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How a Belonging and Inclusion Survey Can Make Your Organization a Better Workplace

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Your organization is committed to diversity in the workplace. But are your employees getting the message? Do they feel included? Do they feel that they belong?

Creating an environment where every employee feels that they belong and are included is essential for building a thriving workplace, but as an achievable goal, this objective can be hard for many companies to grasp. Thankfully, the first step toward actionable change isn’t difficult—it’s simply to listen.

In 2024 and beyond, diverse hiring and promotion practices aren’t optional. And while any company can build a diverse workforce through targeted recruitment initiatives, it takes effort to build a culture of belonging and inclusion. In this article, we’ll discuss how your organization can (and will) get there: by using data that is as unique as your workforce is.

Hospital staff looking happy together at reception area

What does “belonging and inclusion” mean?

Harvard University defines “belonging” as the state of everyone being treated like (and feeling like) a full member of the community of a workforce, as well as having the ability to thrive within the larger group. “Inclusion” is defined as the state in which all employees from all backgrounds, are “included, visible, heard, and considered.”

The difference between belonging and inclusion is distinct, though the two concepts are often conflated. Dave Wilkin, the CEO of 10KC, a mentorship platform used by companies like Nike and Ge, gave WorkLife News the following explanation: “Inclusion is being in the room and having an opportunity to have the conversation. Belonging is when it’s obvious that people are explicitly making sure that those voices are valued.”

While companies can hire and promote a diverse group of employees, making those employees feel welcome and appreciated for their efforts at work requires consistent, focused commitment.

Why should employers care about belonging and inclusion metrics?

“Belonging and inclusion” is a key component of a larger trend toward prioritizing diversity in the workforce in a meaningful, impactful way. In the last five years, companies across the United States have increased or renewed their commitments to diverse hiring practices, aided in part by growing shareholder pressure and public demand.

According to a Just Capital report, the majority of businesses listed in the Russell 1000 disclosed racial and ethnic workforce data by September 2021. This number increased significantly from January of the same year when only 32 percent of the companies on the index shared the same data with the public. That year, corporate America spent $50 billion on initiatives (both internal and external to help advance racial equity.

However, shareholders, employees, and the public are still demanding greater change from American businesses. With shareholder proposals on DEI at an all-time high and disclosure regulations catching up to the trend, companies are truly beginning to see that investing in belonging and inclusion isn’t just an option—it’s a necessity.

How to measure belonging and inclusion:

The first step toward measuring belonging and inclusion requires employers to gather unique and individualized data on their employees’ perceptions and lived experiences within their workplace. This can be done effectively through the use of a well-thought-out belonging and inclusion survey.

Using a belonging and inclusion survey to jump-start your DEI initiatives:

A belonging and inclusion survey is a transformative tool that can help your organization gain a deep understanding of your current cultural landscape. Once you’ve painted a baseline picture of your employees’ perceptions and lived experiences, you can identify specific areas requiring improvement and implement targeted strategies to foster a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment.

Through administering a belonging and inclusion survey, you can gain the insights you need to make well-informed, data-driven decisions that lead to substantial and meaningful changes. As a result, you’ll be able to holistically improve your overall workplace culture and promote genuine feelings of belonging and inclusion among your employees—healthy signs of rising employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention.

Sample belonging and inclusion survey questions:

Agreement scale belonging and inclusion survey questions:

On a scale of 1 to 5, how strongly do you agree with the following statements, with 1 being “strongly disagree” and 5 being “strongly agree”?

  • When I speak up at work and voice my opinion, I am taken seriously.
  • My gender causes my coworkers to devalue my opinions, thoughts, and ideas.
  • My sexual orientation causes my coworkers to devalue my opinions, thoughts, and ideas.
  • My race causes my coworkers to devalue my opinions, thoughts, and ideas.
  • My ethnicity causes my coworkers to devalue my opinions, thoughts, and ideas.
  • My social and economic background causes my coworkers to devalue my opinions, thoughts, and ideas.
  • My religion causes my coworkers to devalue my opinions, thoughts, and ideas.
  • My education causes my coworkers to devalue my opinions, thoughts, and ideas.
  • The unique perspectives I bring to the table are valuable to my colleagues and managers.
  • My colleagues and managers actively seek out my opinions, thoughts, and ideas.
  • The company is making progress toward achieving its diversity, belonging, and inclusion goals.
  • The company’s culture celebrates and respects its employees with diverse backgrounds and experiences.
  • The company’s diversity, belonging, and iniclusioni initiatives improve my experience in the workplace.
  • I have equal opportunities for growth and development in this organization.
  • The company cares about diversity, belonging, and inclusion.
  • I feel the need to mask or hide certain of my characteristics at work.
  • I feel safe being myself at work.
  • I have witnessed certain of my colleagues or managers treating others unfairly at work based on one or more of their demographic characteristics.

Get our free guide to running better employee engagement surveys

Best practices, tips for success, and what to do with all that data!

Yes or no belonging and inclusion survey questions:

Answer “yes” or “no” to indicate your agreement with the following statements:

  • Do you have an interest in participating in diversity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives at work?
  • Have you joined an employee resource group (ERG) at work?
  • Do you have an interest in joining an employee resource group (ERG) at work?
  • Have you ever felt left out of decision making processes at work when you had opinions, thoughts, and ideas to contribute?
  • In your opinion, is the company doing enough to make its employees feel that they belong?
  • Do you feel comfortable speaking about your lived experiences and unique perspectives with your team members, colleagues, and managers?
  • Do you feel comfortable brining up topics related to diversity, inclusion and belonging with your team members, colleagues, and managers?
  • Do you think the company’s diversity, inclusion, and belonging training is effective?
  • Does your manager or supervisor do their part to foster an environment where belonging and inclusion are valued and promoted?
Open-ended belonging and inclusion survey questions:

Please give your full and complete thoughts in response to the following questions, feeling free to be as descriptive as you’d like:

  • What do you think of the company’s current diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts, programs, and initiatives?
  • What, if anything, would you change about the company’s current diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts, programs, and initiatives?
  • What additional support or resources do you need to feel a greater sense of belonging and inclusion at work?
  • Thinking back to when you were considering joining the company, did your recruitment, application, and interview experience foster a sense of belonging and inclusion?
  • When it comes to experiences with belonging and inclusion at work, are there specific instances or stories that you’d like to share?
  • Do you have any questions about the company’s commitment to or initiatives to improve diversity, belonging, and inclusion?
  • How would you improve the company’s diversity, belonging, and inclusion training?

Should you make your belonging and inclusion survey anonymous?

Whether you make your belonging and inclusion survey anonymous is up to your organization. There are pros and cons to each approach—that is—anonymizing your survey versus requiring identifiers in respondents’ answers. Pros of anonymizing your survey include that anonymity can encourage honesty, boost participation, and protect your employees from targeted backlash if certain reviewers don’t like their responses. On the other hand, requiring identifiers in your employees’ responses can make it hard to discern which groups of employees feel a greater sense of belonging and inclusion, and which are struggling.

If you choose to administer your belonging and inclusion survey anonymously, there are ways to try to the make most of the data you collect and still connect the dots. For example, you can use advanced survey software that allows you to link anonymous responses to different survey participants across all the surveys they respond to—letting you track their perceptions and experiences over time.

You might also choose to allow employees to identify themselves in ways that protect their individual identities while still providing you with the insights you need; for example, you might ask that participants in your survey disclose their race, gender, ethnicity, tenure, department, or similar. This way, you’ll have an easier time discovering trends and locating issues among specific employee groups.

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