Most organizations engage in some sort of activity in the name of inclusion. Quite simply, this is about ensuring nobody feels disadvantaged or left out due to their age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, marriage or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity, or other factors such as social background. Ultimately, companies develop these activities in order to create a working environment where people can be themselves. But if these activities are about people and how they feel, why do we refer to them as “policies” or “procedures?”

While inclusion is a worthy goal, I think it’s time for organizations to reconsider the terms and activities and begin basing inclusivity actions on social connectedness research.

Social Connectedness 101

So, what is “social connectedness?” Let me start with a quick, whistle-stop tour:

  • Social connectedness is the degree to which we feel attached to our social situation and people around us.
  • It is driven by our innate need to be part of a tribe, contribute something of value, be part of something greater than ourselves and rely on others for protection and nurturing. One of the leading lights in social connectedness (and a personal hero of mine) is Naomi Eisenberger, a social neuroscientist whose research shows that when we feel social exclusion, we feel physical pain. The same neural substrates fire up in our brains when we report social disconnectedness and exclusion as when we are physically harmed.
  • It is critical for health; hence some claims that loneliness can be more detrimental to physical health than smoking. According to a report published by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor at Brigham Young University, lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

The Commercial Connection

When we consider that the average person spends more than a third of their lives in the workplace, it is reasonable to assume that social connectedness at work has a significant impact on our wellbeing and, ultimately, our performance and productivity.

It could be argued that the holy grail of commercial business is to experience 100% organizational commitment from its workers. This is all about the bond workers feel with their organization, the degree to which they feel they “fit” and personally align with the values of the business.

Organizational commitment comes with some pretty great commercial side effects, too:

  • Increased citizenship behaviors
  • Increased performance
  • Reduced intention to quit
  • Reduced attrition
  • Reduced absence

In Your DNA

While I absolutely believe in organizations offering opportunities to a diverse demographic of people, it is imperative that once any person joins your business, they feel their success is connected to the organization’s success. Inclusion must exist in the DNA of your business and be something that your people are mindful of in every minute of every human interaction.

Is your people agenda at the heart of your business strategy and future proofing? I suggest you consider your organization’s activity in this area and discuss how you might turn your “inclusivity policy” into something less akin to management information reporting and something that is grounded in social connectedness.