Difference Makers Series: Belonging at work

January 27, 2023

A black man and an older white woman laugh together while standing next to a wall.

Episode details

Belonging is one of the most important aspects of the employee experience in today's world of work. We talk to two powerful HR leaders, Khady Gaye of United Airlines and Kimberly Bowen of Unum, about how you can help create a culture of genuine care.

  • What does it mean to belong at work? Belonging is the feeling of being valued and appreciated for who you are. The pandemic accelerated the importance of belonging in the workplace, forcing us to intertwine our personal lives and work lives and share them with each other. Now employees expect employers to take an interest in the totality of their lives, and employers can only be successful if they create comfort, connection and a safe space in which to be vulnerable and authentic. [05:00]

  • Creating belonging is now non-negotiable. Belonging is table stakes now. It's the fuel that drives performance, and employees are demanding to feel valued and cared about as people. Supporting employees in every aspect of their lives is no longer the ceiling of what an employer should provide; it is the floor. Every organization should make sure that belonging is embedded into the fabric of their culture. [11:00]

  • Go beyond current offerings to satisfy employee expectations. For today's employees — especially Gen Z — diversity, equity and inclusion are top on the list of expectations. Offerings like EAPs are fine, but employers need to do more to show employees they understand their lives and are willing to offer what they and their families need. If you make a better work environment for everyone, you don't have to focus only on underrepresented groups. That workplace must be a safe space for everyone to bring their authentic self to work. Without that, people will disengage. [14:22]

  • Tips for HR. Model the behavior. Use your voice to speak up to others in your organization and help them see how they can be better at fostering belonging and inclusion. Be intentional. Recognize that fostering belonging is a business strategy, and as such, it needs to be embraced and led by leaders at all levels of the organization. Take proactive steps to know the people in your organization, like setting up regular meetings with people who don't report directly to you, just to get to know them as human beings. Doing so will help you get their buy-in when it might otherwise be difficult to do so. [18:20]

  • Key insights on belonging. If you build inclusion, diversity will come. If you lead with empathy, belonging will come. The world has been shaken up, so have the courage to be yourself, create more dialogue and pay attention to the critical aspects that create a culture of belonging. [34:00]

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Kimberly Bowen headshot

Kimberly Bowen

Senior Vice President, Global Talent & Inclusion, Unum

Kimberly has built a career centered around people. She has worked across multiple industries throughout her 22-year career including retail, health care, third-party staffing, outsourcing and financial services. Kimberly joined Unum in June 2019 and is responsible for the global vision and implementing talent management and inclusion and diversity strategies for the company. Her background includes responsibilities in all facets of human resources, including talent acquisition, learning and development, talent management, employee relations, inclusion and diversity, compensation, shared services and human resource information systems (HRIS) along with mergers and acquisitions. Kimberly currently serves as Secretary of the Board for Chambliss Center for Children and Vice President of the Board for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chattanooga.

Khady Gaye headshot

Khady Gaye

Manager — HR, Corporate, United Airlines

Khady Gaye is truly a multilingual citizen of the world. Born and raised in Ghent (Belgium), her roots are Senegalese. She has traveled extensively in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and more. Today, she's based in Chicago, working as Manager of HR for United Airlines. Her educational background is in translation and human resource management. With more than 20 years of human resources experience, she aims to connect with others through candid conversations while demonstrating curiosity and authenticity. Khady adopts a Teranga mindset in everything she does. This loosely means you need to include elements of respect, community, solidarity and sharing in your interaction with people to create that welcoming feeling. Diversity and inclusion are in her DNA. Described as a natural relationship builder, she thrives by empowering people to be proud of who they are. Her mantra: "Inclusion is the solution to exclusion."

About the host

Clare Morin headshot

Clare Morin

Content Marketing Manager, Unum

Clare Morin is the Content Marketing Manager at Unum and a journalist who's spent the last 20 years interviewing hundreds of thought leaders on topics ranging from wellness to culture, finance, human resources and technology. Born in the UK, raised in Hong Kong and based in the U.S. since 2009, she brings a global outlook to the HR Trends studio.

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