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The JOY Podcast: Episode Four

How to Create a Culture of Belonging

HubSpot Video


The triad of belonging requires three things: ongoing interaction with others, a genuine interest in who they are, and caring about them as whole and unique individuals. Debbie Tuel, our Chief Joy Officer; Scott Corrigan, Talent Acquisition Leader; and Janet Rossbach, Belonging & Engagement Expert chat about the importance and value of belonging.

For candidates and current employees, affinity groups are a powerful drivers of inclusion, diversity and belonging. A bonus is that these same individuals often become cheerleaders for the organization. Affinity is not about separatism: it is about creating a sense of community within the broader organization.

Recruiters also crave a sense of belonging. If they feel strongly valued and connected, they will automatically represent the company as a place where candidates can bring their whole selves to work. Recruiters who are actively involved in employee resource groups have a better grasp of what the DEI strategy is for their organization - and should play an active role in crafting it.

Technology’s role in building an inclusive, “whole self” culture is becoming increasingly significant. In the final analysis, it fulfills a critical human need. It’s a powerful milestone on the pursuit of joy.  

The JOY Podcast Ep. 4


Debbie [00:00:00] The JOY Podcast, where we shine a light on how global organizations are getting people back to work faster and with an exceptional experience. My name is Debbie Tuel, Chief Joy Officer at Symphony Talent, a global technology company that is leading this industry wide movement in partnership with our customers and partners alike. It's a project that we're calling The Joy Pipeline, and we're glad you're joining us on this #journeyofyes, our mission is to help recruiters by bringing joy back into the recruiting and empowering them to create experiences that both they and the candidates need now. We're honored to be invited back to the second session of #TheCandEs. And today, I'm joined by Scott Corrigan and Janet Rossbach to touch on how we can tap into the desire of belonging to attract and more importantly, retain a diverse talent audience. Welcome, Janet. Welcome, Scott. How are you doing today?

Janet [00:01:03] Really good. Thank you so much for having me.

Debbie [00:01:06] It's a pleasure. Scott. How are you today, Scott?

Scott [00:01:21] I'm good, thank you.

Debbie [00:01:24] Well welcome. Janet, I would love for you to start today sharing a little bit about your background with our audience. I am so fascinated by the work you do and excited to dive into it today.

Janet [00:01:38] Thank you so much so I have been working in what I call the belonging business for about 20 years now, I have been running alumni relations offices in four of New York City's top institutions of higher learning from the School of Visual Arts to the Cooper Union, Columbia Business School and now Baruch College. The work that I do is about creating community and opportunities for people to reconnect with one another. And I've been recently studying the neuroscience associated with belonging and how important it is to feel like you fit in and that there's a community that you belong to. And I look forward to speaking with you about it.

Debbie [00:02:25] Great, thank you, Janet. And Scott, really quickly share with the audience a little bit about the work that you do and what belonging means to you.

Scott [00:02:38] Sure. My name is Scott Corrigan, I've been in talent acquisition for roughly about 20 years, helping leaders build amazing teams that make big things happen in industries ranging from space, intelligence, advertising, media and consumer services. And I think one of the strong themes in my career has been helping recruiters really feel like they're integrated into the business, that they do have a sense of belonging, inclusion, that they can find their tribe in an organization so that they can really be their authentic self, that they can represent the organization as someone that is bringing their whole self to their work. And I have found that that does a great job of attracting amazing talent to companies where they want to thrive.

Debbie [00:03:28] And it's such an important concept, Scott, Janet, because as we look into their research, we find that individuals tend to find themselves more themselves at work. They feel like it's a place where it's just about them. It's less about their role in the family or their role in society in an area where they can kind of write a fresh page and start anew. And to feel like you belong is really a key piece to retention. And I know that Symphony Talent is all about talent attraction, but we can attract all the talent in the world. If we can't retain them, then we have a whole other back and forth to untangle here. Janet, share with us a little bit about what you found that people are looking for at work and in the workplace.

