Creating inclusion and a sense of belonging is the topic on many social media postings and discussed in workplaces as part of their DEIB goals.  In my consulting work addressing DEIB organizational strategy, I continue to hear from employees that it is the small gestures that matter and that these can make another person feel recognized, heard, respected and validated.

For most individuals we have heard from in focus groups, greetings still matter

  • Saying hello, good morning, “have a good day”.
  • Acknowledging another person through a smile, eye contact, a wave of the hand.
  • On a Zoom call, waving hello or using another nonverbal gesture.

Small Talk
Prior to our extensive work online, references would be made to talk around the water cooler. These might be the brief moments for exchanging information on the latest local fitness centers or restaurants, sharing info about children’s accomplishments, and bantering on the victories or losses of local sports teams. Small talk is a respite from the day’s meetings and tasks. Water cooler visits  may not be the norm anymore, but there are opportunities in an office to catch-up on work and non-work topics in five minutes or less. For Zoom meetings, it may also be possible to invite a personal sharing. It is the gesture that counts even if no one has anything to offer. In the silent spaces, the supervisor can share something.

Inviting Input-How are you arriving?
This applies to supervisors in particular who host weekly meetings with their team. I found that going around the group and asking the simple question “How are you arriving?” is an ice breaker of sorts. In my meetings people have responded with “The metro was slow, so I feel behind already”, “I had an energizing workout”, “My toddler was not interested in breakfast this morning!” and other personal anecdotes that bring a level of relaxation into the work agenda that follows. These sharings may lead to head-nodding, smiles, or expressions of empathy; we humanize our coming together with these small exchanges.

Bringing in a New Employee
How a new employee is introduced to the organization on day one or week one will let that person know how people are treated and how much relationships matter. Here are a few positive anecdotes that can be replicated in-person or via Zoom.

  • Welcome meetings were hosted for the new employees, allowing them to meet with individuals with whom they would partner directly. These were about 15 minutes in length allowing for informal conversations.
  • In another setting, the supervisor walked new employees around the office introducing them to different colleagues across hierarchical levels. Via Zoom, these introductions were also arranged.
  • Some organizations had “buddy” systems. A colleague on the same team volunteered to show the newcomers around to spaces where other employees convened such as the coffee bar, and so forth. Depending on the organization, signage may also be part of the introduction. Some organizations have awards posted and other historical information that can be of interest. Point these out in the walk-arounds.

Small gestures do matter. Try one.