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How Companies Can Foster a Sense of Belonging at Work

How Companies Can Foster a Sense of Belonging at Work

The Mental Health Awareness Week's 2022 theme is ‘Loneliness. Here's what members from Salesforce’s Employee Resource Groups have to say.

The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 is ‘Loneliness’, and it got me thinking about the idea of belonging. So many of us have struggled to feel like we fit the mould, and for many, it is not until we find our tribe that we realise the importance of shared experiences, connection and community.

At Salesforce, our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) offer employees of all backgrounds and experiences a chance to find that community at work, where they won’t only be accepted but celebrated. Considering the fact that we spend an average of a third of our lives at work, this sense of belonging is imperative for employee wellbeing so I caught up with members from a few of Salesforce’s different ERGs to talk to them about what being part of these communities means to them.

Danyial Gilani, Senior Solution Engineer

Imposter syndrome, feeling disconnected, racism and being misunderstood are all things I have experienced in my career far too many times. You almost battle with yourself for years trying to “fit in” – altering your values, the language you use, and the way you present yourself. Not being you is exhausting. It led me to burnout and quitting my job in the past.

Here at Salesforce, finding Faithforce and slack channels like “Social Muslims at Salesforce ” enable me to bring my true authentic self to work. I am instantly connected to so many people around the world who share the same values as I do and can understand the working experience through my shoes too – like during Ramadan for example, it’s great to have colleagues that I can connect with on this. Some things are faith and/or culturally sensitive, and it gives me peace of mind knowing there are other people in this space that can relate to me and that I can connect with no matter where in the world they are.

Vanessa Tao, Account Executive

As a woman of colour, miles away from home, it can be easy to feel like you are alone. For the past 6 years, I have been living in Europe, outside the familiarity and comfort of my home country. This can be quite intimidating. At Salesforce, however, I am fortunate enough to be able to connect with people who are in the same boat.

We share a safe space to discuss various challenges faced at work or outside of work as a person of colour. Being part of the vibrant Asiaforce employee group helps me feel connected and understood, and a part of a community in which I truly belong.

Equality is one of Salesforce’s 5 core values. While a lot of companies talk about it, few are able to uphold these values at the workplace like Salesforce. That said, they are not perfect yet – and women of colour are still an underrepresented group within the company. However, significant efforts have been made and are still being made, and we are definitely moving in the right direction where every person can feel represented and find their own tribe.

Zoe Mackinnon, Lead Solution Engineer

A feeling of belonging is directly linked to seeing the different aspects of your identity not only reflected but celebrated and supported within the workplace – at all levels and not just grassroots. As a gay woman, in other workplaces, I’ve often felt like an impostor – like ‘the only one’, and masked to pass as what felt like a more acceptable version of myself to others.

The likelihood is that I wasn’t the only one, and there were others who perhaps didn’t feel safe to be open and celebrate their authentic selves. I cannot emphasise enough that it not only causes damage to the individual masking but also to a healthy organisational culture and performance.

That’s why Outforce and Salesforce’s other ERGs are so important. They create safe spaces and connections for those with common identities and challenges where we can build initiatives for personal/professional growth, education, increased visibility and celebration of difference. I feel incredibly grateful to be a member of Outforce, our LGBTQ+ ERG, and hope that the small part I play in creating a more inclusive, equitable and diverse culture will be of benefit to others.

Funmbi Ogundiwin, Account Executive:

“Wow, I am the only black person in this office”. That was the prevailing thought I had on the first day of my tech sales career 18 years ago in a room of 40 people. Fast forward to the present day, and that prevailing thought remains the same – a first-hand account of the very slow progress being made to address diversity in tech sales. It is a lonely and intimidating experience being the only black person in the room, but I have learned to live with it over the years.

Salesforce is the only company I have worked for that takes diversity seriously, through its Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Since joining Salesforce 3 years ago, BOLDforce UK, Salesforce’s ERG for black employees, has been a home away from home – a fantastic supportive community, championing black excellence and ultimately providing a safe place for black employees to network and grow. And I’m absolutely honoured and delighted to be part of the BOLDforce UK leadership committee this year, as the Communications Chairperson, giving back to this incredible ERG that has given so much to me.

