Fostering a Sense of Belonging at Work
Written by: Dawn Lee
Most of us would have been through situations in our lives where we felt that we did not belong. Whether it is in a personal or professional setting, you just could not find anything similar. In such situations, people generally feel awkward or uncomfortable and typically try to get out of the situation by leaving.
However, imagine the place that caused you such negative feelings is the place you have to remain at for nearly one-third of your time. At work, if employees feel that they do not belong, their personal performance and well-being suffer.
So, what exactly is “belonging”?
Belonging is defined as the feeling of security and support; a sense of acceptance, inclusion and common identity for a member in a group or place. In order for people to feel that they belong, the environment and employee experience are both important.
Why does belonging matter at work?
Research conducted by employee experience (EX) platform provider, Culture Amp, found that belonging has a strong correlation to commitment at the workplace. This directly affects employee retention, motivation also overall work engagement.
These employees who feel a sense of belonging usually experience greater job satisfaction, mental health, better productivity, and lower levels of fatigue and emotional exhaustion. In fact, employees who are engaged are often seen recommending their companies as a great place to work to their peers.
On the other hand, employees who do not feel a sense of belonging face a higher risk for experiencing low levels of job commitment, productivity, and poorer well-being. These negative feelings translate to higher levels of absenteeism and poor performance at work.
The concept of belonging is thus essential to bring success to both employees and companies.
What you can do to foster a sense of belonging?
- Establish formal onboarding structures and processes
Cultivating a sense of belonging should start from day 1.
According to another EX-solutions provider, Achievers, research has shown that employees benefit from properly structured onboarding processes that help them to socialize and connect with their new colleagues. Furthermore, employees who are actively involved early in their employment tend to be more productive and committed.
Recognizing new employees for behaviours that are aligned with organizational values early, helps to reinforce culturally aligned behaviours and will benefit the company in the long run.
- Acknowledging and understanding your employees
It is essential for employees to feel that they are seen, heard and understood as individuals in the workplace. Understanding your employees, such as knowing their interests, how they work, what they value, allows for managers and employees to connect with each other in a more personal and authentic manner.
Some ways to do so are through surveys and occasional check-ins with them especially during this tough period when everybody is working from home. With these insights, you will be able to know more about employees’ personal values which can help them to feel understood as an individual. With a better understanding of your employees’ personal values, managers are able to develop more meaningful relationships and conversations allowing them to work better as a team.
- Acceptance and inclusion
People are known to thrive when they feel accepted and valued for who they are at the workplace. Acceptance and inclusion are not just about being invited to participate within an organization, but rather about the sense of who an individual is and whether their experience in the organization is viewed as important.
A rather obvious fact, but employees who feel accepted are more likely to feel satisfied with their job and colleagues. Providing an inclusive working environment also helps to build more work engagement, innovation, motivation and trust.
According to Achievers, one of the most impactful ways for organizations is to establish employee resource groups (ERGs). Organizations with ERGs are able to have better communication within and across different groups and get to enjoy better.
- Providing ample support
Ensure that there are proper systems and processes in place to provide the support that every employee requires. This will help them to know who to contact, learn, develop and get recognition for their work which helps to motivate them. Companies who are seen as supportive enjoy better job performance and satisfaction from their employees which in turn lower their turn-over rate.
Be sure to empower your managers with the skills and tools that will allow them to bring their team to greater heights.
Experiencing a sense of belonging at work is the best way for employees to feel welcomed and connected. Invest and build a culture of belonging to ensure that employees feel that they belong, this will ultimately lead to better performance and results.