Honoring the Individual: How Respect & Belonging Create a Foundation for Inclusive Workplaces

Honoring the Individual: How Respect & Belonging Create a Foundation for Inclusive Workplaces

The contingent workforce continues to grow around the world, becoming an increasingly critical and integral segment for more and more organizations. To gain a competitive advantage in the war for talent, businesses need to better understand what drives contingent workers. A recent report by Werklabs, The Mom Project, and Magnit: “Defining What Matters to the Extended Workforce: Key Drivers for Attracting, Equipping, and Empowering Contingent Labor,” examines what matters most to contingent workers and outlines specific actions organizations can take to attract and retain top talent for a positive and productive work experience. In this series, The Mom Project and Magnit explore the six key drivers that impact contingent workers' career optimism and work experience: equity, success, trust, respect, support, and belonging.

A healthy workplace culture is critical to business success. In the absence of it, businesses will see signs of weakness in the fabric of their company: high turnover, a lack of motivation or drive and, as a consequence, a decline in quality of work. While there are many factors that contribute to a vibrant, happy work environment, there’s no question that a strong focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives enhances the work experience.

When it comes to prioritizing and enhancing DE&I, contingent workers are an important part of the equation, and they should be included in efforts to improve the workplace and experiences of employees. Contingent workers are eager to contribute their skillsets and add unique value to new organizations, and in today’s market, where it can be difficult to attract and retain great talent, workplace leaders are redefining what it means to foster a supportive, inclusive workplace — one that caters to the needs of both full time employees and contingent workers.

In the previous blogs of this series, we’ve discussed how trust and equity along with competitive pay and flexibility are essential characteristics that contingent workers seek for their place of business. Now, I want to discuss two important things that can make or break a workplace culture: respect and belonging.

In my role as Chief Equity & Impact Officer at The Mom Project, I understand that respect is the foundation for any successful relationship, especially in the workplace. Respect paves the way for belonging, another huge driver in contingent worker satisfaction. Let’s break down what respect and belonging mean as they pertain to work — and to life — and how companies can make efforts to provide space for all workers.


How respect and belonging play a key role in DE&I initiatives

What does belonging mean in the workplace? It comes down to feeling connected, respected and valued among colleagues, whether you work with them in the office or remotely. Belonging has recently become a topic of interest in DE&I spaces due to its close relation to inclusivity—more importantly, because unaddressed, deeply rooted systemic issues that exist in many workplaces are often the cause of a lack of belonging.

Unconscious bias, also known as implicit stereotypes, are “learned assumptions, beliefs, or attitudes that we aren’t necessarily aware of.” Unfortunately, these implicit biases can have an impact on the way we interact with the world, including with colleagues at work. While these beliefs can cause issues at all stages of work, including in recruitment and hiring, implicit biases in the workplace can lead to a damaging and hurtful lack of belonging.

Belonging is about feeling like you are essential to the organization. That your experiences and perspectives are valued, and that you have a voice at the table.

When employees do not feel included or sense that they are being excluded, it can lead to negative psychological effects including feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, depression and even physical health problems. Additionally, the organization as a whole suffers as employees become disengaged and less productive.

Encouraging respect

The results were unanimous: people want to feel respected at work. As highlighted in the report, respect was ranked as one of the most important factors contingent workers look for in a workplace, and this desire held true across various segments of professionals, regardless of race/ethnicity and gender. This finding highlights the universal need for receiving respect in work, especially when one is brought into an organization as a temporary employee.

Respect begins with seeing the person behind the role. For the extended workforce, this can be thought of in terms of a cycle, where colleagues and managers first encourage opportunities, listen to their opinions, and recognize work contributions.

Here are a few stats from the Defining What Matters to the Extended Workforce: Key Drivers for Attracting, Equipping, and Empowering Contingent Labor,” report along with my takeaways:


“88% note that employers’ providing opportunities to showcase their skills make them feel respected in contingent roles.”

You hired your contingent workers to fill a specific role or need. Encouraging them to show off their unique skills not only improves their sense of self-worth, but it also serves as a boon to the company.


“Over 85% find managers and colleagues complimenting and recognizing their contributions create feelings of respect.”

Contingent workers can sometimes feel out of place or less important compared to their employee counterparts. One way that organizations can alleviate this is to recognize their efforts and regard them as important contributors.


“88% say that co-workers and managers listening to their voice and opinions makes them feel respected.”

Listening is the foundation of respect. People want to be heard, and they want to feel that their voice matters. Simply listening is a great way to foster a sense of belonging for contingent workers — or any employees.

Building a sense of belonging

A great workplace culture comes with a sense of belonging, a feeling that you are part of a group that is working together for a common goal. Just as belonging is important for full-time workers, it is equally vital for contingent workers. In fact, belonging may be central to a contingent worker’s happiness, as they are often beginning with a sense of separation from their full-time brethren.

Fostering a sense of belonging among contingent workers can lead to greater retention rates and even serve as a pipeline for future full-time employees. By creating an inclusive workplace culture that embraces all workers, companies can attract and retain top talent, regardless of employment status.

So, what factors encourage a sense of belonging at work? Most importantly, companies should commit to recognizing and honoring the individual behind the role. Remember why you hired them and what they can bring to the table for the organization. Empower them by trusting that they can and will do great work.

“80% of contingent workers surveyed note that feeling empowered to be themselves during work makes them feel a sense of belonging in their work and among colleagues.”

I mentioned the importance of workplace culture. The truth is, no great culture can exist without an organization setting and living up to values that align with their purpose. Workers across the spectrum instinctively understand this and can sense when something’s amiss. Without a strong and clear mission and vision that is both established and maintained, workers may find it hard to develop a deep sense of belonging.

“76% of contingent workers surveyed indicate that an employer being aligned with their personal values foments feelings of belonging.”

Focusing on developing an organizational culture that facilitates and promotes belonging amongst all employees, not just those full-time, is particularly important for empowering and equipping diverse contingent talent.

The heart of your business

Great companies recognize that their people are at the heart of what they do and that success would not be possible without them. As the contingent workforce continues to be a rapidly expanding segment of many organizations, it is vitally important to consider how these individuals experience work and make efforts to build a more inclusive culture that honors all types of workers.

Respect and belonging are foundational drivers that can transform a contingent worker’s experience. When people feel empowered as individuals and that their diversity and unique experience is seen as an asset, there is no limit to what they can achieve.

The power to build more equitable and inclusive workplaces is in our hands.

Stay tuned for the last blog in this series by Magnit and The Mom Project.


Read more about the what matters most to contingent workers and what specific actions organizations can take to attract and retain top talent for a positive and productive work experience in the full report from Werklabs, The Mom Project, and Magnit: “Defining What Matters to the Extended Workforce: Key Drivers for Attracting, Equipping, and Empowering Contingent Labor,”

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