Janet [00:04:15] Sure. Well, you hear about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, right? And the first one is all about primary needs of food and shelter. The second one is about safety. The third one traditionally is talked about as being about love, but it's also about feeding, feeling a sense of belonging. And this is a critical human need. And there are some positive psychologists out there who have been studying this over the last two decades of the triad of belonging. And the triad of belonging requires three things. First, interactions, not constant, but active interaction with other individuals. Secondly, concern that you're actually interested in the other people that you're engaging with. And third is care, and care goes beyond concern. It's really about caring about the other person as a whole person. Recently, I've been mentoring some undergraduate students about networking and saying that networking really is about building relationships. It's not a means to an end. It's about connecting, bringing your full self to the interview and finding the place where you feel you fit and where you feel you belong. And I think this goes directly to the work that you do and the importance of recruiters feeling like they belong in their workplace so they can express it to the potential next hire.

Debbie [00:06:00] Yeah, it's such a great point, Janet, of really tapping into that communication, feeling heard, feeling that you belong. Scott, you've done a lot of work in this space, both with your own teams, but also walking into organizations and helping them build out different groups. So share with us a little bit about how you got involved in creating groups within organizations to help and how that really drives you.

Scott [00:06:31] Sure. So first, I would just foot stomp everything that Janet said, I mean, that is absolutely spot on and, you know, makes me smile because we've all lived in this space for a while. You know, a number of years ago, well, many, many years ago, I came out in the workplace. I'm gay. I'm married to my husband. And, you know, when I did that, I found that, you know, I didn't always feel accepted. Not that I, you know, found the opposite of that, but I didn't really find that I could be myself at work. And I know that that sort of stagnated me, my ability to feel like I could bring my whole self, like I could bring every asset and every tool in my arsenal, including, you know, being prideful of who I was. As it became more senior in the industry and more of a position of being influential. I've started to spend a lot more time with employee resource groups, and I've done that because I found that ERGs really are a powerful driver of inclusion, diversity and belonging. They also intersect with talent acquisition. And if you can leverage the power of affinity groups where, you know, people really can find their tribe and that's a powerful driver that intersects and and couples into your business strategy of finding a diverse workforce, finding people that are cheerleaders for your brand, that want to be in your organization because they can bring their whole self. And so some of the work that I've done has helped build employee resource groups and affinity groups in organizations and then build the talent acquisition strategy that can couple into that. And so when you go in, so you're bringing together, you know, people that are cheerleaders for the business and then folks that can really activate talent networks and and help, you know, achieve those goals.

Janet [00:08:24] And if I can jump on the top of that. Pardon me. Sorry, I just wanted to say that those employee engagement groups is the exact same strategy that I use in terms of alumni relations. We create networks based by affinity, by interest, by geographic area, by all different activities that they do as students as well as within corporations. We're trying to create affinity networks so that there is something that that really connects them. And just one common in terms of the neuroscience. We've heard about the hormone of oxytocin. This is the love hormone. This is the the hormone that makes you feel good and it's contagious. You know, it's something that one brain literally can catch from another brain. And if you are feeling that love, if you're feeling that happiness, if you're feeling that joy, it is contagious. And that is exactly what Symphony Talent and The Joy Pipeline is about. It's about the contagion of joy. I suppose I should pick another word then contagion in these days, but is something that that carries from the workplace to the interview to the candidate and back.

Debbie [00:09:50] And it's so needed right now we talk about the the dignity and bringing that dignity back to the candidate of experience, treating people like humans. And this concept of affinity, I think is so strong. And we hear all of the time from our customers, from our prospects that are asking what can we do from a diversity strategy? How can we attract more talent? And it does start with this idea of let's start internally and create those affinity groups and give them a place of belonging so that when you then take that and start to attract talent, that you're telling the truth in an authentic story of what they can find within your organization, how they're going to be supported, how they're going to be embraced, the two need to go hand in hand. Would you guys agree with that statement that you need to start the work internally before you go out and message what you're doing to attract them?

Janet [00:10:49] I actually think that it's been backwards for a long time, that it's all been about messaging and now it's really about making action. Exactly. And I've noticed on LinkedIn that more and more diversity, equity and inclusion professionals are changing their titles to diversity, equity and belonging. And I just love that because it is about creating community, it is about creating engagement. And these affinity groups are not supposed to keep you away from engaging with other people. You know, it's not about separatism. It is about creating a sense of community within a broader community. And then hopefully the values and ethics and the culture of an organization as a whole is a community that you feel like you belong to as well.

