Why Belonging Is Critical to Your Organization

Tamika S. Edwards Commentary

Why Belonging Is Critical to Your Organization

Growing up, I always wanted to get to the root of things. With the perpetual why always swirling inside my head, I often joke that it’s the reason I’m drawn to reality TV. Instead of focusing on what people are doing, I focus on understanding the conditions that initiated the behavior. In essence, I find myself continually thinking about why people do what they do. 

Several years ago, I took the CliftonStrengths Assessment. The assessment ranks your strengths and serves as your “talent DNA.” According to the CliftonStrengths website, the assessment “explain[s] the ways you most naturally think, feel and behave.” Given this information, it’s no surprise that my first five strengths, in order, are:

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  1. Learner
  2. Connectedness
  3. Individualization
  4. Context and
  5. Relator.

Recognizing my strengths, I found that my career path makes sense. I value learning, recognize that almost everything has meaning, want to figure out how different people can work together productively, understand the present by researching history, and find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal. Based on CliftonStrengths definitions, I thrive when my environment enables these things to happen. I work at my optimal level. I feel a sense of belonging and strong psychological safety. I know that I am a valued member of the team. 

I’ve had the privilege of working with various leaders, which allowed me to witness several different leadership styles. While each style helped me understand and shape my own, my experiences also taught me how leadership styles enable or hamper an organization’s progress. 

In most instances, that progress lies with their employees. In a time where employees are looking for more from their workplaces, leaders are positioned to cultivate and nurture their organization’s greatest assets: their workforce. 

Nurturing and cultivating employees mean a variety of things. At Southwest Power Pool, our leaders recognize that our work is more than just energy; it’s about the power of relationships. Our core value is “doing the right thing, for the right reason, in the right way.” In Aspire 2026, SPP’s strategic plan, our leaders outlined six enabling capabilities intended to guide them on how to make decisions, treat employees and serve as an industry leader. SPP’s leadership set the tone to unlock the power of the organization. 

That power allows employees to lead from their strengths, which in turn positions the organization to lean into its core value and ensure that their employees see themselves in that value. 

In general, an enabling capability is a necessary component that helps an organization initiate action. An enabling capability is not the only source for progress, but it is essential to it. At SPP, the focus on diversity, equity and inclusion is an enabling capability and works hand-in-hand with organizational readiness. Our leadership recognized that our people are our foundation and that that nothing could move forward without an engaged and supported workforce. 

Research shows that employees who have a sense of belonging are more connected and contribute at higher levels. They have the psychological safety to be creative and innovative. They understand that they are part of a larger cause and see themselves in the work. Moreover, employees have a greater sense of satisfaction because they know they are seen and valued. 

Diversity, equity and inclusion (belonging) are not buzzwords. This body of work enables endless possibilities for an organization and encourages employees to lead from their strengths. They allow each employee to be celebrated and valued for what they bring to the table. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do, for the right reason. 

So what are you willing to do to enable capabilities within your organization? How can you work with your employees to instill a sense of belonging to propel your organization to the next level?

Tamika S. Edwards is the director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Southwest Power Pool of Little Rock. She has more than 20 years of experience in social justice, public policy, government and community outreach.

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