DE&I

Employee identity is important: Here’s how HR can honor it

“The workplace is one of the last places in the world that we don’t get to choose every single person that we’re surrounded by…so it’s also an opportunity to stretch and grow.”
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Grant Thomas

· 3 min read

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.

Employers with successful DE&I programs have a few things in common, HR Brew reported earlier this year. Fostering a sense of employee belonging is one of those things.

In her recently published book, You Belong Here: The Power of Being Seen, Heard, and Valued on Your Own Terms, author Kim Dabbs shares how companies can create safe spaces and encourage employees to show their real identities.

Dabbs discussed with HR Brew how people pros can honor employees’ identities in the workplace.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is a key takeaway from your book?

[One] of the most important things is, one, identity matters. And as we lead within institutions and organizations, having support for people to understand their identity, as well as understand what that means, in a team setting and in an organization, is critical to creating safe spaces that people can thrive.

How can HR pros promote identity in the workplace?

Each of us, within institutions and organizations, when we come in, we’re so interested in the identity of the organization that we’re joining, that we don’t understand the cultural context and the identity that we actually walk through the door with. And, all this matters because over time, as leaders…we shape those experiences for employees…And, if we’re creating the cultures and safe spaces for everyone to be a part of, we need to ensure that everyone can come as they are, and that includes understanding your identity and what bias you may hold as we start to curate and create those cultures.

How can HR create space for an employee’s personal culture and the company’s culture?

If you can understand what identity is and do that inner work for yourself, you can better create space for others. Because yes, teams have an identity that’s also inherited, organizations have an identity…That identity, as an organization, or as a team, needs to be cocreated and needs to be something that everyone comes together to help understand and contextualize in order for everyone to be able to show up as themselves…The workplace is one of the last places in the world that we don’t get to choose every single person that we’re surrounded by…so it’s also an opportunity to stretch and grow, and to honor the humanity of others and the lived/learned experiences that they have.

Is identity HR’s priority?

I think it’s an everyone issue and priority, and within a workplace, I know a lot of times people get uncomfortable with the thought of having to do inner work, but inner work [means] systems work…If we can come together and collectively know that once we’ve done that inner work and we can show up fully, then different things can thrive within an institution. Not only the humanity of honoring and respecting your coworkers and each other, but also thriving cultures of innovation and really navigating differences in a way that is healthy and respects others.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.