Diversity + Belonging | Why does it matter? The Research.

A special thank you to our sponsor, TD Bank Group.

DIVERSITY | Win – Win – Win 

The business case for diversity (HBR, 2020) has been made over 20 years ago. So don’t get too hung up on this. It’s the right thing to do on many accounts.

    • Business performs better
    • People perform better
    • Customers are better served

BELONGING | An important precursor to contributing at the highest level, taking risks, and performing well within a team.

Why it’s important | A fundamental human need, i.e. a core human emotion. We are wired to belong.

    • Neuroscience | We are wired to be vigilant for signals of belonging or exclusion. 
      • The same brain areas that regulate basic survival needs like finding food and water also regulate belonging.
    • The question of belonging is simple: Do I belong here?
      • The “I”: Who I am and what I can become
      • The “HERE”: What the setting allows or has the potential to allow
  • Belonging is correlated with health | Loneliness is one of the strongest factors to affect health and well-being outcomes.
  • Research example | Black students at a predominantly White university who received a social belonging message freshman year reduced doctor visits 3 years later (Stanford Researcher, Dr. Greg Walton’s original, “Belonging Intervention” research). 

Belonging is not…

  • A simple tally of the number of friends/close co-workers at work.
  • Positive relationships are important, but people can experience belonging even before they have developed strong relationships. It can happen through weak ties and simple experiences that signal you belong here.


THE ROLE OF AMBIGUITY | The world is ambiguous and we try to make meaning and sense of it with limited cues

Attributional ambiguity research | Example: Supervisor criticizes work, minority group member doesn’t know if that is a signal that she doesn’t belong on the team or really about the work.

  • Culture reset | One way to offset this is to actually change the workplace and how it looks at fairness across the board and measures it (diversity measured, culture of inclusion measured, management inclusion training, fair performance reviews, etc.).

Racial Attention Deficit (Levine, Raypens and Stark 2021) | Despite increased diversity, equity is still lagging for these workers. In one study, these researchers discovered an attention bias related to race. When a team is asked to complete an ambiguous task, they are given fictitious peer approaches to the problems – one with a white-sounding name and one with a black-sounding name. The subjects paid attention to the white-sounding name’s work 33% more to solve their problem as it was evident in their solutions.

  • Intervention One: If you said both peers had done a similar problem before, their bias towards attending to the white-sounding name’s solution dropped to 15%.
  • Intervention Two: When they were told that both peers had experience in these areas, it eliminated the racial attention bias entirely. They equally drew from both peer approaches to solving the problem.

ROI + Measurement | The research is clear – using lots of band-aids is costly and ineffective.

$$$ | Large companies have spent (lots!) and outcomes (not great). 

  • Training is expensive and ineffective without other systemic changes.
  • Underrepresented employees end up doing the work of bringing in speakers, raising awareness, bringing in education, etc. usually through Ally Groups. This is unpaid work in most cases.

So what to do? Going Deeper | Minimize bias in the system for real, measurable results.

Reducing Bias, including Sexism + Racism | These ‘isms often sit in the system. And while at work, specifically in the talent systems where you make decisions about talent and who gets what at work. 

  • Who is hired? And how?
  • Who is promoted?  And how?
  • Who gets a great project assignment? And how?
  • Who gets a higher rating? And why?

Data-Driven Diversity | To achieve your inclusion goals, use a metrics-based approach (Williams and Dolkas, HBR, 2022)

The problem | Research shows that the best way for companies to improve their record on diversity, equity, and including (DEI) is to use metrics to identify trouble spots, establish baselines, and measure progress. But few companies follow that approach.

The Explanation | In-house lawyers and midlevel managers often worry that if their companies collect diversity data, they might end up gathering evidence of discrimination that can be used against them in lawsuits.

The Recommendation | Many companies have protocols for handling sensitive information, along with procedures for conducting internal investigations. They need to apply protocols and procedures to DEI matters too.

We’ve actually done it; we don’t just consult on it. 

Vibrancy is based in California, with co-founders located in California + Canada. We’re a dynamic combination of experience and expertise, thought leaders in the future (now) of work. We leverage modern org design, iterative implementation and grounding in purpose and belonging to help companies accelerate success with people. We have hands-on expertise and experience, including Airbnb, Morning Star, IBM, Film, Manufacturing, Financial Services and Tech. Vibrancy.co 

Via one of its co-founders, Vibrancy partners with Rhythmic Leader Science, a Canadian company focused on helping fast growing companies grow faster by integrating science to iterate and accelerate people performance. Based in Canada with co-founders in Saskatchewan and Texas, Rhythmic Leader also brings academic research-based work in leadership performance, and PhD in Human Resources Development. Rhythmicleader.co

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