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Leaders must create a place of belonging, expert says

Burgert Van Jaarsveldt, left, CEO of Morphosis with summer intern Ariel Taylor (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Company leaders in Bermuda must fully embrace employees’ differences if they are to maximise the success of their organisation, the chief executive of a new organisational development consultancy has said.

Burgert Van Jaarsveldt is the co-owner of Morphosis Ltd, which helps organisations to grow, flourish and be successful.

Serving predominantly corporate clients, the company devises customised solutions related to talent management, employee wellness and corporate strategy. Offerings include executive leadership development training.

Morphosis is a champion of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Mr Van Jaarsveldt worked with clients in his native South Africa as well as in Namibia, Botswana and Dubai before arriving on the island six years ago.

He said: “What I have seen in Bermuda is that a lot of organisations employ for diversity, but then onboard for similarity.

“But once we employ someone, then we say ‘okay, now that you work for us, then be like us, fit into our organisational culture’,” he said. “And then rather than celebrating and valuing people’s differences, and cultures, we ask them to rather minimise that, minimise who they are.

“There is a lot of value that diversity and being different actually brings to the table in organisations. But organisations are so focused on ‘let’s look at the things that we’ve got in common’, instead of those differences.”

Sometimes, he added, those differences are seen as obstacles in the workplace.

The key to embracing difference, Mr Van Jaarsveldt said, is developing leaders with inter cultural competency.

“When we are working in the diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, dignity and belonging space, we want to build that inter cultural competence of leaders so that they can build that bridge towards ‘your difference actually helps us to be more successful and to be a better organisation because we can utilise the strengths of your battle of a marginalised group’.

“[That is] because there is a certain amount of struggle that people from marginalised groups go through to be successful in organisations – and that comes with a certain skill set, it comes with a certain resilience and wisdom of people that get there.”

He added: “We go and train on diversity and tell people that they must be more inclusive, but how do we do that? How do we make people more inclusive?

“The secret ingredient in that equation is intercultural competency.”

He said that means treating people with dignity, focusing on justice, making right what’s wrong, and making sure that there is equity in organisations.

“Ultimately, it is to create a place of belonging – that is really the ultimate goal that we are striving to. We know that organisations feel a lot of this is just soft skills, but we know that it makes a tremendous impact on organisations.”

Supporting the “business case” for having an inclusive culture, Mr Van Jaarsveldt said, is that such organisations are more likely to meet and exceed financial targets, to be high performing, to be innovative and agile, and to achieve better business outcomes.

Further, when individuals feel a sense of inclusion, there is a dramatic increase in experiences of fairness, respect, value and belonging, psychological safety, and inspiration.

Team performance goes up, and there is an improvement in decision making quality, and an uptick in team collaboration.

Mr Van Jaarsveldt added: “It’s not only a benefit to the people working there, but it’s also a benefit to the organisation because when people feel ‘I’m valued, I belong, my leadership has got my back, I am included here and welcomed here’, those people are more prone to be more productive, are more engaged in the workplace, they are more loyal to those employers and they stick around – there is lower staff turnover as well.”

He said: “Organisations that are serious about building an inclusive culture – we love partnering with those organisations. We help them with their strategy formulation, we help them to choose and set up their diversity councils, and then train them up to become self sustainable and independently operating.”

Morphosis’ other offerings encompass the whole employee life cycle.

That includes helping organisations become an employer of choice, assisting them to attract the right candidates, assessing those candidates with psychometric testing, and helping to onboard new employees, identifying high-potential leaders and assisting them to develop.

The company works with island-based trainers and facilitators if there is a need for a local presence for facilitation. For bigger projects, international consultants are flown in as required.

Ultimately, Mr Van Jaarsveldt said, Morphosis’ goal is to build the organisation so that it can provide job opportunities for Bermudians.

That process has begun with the hiring of summer student Ariel Taylor, who is studying applied psychology at the University of Brighton.

Morphosis also does extensive pro bono work, including helping a Bermudian organisation that works with at-risk youth, assisting a local church community to become more sustainable, and sponsoring and working at a school near Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

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Published August 21, 2023 at 7:58 am (Updated August 21, 2023 at 7:23 am)

Leaders must create a place of belonging, expert says

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