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HR Labs, DEIB Edition: Building a Culture of Belonging with Lorraine Vargas Townsend
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HR Labs, DEIB Edition: Building a Culture of Belonging with Lorraine Vargas Townsend

Cornerstone Editors

APRIL 08, 2021

We’re thrilled to announce the third season of HR Labs, a podcast that explores how to create a better employee experience for all of your people. This season is hosted by Cornerstone’s Chief Learning Officer and VP of Organizational Effectiveness Jeff Miller and Chief Diversity Officer Duane La Bom. Through conversations with change-makers, activists, executives and experts, they’ll explore strategies for taking diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives from intention to action. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.

Lorraine Vargas Townsend has had one mission in mind during her 20-year career in HR: to ensure everyone feels a sense of belonging and respect in the workplace. She has worked at a variety of companies, from Schneider Electric to Athenahealth to Mendix and, today, she is Chief People Guru at A Cloud Guru. In our final episode of Season 3 of HR Labs, Duane sat down with Vargas Townsend to hear more about what she’s learned over the years on how to create a true culture of belonging in the workplace.

Listen to the episode here: Apple — Spotify

Using DEI&B to Unleash People’s Potential

This pursuit stems, in part, from her own experience growing up in a Texas town where she—as a Latina and as a lesbian—didn’t feel as though she belonged. As the daughter of a hard-working, single, immigrant mother, Vargas Townsend also understood from an early age how work can dramatically impact the trajectory of people’s lives and their sense of belonging. She herself only experienced a deeper sense of belonging once joining the team at A Cloud Guru.

"When I joined A Cloud Guru, it was one of the first times where I had a moment of clarity about the difference of being a good culture fit versus belonging," she told Duane in the final episode of HR Labs. "I just knew that I belonged at A Cloud Guru, because this was a place that was not only tolerating me because of my difference, but it was protecting me. It was celebrating me."

And this feeling of truly belonging, Lorraine believes, is the only way to unleash someone’s true potential at work.

Why Belonging is Good for Your People and Your Business

There is ample data showing that DEI&B is good for business. But before being a good business decision, DEI&B, at its core, has the ability to improve the lives of the individuals at an organization. The reality of having—or not having—a job is that people’s work is inextricably linked with people’s lives.

According to Lorraine, a person who belongs is 50% less likely to leave an organization. They’re also 56% more likely to improve their performance, 75% less likely to call in sick and 167% more likely to be a promoter of the company.

"The opposite of belonging is a culture where tokenism thrives and where tolerating people wins, instead of celebrating people and helping them get to prosperity and growth," said Lorraine.

HR’s Role in Building a Culture of Belonging

But HR leaders can’t successfully work toward a culture of belonging by themselves—to do so involves tearing apart every single HR process and tradition and trying to rebuild it all to be as inclusive as possible.

Where do we start? In Lorraine’s opinion, this journey begins with confronting previous mistakes, moving forward and leveraging data every step of the way. Check out Lorraine and Duane’s full conversation to hear more about the value of belonging and what else Lorraine has up her sleeve (she calls it, "the most glamorous audit to ever exist").

Thanks for joining us on this season of HR Labs, where we explored strategies for seeing real impact from your DEI&B efforts. If you’re just tuning in, check out our previous episodes on unconscious bias, microaggressions, pay equity and engaging white men in DEIB strategies. We’ll be back with Season 4 later this year.

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