Debbie [00:11:49] Absolutely, and Scott, I'd love for you to tap into that you do work on both sides. You work with the internal organization on building out places where people can find belonging and then you work on the recruiting side. So share with me how you get your recruiters to message and communicate that value proposition as their recruiting talent to come work for you guys.

Scott [00:12:16] So that's a great question, you know, and the answer is simple, get the recruiters really involved in the employee resource group, but also help them understand what the diversity and inclusion strategy is for the organization and talent acquisition should really be part should be seated at the table and helping understand and sometimes even craft that strategy. You know, at the end of the day, a diversity and inclusion strategy really means nothing unless it's executed properly. And one of the key measures of that is helping change, if you will, the face of the organization that's helping bring more people in. But you really have to go the other mile. And that's helping people really get a seat at the table so that they can not only become part of the conversation, but they can also be influencers in the organization and they can help change the direction in terms of the tone, the culture. And that's what that's where I have found that there sometimes is a disconnect between diversity and the talent acquisition. And it's really at that that place of helping them understand what the strategy is, what the mission is, helping integrate them into the employee resource activities, getting them out there in the marketplace, etc.

Debbie [00:13:36] Absolutely, when we look at technology to support these DEI initiatives, you know, there is a great opportunity for us to take a look and be really transparent about what is prohibiting us from attracting the talent that we're looking for. And one of the kind of easy, low hanging fruit that we find is that each of us has our own inherent bias. We're good people. We don't intend to be biased. But the way that we're always the people that we're around, the language which we use can inherently be biased. And so one of the areas that we've been focusing on as an organization is using tools to help in two different areas. One, like I said, low hanging fruit. Let's just identify the language that they're using that might be biased, that might be turning people off, that might insinuate that we are looking for a specific gender or a specific diversity group. And and let's fix that. Right. An easy fix that can be in job descriptions. That can be an email text that could be in copy that you're using in print material. All of these are areas that we need to be really examining. Are we using the right language to put our best foot forward? The second area that we've been looking at is this idea of when we share candidates with hiring managers, internal employees, taking out some of that personal information that might trigger some bias and just looking at the skill set of the individual. I'd love to hear in practice, Scott, if you guys have looked at any of this technology, have started using any of it, or just even just your initial thoughts on if those might be helpful or what other areas we should be looking at technology to help us with these initiatives.

Scott [00:15:27] So absolutely, and I love that you mention that, first of all, the job description itself is so key and you need to be able to deemphasize gender and anything else that as an example, I would say some people will write that you need a strong background in, you know, coding or other words that are sort of masculinized, which are proven to turn off female candidates, because it's parts of the job description. Sounds like you're advertising for a wrestler or someone that's lifting weight and not someone who's a degreed professional. So I think making a real emphasis to do that. And there's great technology out there to help you do that at scale very efficiently. That has artificial intelligence behind it and proven analytics. And that can also be an educational moment for your business online leaders when you show them what a before and after might look like. And then also, if you're hopefully able to track what the before and after candidate polls might look like as well. Something else that I found is really, really helpful is the low tech or the non tech approach coupled with the tech. But the low tech approach would be helping leaders understand that it's OK to be themselves in an interview. You know, if you're gay and you have a husband, it's OK to mention it. If you're lesbian and you don't feel like hiding it, get out there and let them know it's OK to be your authentic self and and allow candidates to see that that's celebrated. The old days of operating like a sort of like a management wind up toy where you're just sort of a robot in an interview, are long gone. The best people in the marketplace are going to be those that are going to want to bring their whole selves to their job or feel like they can at least, and they're going to fly towards a company that uses great tech to help build that environment where they feel comfortable applying to that job. And then they go a step further and craft an interview that that helps make that happen.

Janet [00:17:36] And we're also so much more than just our skill set. You know, how can a list of skills really determine how imaginative or creative you are, how strategic you are, besides just saying the word creative and strategic and imaginative in your resume, you know what I mean? Like, you need to be able to use language either written or oral to express how you think, because that's what you want. You want someone who can think on their feet and process information and come up with exciting solutions to problems that continue to evolve.

