Most leaders think about the sense of belonging as a concept more relegated to Human Resources than as a function under the vision, direction, and responsibility of CEOs.
The sense of belonging is a critical determinant of employee job satisfaction, engagement, and effort, but also it is the most important predictor of these outcomes with employee’s perceptions of organizational culture or strategy. Think about belonging as the bedrock of organizational performance and employee commitment.
Yet leaders often focus on traditional or historically measured business issues, ignoring how important this is. Numerous research studies proved that while measuring affinity is valuable, it will not shift organizational performance and outcomes as belonging does. Interestingly, and counter to conventional thinking, belonging has a greater impact on employee retention than compensation, this last one being a temporary solution. The sense of belonging is more lasting, and deeper connection, generating constant motivation for employees to stay with the company; people will leave their jobs if they feel like they don’t belong there, that they’re not being taken into account. Belonging creates a workplace where people feel included, accepted, safe, and valued. This is not something you and your business want to have, but a must-have.
Leaders must create community and rebuild the foundation upon which meaningful, authentic relationships can rest. This requires an intentional change of focus, clearing a path to understanding, acceptance, generosity, and goodwill. This is a human issue and one that will define the workplace for generations to come.
To help leaders at all levels create the space necessary for belonging, there are some basic principles. These are the five things that leaders of any organization must consider to build a sense of belonging within their business.
Rules to create a sense of belonging
1. Eliminate “outsiderness”
Despite the progress made on diversity, equity, and inclusion, many employees still feel like outsiders in the workplace, causing them to further suppress their commitment and lower their focus and performance.
Try to build a workplace culture where everyone feels both noticed and valued. Demonstrate care for all employees and provide routine opportunities for check-ins like 1:1 or all-hands meetings.
2. Bring everyone on board
A recent survey found that 7 out of 10 employees believe that their organization fails to inform them of opportunities to promote inclusion in their daily work routine. To demonstrate genuine support for diversity, equity, and inclusion, it is important to assign responsibility to everyone for achieving these goals. You must motivate everyone to appreciate and value each other’s unique contributions by actively caring for one another, advocating for the voices of all to be heard, and actively investing in the growth and development of their colleagues.
3. Demonstrate through benefits and initiatives
Benefits such as flexible work scheduling or emotional wellness programs show employees that you care about their needs and demands inside and outside of work. Such signs of appreciation will help you drive a sense of belonging through every area of your business and every teammate.
Providing employees with benefits and initiatives that honor their unique contributions to the organization it’s highly effective at creating cultures of belonging, as it demonstrates that business success is directly linked to employees feeling like they are accepted and belong.
4. Have career conversations with each team member
It’s natural to feel worried about having career conversations with your team members, as you fear that opening that line of discussion might lead to requests you may not be able to deliver on.
Maybe you simply don’t know what to say or how to get started, but whatever might be holding you back, having career conversations is better than not having them. Your team members will be having thoughts anyway, so you may as well be aware of their needs and aspirations.
Simply doing this shows that you care about their future and that you see a future for them in your business in the long run. You’ll also learn what matters to your team members so you can focus your efforts better to develop and retain them.
5. Slow down and listen
If you’re constantly busy, your team members won’t feel comfortable interrupting you. It’s another reason to build some calm space into your day to be available to your team.
Sometimes you have to put relationships before tasks; remember that when employees feel that they really belong to the company and that you care for them, will complete their tasks with a major performance. Getting in the habit of truly listening will build trust and connection which will pay off in productivity and results.
One thing is clear, employees want to feel a sense of belonging at work, to know that their daily efforts truly mean something.
There are two ways of making your team members achieve their goals: pushing them hard to complete every task, or building trust and a sense of belonging that makes them want to progress within your business, elevating their performance and doing more than just their tasks.
Creating a sense of belonging is more than just making someone feel comfortable in the workplace, it is recognizing the human need to do things that matter, to be recognized, and to feel part of the business progress.