Fostering a Culture of Belonging

While I wear many hats as Manager of Business Operations and HR for Groundswell, one role that I am particularly passionate about is centered around Groundswell’s commitment to creating, and maintaining, a culture for our staff that is both inclusive and fosters a sense of belonging. 

In order to foster such a culture, it was critical that as an organization we defined what it meant to be inclusive and identify the ways in which we were—and were not— being inclusive. In order to help us arrive at those answers, Groundswell engaged Patricia Bory, founder of Include Consulting, a firm that helps organizations build diverse teams, create inclusive cultures and develop equitable practices that drive positive change in and outside organizations.  

Based on the belief that building a successful and inclusive organization is “a marathon not a sprint”, Include Consulting recommended a two phased approach. Phase I would focus on awareness building; Phase II would include the necessary measures we would need to take as an organization in order to begin building the foundation for an inclusive culture.  

In March, Patricia lead our team through a full-day workshop where we discussed openly what inclusivity meant to us personally and professionally, and why creating a culture of belonging was important. When authentic inclusivity takes place, employees are not only invited to participate at various levels but asked to share their perspectives and suggestions which are taken into consideration, respected and valued. This begins to foster a culture where staff feel more engaged and valued, often leading to a renewed sense of motivation and dedication to the work at hand.  

Groundswell’s team is diverse both culturally and demographically; each person brings with them a unique set of skills, experiences and personalities. While I am Groundswell’s Business Operations Manager, I am also an African American mom of a three -year old boy who loves batman, books, cars and going on adventures. But that only scratches the surface of who I am as a person, what inspires and motivates me, what my interests are, how I prefer to communicate, what frustrates me, etc. Our collective diversity is an asset and we are constantly learning from one another.  

One of the many takeaways from our time with Include Consulting, was that for an organization to not only be diverse and inclusive but also boast a culture of belonging, it needed to foster an environment that allows employees time to get to know one other. As a result, we’ve begun to host quarterly mixers with staff to gather outside of the office in a relaxed setting in order to get to know one another on a more intentional level. Staff contribute suggestions on various mixer ideas— everything from ice skating to happy hour to scavenger hunts--- and we draw them at random. As a small nonprofit with a lean staff, there never seems to be a good time to break away, but we are enjoying the benefits of what it means to prioritize the people before the work on occasion in order to become closer as an organization.  

Employees spend a great portion of their day at work. No one wants to spend hours in an environment where they feel left out, unengaged or uncomfortable. We believe the opinion and perspective of all people is needed to create equality for all. The goal of Groundswell is to create equitable projects and process, so everyone has a seat at the table and is contributing. What I love about working at Groundswell is that our commitment of inclusivity isn’t one solely focused on the external communities we serve, but also on our all-important internal team as well.