Do your employees feel welcome, accepted, and included? If not, building a culture of belonging should be a priority.
What do people mean when they say they feel a ‘sense of belonging’ in the workplace? Belonging doesn’t necessarily mean being popular with coworkers, nor does it mean feeling connected with colleagues because you live in the same neighborhood or have mutual friends. A key component of inclusion, belonging is the sense of being a valued part of a group. When employees are fully accepted for their authentic selves, it helps them realize that the organization for which they work truly cares about their welfare. That’s not only good for employees, it’s also good for business. Research from Gartner revealed that fostering a sense of belonging in the workplace results in greater on-the-job engagement, reduced feelings of burnout, higher performance, and improved retention.
In this article, we will examine what a culture of belonging looks like and how you can effectively promote it in your organization.
According to 2021 research conducted by Deloitte, a culture of belonging is rooted in these three principles:
- Comfort: People feel comfortable at work, including being treated fairly and respected by their colleagues and leaders.
“I am valued for who I am, my background, and my beliefs. I can bring my authentic self to work.”
- Connection: Employees feel that they have meaningful relationships with coworkers and teams and are connected to the organization’s larger goals.
“I am a part of something larger than myself. I provide support and am supported by my workplace community.”
- Contribution: Individuals feel that they contribute to meaningful outcomes and understand how their strengths help to achieve common goals.
“I (we) add value by bringing unique skills and strengths that meaningfully contribute to shared purpose and goals.”
Take the following steps to cultivate belonging throughout your organization:
1. Establish a shared sense of purpose.
Most people crave a sense of purpose in their work—that what they are doing makes a difference. This principle is also essential to creating a workplace culture of belonging. A business’s purpose is much more than just a tagline; it’s the foundation for everything that it does and its vision for the future. It reflects the beliefs that drive it forward, its desired impact on the world, and what makes it different from other companies in the same industry. Clearly defining your organizational and team purpose and values should be a top priority. Communicate that vision with your employees frequently in a way that motivates and inspires them. Most importantly, help them to leverage their unique characteristics and contributions to support that vision.
2. Emphasize commonalities.
While it’s essential to acknowledge unique backgrounds, experiences, talents, and challenges, it’s also important to highlight the things that are shared. When we can see each other as whole people with families, dreams, and hardships, interpersonal barriers subside. As an added benefit, when diverse people bring their unique experiences and viewpoints to the table, original solutions and innovative ideas are more likely to be uncovered.
3. Lead with empathy.
The ability to put yourself in the shoes of others is an important skill in life and the workplace. It inspires workers to feel united and part of an organization that values them. Seek understanding and clarity around what individuals need to feel they belong and respond with compassion. Be mindful of policies and practices that favor certain people and adapt them to be more equitable. Establish unity by connecting employees’ responsibilities to the collective organizational vision and goals. Mentor colleagues from different backgrounds by sharing your authentic story, empowering them to do the same, and listening with care.
4. Retain the social element.
Work is not just a vehicle for productivity, but an opportunity to have meaningful connections with others, which can enhance our overall life experience. Let’s face it, people need that connective tissue and social glue we once took for granted in the workplace. So how you can build community and collaboration across teams that may be on-site, hybrid, or remote?
What can you do to support camaraderie and spontaneous socialization?
Keep your team engaged and included through a variety of virtual bonding activities. Make meetings interactive to help remote team members feel that they are involved and contributing to the group. Using polls or virtual whiteboards allows everyone to share their opinions or weigh in on big decisions. Strive to add some variety to your virtual events, too. Offer a mix of options that appeal to a wide variety of interests and schedules. Recipe sharing, virtual book clubs, and trivia challenges are great ways to spark conversation and help employees get to know one another.
Fostering a culture of belonging is one of a leader’s most powerful tools.
It has the ability to enhance the nature of work with a sense of purpose that brings people together for a common cause. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to creating a sense of belonging because every organization is different and so are its employees. What’s most important is to put people at the center and understand what makes them feel valued. Creating an organizational culture of belonging that’s fully supported by leadership is the way to elevate workers’ experience. When employees feel comfortable being themselves, it opens the door to improved collaboration, greater fulfillment, and enhanced wellbeing.
Ready to help your employees bring their best, most inclusive selves to work? The HR Team is here to support your efforts with valuable strategic guidance and seasoned insights. Please contact us to learn more.
About The HR Team: Founded in 1996, The HR Team is a Maryland-based human resources outsourcing firm committed to developing strategic, customized solutions that respond to the unique needs and cultures of organizations of all types and sizes. Available as a one-source alternative to an in-house HR department or on an à la carte project basis, the company’s flexible service models address the full spectrum of HR needs that many organizations struggle to address. The HR Team helps clients achieve their highest level of success by providing value-driven human resources services that leave them time to focus on what they do best: directing business growth and profitability. Headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, the firm serves all of Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia. To learn more about The HR Team, call 410.381.9700 or visit https://www.thehrteam.com/.