Colm McNamee, Community Initiatives Senior Associate

While I would agree with Brené Brown that “we are all worthy of love and belonging”, what do you do when the society in which you grow up teaches you to hate yourself merely because you’re different?

As someone who is proudly Autistic, Dyslexic, ADHDer, and Intellectually Gifted, I have always found it hard to make connections in a ‘neuro-typical’ world.

A chance encounter in 2019 led me to apply for the role of Intern with Salesforce through the Willing Able Mentoring (WAM) program which is run by AHEAD and on discovering that Salesforce had a forum for neurodiverse folks and allies to chat, I knew I was on the cusp of finding my tribe.

After years of being either under-employed or unemployed full stop, Salesforce was my first real chance to develop a career that makes full use of my abilities without being pigeon-holed. At Salesforce I found a home, where being myself was not merely tolerated, it was celebrated. The proof of this has been confirmed to me time and time again.

This safe place for those of us who are different (but not less) has been more impactful than I could ever have imagined, and I would encourage all employees to join Abilityforce.

Keren Malca, Corporate Marketing Senior Analyst

I started my career working in the luxury and beauty industry – in companies that had predominantly female employees such as LVMH, Hermes and Puig. Despite the cliché of the luxury industry ‘being super girly’, it was when I changed industries and moved into the tech world that I realised that although there are predominantly more men, it actually feels more diverse because companies like Salesforce really prioritise equality and inclusion.

It has been proven countless times that equal gender representation favours a healthier work environment and fosters better relationships between stakeholders. I don’t feel disadvantaged by the fact that I am a woman in tech, because gender doesn’t really come into it. Although that said, I’m actually very proud to be ‘girly’ and geeky. At the end of the day, it is just about your ambition, drive, hard-working attitude and the passion and purpose you put into what you’re doing. I personally love to be at the heart of innovation, and growing in a super fast-paced environment with a flexible way of working is great. Equal opportunity is something that is also heavily emphasised, and I feel very grateful for that.

Tugba Okalpoglu, Senior Manager Employee Success

In 2014, I left my tribe in Sydney for an adventure in London. Moving time zones can be incredibly daunting, and making new friends as an adult is a challenge people don’t really talk about. How hard was it going to be to pick up my life and start from scratch elsewhere? I was nervous about such a big move.

That said, however, I found a huge community at work. Something that really spoke to me in Salesforce is the ERGs (our employee-led groups focused on fostering communities). It is through these that I managed to find a sense of belonging. I found people with whom I can share life experiences, and celebrate, support and champion to make a difference in both their lives and my own. 8 years later London has now become home, and I have a fab tribe here too!

This connection is so important, especially in a world where loneliness is affecting more and more of us, and it has had a huge impact on our physical and mental health as of late, especially during the pandemic. I am a proud ally of many ERGs in Salesforce, and I’m so grateful to be part of such wonderful communities to help amplify the voices of others, create a better environment for all and help others connect and find that sense of belonging.

Jacob Botha, RVP Sales:

At Salesforce we are very fortunate to belong to a number of communities by default. This includes our global community of Salesforce employees, the Trailblazer community, our teams, business units etc. In the success from anywhere world, I have however found that broadening and diversifying our communities in a way that is sometimes not by default, but by choice, has become an essential part of building my resilience at work.

I am a member and leader in OutForce in UKI, our LGBTQ+ ERG. Being part of the vibrant and creative OutForce tribe has been such an energising experience. It has challenged me to think broader than my day-to-day job and connect with members of the Salesforce Ohana whom I might have not met otherwise. We have a common goal and shared experiences, but even within our underrepresented group, there is a vast amount of diversity. I feel like I learn at every interaction and that I am regularly challenged, supported and inspired. In a strange way, it has also become a refuge for me from a mental health perspective. This ring-fenced time to serve a unique community and focus on something different than my day-to-day job (which I really enjoy), has become a key part of my emotional resilience armour.

The business of business is improving the state of the world, and as such a pivotal trailblazing company in the tech industry, it’s so important that Salesforce helps set a standard to help promote diversity, equality and inclusion at work. After all, there is so much strength in our differences.

For more information on how to track and address stressors during busy, dynamic work days, check out our Employee Wellbeing resource. To learn more about Salesforce’s commitment to equality, check out our website and to see the open positions at Salesforce, check out our European Careers Site.

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