After working for eight long years in a construction company, Mr. X quit his job. The job paid him well and his career did have steady growth. However, Mr. X resigned and HR was not able to retain him even after having multiple rounds of discussions. He did not reveal the true reason even during his exit interview. His boss, his colleagues, and the HR were puzzled at his action as things were going pretty well in the organisation for him.
When all his colleagues left the farewell party, his friend pestered him about the real reason behind his sudden change of heart and he opened up by saying “ I pray in my car. I have no idea about how people think of me with regards to my religion as I am alone and different from everyone else. I can’t keep going like this”.
Employees like Mr. X who differ from most of their colleagues in terms of religion, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, and generation often hide important parts of themselves at work for fear of negative consequences. The diversity and inclusion (D&I) researchers call this an “identity cover”. When they hide their true identity, it is difficult for them to stay connected with others and feel included in the organisation.
Social belonging is a fundamental human need, hardwired in our DNA. We can see this evident in Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchy, too, where love and belongingness are prioritised similar to the need for food, shelter, and security. For employees like Mr. X, although they have a well-paid & secured job, they often feel uncomfortable at the workplace.
To understand the consequences of the absence of the “need to belong” – the special ingredient in D&I, researchers teamed up and surveyed 1,789 full-time U.S. employees across many industries and then conducted a series of experiments with more than 2,000 live participants. Based on the study, the researchers found that belongingness was linked to a 50% drop in turnover risk and a 75% decrease in employee sick days.
So, how can organisations retain employees like Mr. X? The D&I researchers explain that the key to inclusion is to understand who your employees are and the three most effective ways to find out about your employees are survey assessments, focussed group discussions, and one-on-one conversation.
When organisations conduct surveys like Employee Satisfaction or Employee Experience, they need to collect data based on criteria such as gender, ethnicity, generation, geography, tenure, and role in the organisation. By looking at the data, employers will get opportunities to identify issues among minority groups that could be leading to dissatisfaction which later may turn towards attrition.
Focussed Group Discussions
Organisational interventions like focus groups will provide deeper insights into what employees value and the issues that may be causing them frustration and burnout.
Having an open conversation with the manager is a powerful tool. However, the manager needs to earn the trust of their subordinates. One way managers can do this is by sharing their thoughts and feelings when they are tired, sad, or struggling with an issue. It helps show to their subordinates that they are also human, similar to them. It’s more like walking the talk, the Gandhi Mahatma way.
The road to retention through D&I
According to a McKinsey report, companies with higher racial/ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to perform better than their competitors. The above three tools would enable organisations to reap those substantial benefits.
Reece, A., Carr, E. W., Baumeister, R. F., & Kellerman, G. R. (2021). Outcasts and saboteurs: Intervention strategies to reduce the negative effects of social exclusion on team outcomes. Plos one, 16(5), e0249851.
The Value of Belonging at Work. (2021, December 21). Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2019/12/the-value-of-belonging-at-work
To Retain Employees, Focus on Inclusion — Not Just Diversity. (2021, August 27).Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2018/12/to-retain-employees-focus-on-inclusion-not-just-diversity
Why diversity matters. (2015, January 1). McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/why-diversity-matters
About the Author:
Ms. Gayathiri Sridharan is an Organizational Psychologist. She received her training from Loughborough University, UK. She is an Organizational Development Consultant with 14+ years of experience in various realms of Strategic Human Resource Management. She is committed to help organizations maximize their effectiveness. She is a Certified Professional Expert to do EQ Brain Profiling, Assessing, Debriefing, an expert at Coaching individuals/teams on their emotional intelligence skills.