Belonging affects how you show up at work and how you do your work. Research shows that connectedness is a basic human need. It’s a shared value human value. We all want to belong.
Belonging is the feeling of security and support we experience when we feel: accepted, included, valued, and connected. The best workplaces leverage their strengths, communicate effectively, and create cohesion. High belonging is linked to:
- 56% increase in job performance,
- 50% drop in turnover, and
- 75% reduction in sick days.
Conversely, team members that feel excluded are:
- 25% less productive,
- quicker to give up on tasks, and
- less likely to work for the greater good of the team.
Here are some tips to foster belonging in your organization.
Whether it’s your first day at your first job or you’re a seasoned professional: social acceptance is important. Organizations often consider “fit” during the interview process for a new hire, but it shouldn’t stop there. What you should do:
Create a welcoming feeling
For new hires, have the hiring committee send a welcome note to the new hire on their first day and include what about them shined during the interview process. Bonus: have team members reach out on LinkedIn to connect before the new hire arrives. Think beyond the first day to foster belonging in your organization. If you’re launching a new workforce plan, re-onboard staff. If there is an in-office component, make sure leaders are present to welcome teams.
Consider your image(s)
Does your staff see themselves reflected in the building, training materials, website, etc. If not, it’s time for an update. People sense they can be successful and are accepted based on what they hear, feel, and see. Gen Z are super visual and are looking to discern how organizations treat people and understand who is welcomed in the organization. What people see matters, make it accurately reflect your organization.
Signal that each staff member’s work is important to the organization. What you should do:
Ensure necessary resources and development
Ask staff, “do you have the tools and equipment needed to carry out work?” Don’t assume. The same principle applies to training. Part of feeling included is feeling you have the training, skills, and tools to carry out your work.
Don’t leave it to once a year and only in a performance review. Consider methods and tools to actively solicit opinions and ideas about improvements. Use platforms to pose questions to staff and vice versa. Don’t overcomplicate it, but do demonstrate you listened and acted on it.
We know we are valued when we can be our authentic selves at work, know it’s safe to take risks, and feel respected. What you should do:
Start with respect
We’d all be happier and more productive if we felt wanted, respected and valued at work. Many write off these expectations, especially from younger generations, as “entitlement.” Respecting someone’s experiences (even if limited), their effort, their time, and their contributions to even the biggest of teams isn’t a big ask. Respect and appreciation in the workplace results in higher productivity, greater retention, and a more pleasant workplace. Treat junior (or new) team members with the same respect we were taught to hold for all people. Their lack of experience or knowledge about the inner workings of your company or industry doesn’t mean they aren’t eager to learn and excited to improve. Whether it’s “keeping your head down” or “raising your hand,” discuss the different ways to show/earn respect, since it may differ across generations or cultures.
Explore shared values
A great tip to foster belonging in your organization? Uncover common values. A widespread one: flexibility. It’s a shared value across generations and increasingly across all workplaces. Use this collective desire as a guiding light to ingrain in your policies, procedures, and culture. Do internal research to understand what this means for your organization and how it should play out. Give permission, demonstrate, and explore ways to set boundaries.
Employees feel engaged when they form bonds and feel part of a community. Connection isn’t limited by physical proximity. What you should do:
High powered connections
You don’t need to be face-to-face all the time to build connections. Really think about the reasons to bring people together. Not sure what they want—ask! It’s not to sit in another meeting. Identify what would allow for “high power” connections. This could mean meeting in-person weekly to troubleshoot, monthly to set budgets, or every day for a week to prepare for a client meeting or event. Think about the purpose of those interactions to create high wattage connection. These become meaningful and if sprinkled throughout, it’s enough.
Acknowledge areas of interest and connect staff to the work the organization is doing. This begins during the interview process. Show you listened and help new hires connect and engage. Point out resource groups, school alum, or staff in their location. Leverage technology to facilitate a feeling of connectedness with colleagues. Use digital tools to create community, voice opinions, share knowledge, collaborate, problem solve, and discover commonalities. Research suggests that technology users tend to have closer relationships, not just online but in-person as well. Digital tools provide windows into those around us and research shows that acquiring personal knowledge about those around us (e.g. the medal collection or new puppy) makes us more connected and more understanding of each other. If done well, technology can integrate and connect people from disparate parts of an organization and help them form connections that will lead to business opportunities.
Fostering belonging in the workplace must be done at every rung in an organization. Whether we’re the leaders and managers of groups today or looking to become those leaders down the road, it’s something we can do now to improve relationships with those around us. Interested in more tips to foster belonging in your organization? Achurch Consulting is here to support you.