Scott [00:18:20] I would agree, and there's great technology out there that helps organizations go beyond the resume and identify talent that that may have like you've mentioned Janet,  the basic qualifications. But they can also help you identify people that that might be more likely to be a cheerleader in your organization to to be able to influence and to grow in your company beyond just looking at those qualifications. I couldn't agree more.

Debbie [00:18:52] I would second that, and it's not just about doing the initial review, but it's building those long term relationships to and that can be really challenging. When recruiters are working on heavy rec loads, they're expected to do more of the recruiting process than they ever have before. We're all stretched thin. And so that's really where we can start to use technology to identify some of those areas that we can alleviate for the recruiters, that they can focus back on exactly that, building those long term relationships, thinking about them as individuals. And this might not be the right fit, but what else could we look at if you are an organizational fit for us? Awesome. Well, I think we should kind of take a little moment to do one of our favorite segments, which is Confessions of a Recruiter & a Candidate. I'm going to put you on the spot here a little bit. And if either of you have a fun story of either when you were a candidate interviewing for a job where you had a moment of like, is this really happening? Or on the flip side, as a recruiter, where you had those moments where you either were provided some joy in that experience or vice versa, where you had an opportunity to have a good giggle in the job search experience

Scott [00:20:17] Picking the one, picking the example...it's like there's so many. Yeah. If you don't mind me going first, Janet. I have one that I'll share. Might have two quick ones. The first one that pops into my head is when I was a younger man being trained at Robert Half International in New York City in their Fifth Avenue office. And I was working in their consulting group and one of our clients called in and said, Have you seen Joan? And I said  yeah, you know, she went to the office. We know she's there. We just actually just spoken to her a few minutes ago. They called back 20 minutes later. Joan disappeared. They can't find Joan. And the short of it, they call back. An hour later, they found Joan. They say they call back. They say, we found Joan. And I thought, oh, my God, what does that mean? You found her like what? I hope this isn't a CSI moment. They said we found her. She was under her desk with a chair pulled in with the light up battery powered mirror, doing her makeup and her hair for about a half an hour, getting ready for the day. And so that was that was just very interesting. And so I have to say, I did not know what to say to that customer being a recruiter.

Debbie [00:21:36] That is amazing. Now, Joan, Joan was just another employee? Was it a candidate?

Scott [00:21:45] I'm so sorry. Joan was a candidate. It was the candidate. She was a candidate. Yes. And so this is a premiere account. It was a bank and there were front desk receptionists.

Debbie [00:22:00] Now, that's amazing. So, ladies, put your makeup on, do your hair before you ever go into the office or go to the bathroom to do it. Yeah, I think, Janet, that's going to be kind of hard to follow up.

Janet [00:22:18] I know. I just want to say, Scott, that your comments earlier about the gender bias in job descriptions, I just think back to the number of jobs I've applied to in which I felt like I've had to steel myself and prove that I am just as good as a man. I'm older than I look. And I have often felt like I've had to present myself as above and beyond so that I would be considered equal to to a male candidate. So I find it very interesting to hear that may have been influenced by language, not to mention the marketplace. So I just find that very, very interesting.

Scott [00:23:15] So your behavior was cued up by the job description?

Janet [00:23:20] I'm wondering that. Because I've had to be strong. I've had to be resilient. I've had to I mean, there are words out there, but they're asking for it. They're asking for non-emotive, well managed self-control, skill driven profile. And I have a tremendous amount of skills. But it comes with personality, you know, it comes with who I am. And I know I've been in interviews where I haven't presented my personality because I was concerned that they wanted, you know, of a being that fit this rather more masculine, I guess, more or less ebullient type of character. So it's just interesting to reflect on.

Janet [00:24:34] Yeah, go ahead, Scott.

Scott [00:24:36] I was going to say I'm you're really impacting me here because I'm thinking about of the candidates that would like to bring their whole self to work and really want to work in an environment where it's OK to be who they are. And maybe that is a little bit more flair. How many of them did not apply because they didn't find that they could have that joyful type of experience? So that's a that's a real learning opportunity, I think.

