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Interesting piece in the New York Times this morning that charts a shift in the corporate mindset from a focus on "diversity and inclusion" to "diversity and belonging."

The Times writes that "the question of belonging has become the latest focus in the evolving world of corporate diversity, equity and inclusion programming.

"Interest in creating more inclusive workplaces exploded after George Floyd’s murder in 2020. Many corporations turned their attention to addressing systemic racism and power imbalances — the things that had kept boardrooms white and employees of color feeling excluded from office life.

"Now, nearly three years since that moment, some companies are amending their approach to D.E.I., even renaming their departments to include 'belonging.' It’s the age of D.E.I.-B."

Traditional D.E.I. approaches, the argument goes, in many cases actually have exacerbated problems by emphasizing the fact that there are lot of different islands in the workplace, each populated by people of different genders and ethnic backgrounds.  But they have not built bridges among all those islands, and have allowed the white males in power to stay cocooned. 

A focus on "belonging" actually is designed to build these bridges, the Times writes, adding:

"The belonging obsession is the result of a now-widespread corporate standard: Bring your whole self to work. If you have the flexibility to work wherever you want, and the freedom to discuss the social and political issues that matter to you, then ideally, you’ll feel that you belong at your company.

"Bring your whole self to work emerged before the pandemic but became something of a mandate at its height, as companies tried to stanch a wave of resignations. They were also responding to concerns that many people felt excluded in the workplace. According to a 2022 report by the think tank Coqual, roughly half of Black and Asian professionals with a bachelor’s or more advanced degree don’t feel a sense of belonging at work.

"Last year, the Society for Human Resource Management conducted its first survey on corporate belonging. Seventy-six percent of respondents said their organization prioritized belonging as part of its D.E.I. strategy and 64 percent said they planned to invest more in belonging initiatives this year. Respondents said that identity-based communities, like employee resource groups, helped foster belonging, while mandatory diversity training did not."

Still, the Times writes, some critics worry that the shift is more "about making white people comfortable rather than addressing systemic inequality, or that it simply allows companies to prioritize getting along over necessary change."

KC's View:

Too often these kinds of initiatives are cast as efforts at being more "woke," when the fact is that more diverse companies tend to be more responsive to different customers' needs.  Different insights create more intelligent companies - and not just emotionally intelligent.

At the same time, companies where a wide range of people feel like they belong are more likely to be companies in which employees feel invested - and that's good business.