barkindji Warrior, at the Belonging Framework launch

5. How can people find out more about belonging and inclusion?

The Belonging Framework is a free, public resource, ready to download here or by clicking the image of the Framework at the top of the page. It is easy to use, and gives you the resources to start conversations about belonging from board level, to suppliers and into the organisation’s operations.

For compelling statistics about diversity dividends, and the key they hold to organisations operating in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world, please visit our website
. And watch our simple video explanation of the importance of belonging in unlocking potential - it’s a great conversation starter.

Lastly, we welcome you to contact us to learn more, invite us to speak to your organisation about the Belonging Framework and engage us to create tailor-made Inclusion Nudges with your team. 

You can use email to get in touch with Isabelle Phillips and with Charlotta Oberg.

Download your copy of the Framework for Belonging here - and enjoy putting it into action!

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