Janet [00:25:04] Yeah, well, I mean, at Baruch College, our largest school of three schools is our business school. And we have these massive job fairs where, when we were in person, four hundred six hundred eight hundred undergraduate students would all show up in the same black suit. You know, like the culture of the of the interview prep is to not not distinguish yourself beyond your skill set. And what if that changed a bit more and it was about bringing who you are as a whole person. As I say, when I talk about networking, honestly, it's about making friends, I mean, in a professional way. But you want to get to know each other for a long time. Scott, I think you're great. I want to get to know you, even beyond the process that we may be interacting in. I want to be able to have a relationship with you beyond just the transaction of recruitment. And I'm not sure if that is promoted as a cultural opportunity, that the recruiters are the ambassadors, both externally and then internally.

Scott [00:26:30] And I think, you know, smart organizations recognize the problem that you're describing, and they will use recruitment technology to help bridge that gap. They use technology to grab glimpses of their culture, glimpses of the personalities of their executives. They use technology to reformat and completely reinvent job descriptions that really allow people to see themselves in the position as themselves. They use video technology to kind of break down barriers. And I think that's that's one of the reasons why I love talent acquisition, is because the industry is always changing where it is recognizing new problems. We're always looking for new technology to to solve problems. And it's a fun and exciting space.

Debbie [00:27:20] Absolutely, and this is where you can really take a look at employee videos so that you can start to share what is it like inside this organization and can you see yourself as working here? But we've got to make sure that when we're doing that, that we're taking a a wide range of people within the organization so that each individual can see themselves in somebody different within the organization, recognizing that we all have different skill sets. So if you're going to do it, make sure that you're taking a look at all of the different spectrums of employees that you have, that you're sharing fair representation overall and then use the right technology to make sure that you're using those personalities with the right talent segments that you're attracting. And that is really where when we bring this internal work that we're doing, technology and external communication together is where it can be really powerful. 

Debbie [00:28:34] Well, I appreciate the conversation. Scott, Janet, this has been really fun to really dive into this idea of how do we create a sense of belonging, how do we tap into that ornate nature that each of us have to work with people that are like us, as Scott mentioned, how do we find that tribe? Because you are less likely to leave your tribe than you are to leave a job. Right? We've got to make it more about how are we creating this experience for people where they enjoy coming to work and where they enjoy the work that they're doing. And then we can take that and take it to the market to attract that more diverse audience into the organization. And I think this is a great opportunity for all of us in talent acquisition to dig a little deeper and look at what are we doing internally that we can take external. Janet, Scott, any last thoughts before we wrap it up for the day? Janet we'll start with you. 

Janet [00:29:35] Thank you so much. It's been wonderful to be able to join you and talk about the belonging business. It's something I'm quite passionate about. We were just talking about being able to enjoy your time at work. Well, The Joy Pipeline, that's really what it's all about. And we want to keep that going, the cycle of joy, and keep that going throughout your professional career. I think it's really exciting what Symphony Talent is doing and thank you for the opportunity to join you today. 

Debbie [00:29:49] It's been our pleasure, thank you so much for joining us today. Scott, any final thoughts?

Scott [00:29:49] Thank you, it really has been a pleasure, I've learned a lot being here. And in my career I've spent so much time talking with others about helping people find their joy because we all know, you deliver your life's best work when you feel like you're included, that your voice matters, that you can be yourself. That brings joy. Joy helps deliver amazing performance. This really is about the bottom line for organizations. Happy people make the bottom line better. So it's been great to talk about that and learn a few things about how to continue doing this good work in my organization. Thank you for the pleasure and the invitation. 

Debbie [00:29:49] Yeah, absolutely, we really believe that joy sparks success and means success for yourselves personally, for the organization. I appreciate your own insights and expertise and bringing that to the conversation so that we can spark those moments of joy and success for our recruiters and for the candidates. Thank you for #TheCandEs for having us. Until next time, please, go to Spotify, subscribe to The JOY Podcast. We look forward to continuing this conversation. Thank you and have a great day!