Beyond Diversity: Belonging Can Create More Unified and Effective Teams

Beyond Diversity: Belonging Can Create More Unified and Effective Teams

By Eddie Alford, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

April 26, 2024

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategies can’t exist just for their own sake. Ticking a box isn’t the goal. Strengthening your business and its outcomes is. That happens when we focus on the ‘I’: Inclusion.

Every person yearns for a sense of belonging. It’s up to us to cultivate it in a healthy way for people of all backgrounds so our teams are more engaged and effective. 

Learn more about Pinnacle's culture and DEI strategies at

On April 10, Pinnacle hosted associates, clients and other friends for a conversation with award winning author and thought leader Howard Ross. Howard talked with us about his latest book, Our Search for Belonging: How Our Need to Connect is Tearing Us Apart. We talked about how humankind’s innate drive to belong to a group is feeding into the fracturing of our society. It can lead people to separate into groups with an “us against them” worldview.

Howard’s ideas on how to overcome these tendencies have informed Pinnacle’s approach to DEI and made our internal culture stronger. We’ve built bridges between the divides humans naturally move toward—ethnicity, background, politics, etc.—preventing the “us vs. them” mentality for a more unified team. Beyond the need for DEI progress, it’s just good business.  

Our Search for Belonging outlines some of the key pathways to bridge groups together, including some integral to the Pinnacle culture.

A Clear Vision and Sense of Purpose
We give Pinnacle associates a clear vision on Day 1: The best place to work and the best place to do business in the Southeast. Each associate builds a personal connection to that vision and a clear understanding of how they contribute to it. We help them articulate their “why,” their reason for doing this job and getting out of bed in the morning. It pairs a powerful shared narrative with strong personal connections. It brings associates together with an understanding of where we’re going as a team, each person essential to the other’s success.

Creating the Container
Pinnacle’s workplace culture wins more than a dozen national and local awards every year, most recently as the No. 11 Best Company to Work For in the nation from FORTUNE magazine. We’ve cultivated a culture of care that recognizes the individual, honors everyone’s right to happiness and success and builds a camaraderie that allows us to depend on each other. Associate engagement is part of the bedrock of our firm, and our culture has been designed from the ground up to enable it.

Personal Connection, Vulnerability and Consciousness
A major factor in Pinnacle’s DEI work has been to intentionally give more opportunities for associate connection and understanding. We have 14 local DEI Councils where nearly 200 associates of all backgrounds build ground-up tactical plans for engaging every associate in an inclusive mindset to build one unified team. Based on local needs and associate makeup, they design cultural celebrations, learning opportunities, team building activities and serve as a sounding board for local leaders. They organized more than 130 engagement and learning events in 2023 and 180 Connection Lunches where associates of different backgrounds share a meal and conversation on our dime. As a result, they help break down siloes and bring broader perspectives to everyday work at all levels.  

These are only part of what build a greater sense of belonging to one team and one culture at Pinnacle. Our results tell us they work.

On internal work environment surveys:

  • 88% of associates say there is a sense that we’re all on the same team, including:
    • 88% of minorities
    • 86% of women
  • 92% of associates say Pinnacle’s policies and practices ensure fair treatment for all associates, including:
    • 91% of minorities
    • 91% of women
  • 97% of associates say they have associates they consider as friends, including:
    • 96% of minorities
    • 98% of women
  • 96% of associates say Pinnacle’s culture is special, something you don’t find just anywhere, including:
    • 97% of minorities
    • 96% of women

On the annual survey from Great Place to Work™:

  • 99% believe people here are treated fairly regardless of their sexual orientation
  • 98% believe people here are treated fairly regardless of their race
  • 98% believe people here are treated fairly regardless of their gender
  • 94% believe people here are paid fairly for the work they do
  • 91% believe promotions go to those who best deserve them

That says to me that we are successfully building a workplace culture where increasingly diverse associates feel a strong sense of belonging to our firm. It’s the essential progress every organization must make for their associates to be one team working for a common purpose, not many tribes working against each other.

See more of Pinnacle's internal survey results, including demographic breakdowns.