When we’re kids, we don’t want to be picked last for a team. We don’t want to eat lunch alone. We don’t want to feel like we don’t fit in. The need for a sense of belonging doesn’t stop when we grow up. If anything, the need becomes greater. And work is one of the places we seek out belonging.
Belonging’s Impact at Work is Clear
McKinsey found that a lacking sense of belonging was among the top three reasons employees left during the Great Resignation. Research by Great Place To Work revealed that employees experiencing belonging in the workplace are:
- 3 times more likely to feel people look forward to coming to work
- 3 times more likely to say their workplace is fun
- 5 times more likely to want to stay at their company a long time
Five times more likely to stay. If your goal is to create a workplace employees want to stay at, you must first develop a sense of belonging for all.
7 Ways to Drive a Sense of Belonging
1. Make new employees feel welcome
Team members should feel welcome from the moment they sign the offer letter. Start the welcoming early by sending a pre-boarding kit. Acknowledge their talents and impacts as soon as possible in their new role. Don’t be afraid to ask for new team members’ opinion…seek out their opinions and include them in crucial business from day one.
2. Involve employees in decisions
Employees like having agency. Listen to them and incorporate their thoughts and needs into business decisions. Especially the decisions that will affect them directly. Have an open door policy and ensure all employees feel comfortable sharing their stories. The more you learn, the more insights you’ll gain to inform decisions.
3. Provide equal communications
Communicate clearly and transparently with all your employees. Siloed communication is when information only reaches a certain portion of the employee population. When other employees learn news later, they may feel less trusted and lose a sense of camaraderie. Keep everyone in the loop so all employees feel valued!
4. Avoid favoritism
Playing favorites is an easy way to diminish belonging. When there is a culture of office politics and backstabbing, employees feel like their workplace is not fundamentally fair. Unfairness hinders a sense of community and a sense of belonging. Strive for an inclusive workplace treats all employees fairly and equitably.
5. Recognize employees
Acknowledge your employees’ contributions. Not just yearly with service awards, but daily with a peer-to-peer recognition program. They are more likely to feel appreciated and engaged, which will further enhance their sense of belonging.
6. Promote fairly
Be aware of biases when thinking about promotions. Gender gaps still exist in the workplace, so make sure women are getting equal opportunities and considerations. Another group to be conscious of – invisible workers, or remote workers. Since they are seen less on the daily, remote workers tend to be forgotten when it comes to promotions and raises. Avoid this “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon.
7. Embrace the whole human
Employees should feel like they can bring their whole selves to work. Unfortunately, many don’t feel like they can. At an average workplace, only 64% of employees feel like that can be themselves. Ensure your employees feel like they can be their true and complete selves by celebrating their uniqueness. For example, your organization should be comfortable “saying gay” and working in harmony with LGBTQIA+ workers. If your company and your people fall short here, those workers won’t feel like they belong.
All in all, the word “belonging” is multi-faceted. There are many reasons we feel like we belong, or like we don’t belong. We need a sense of belonging at work just as much as we do in our personal lives. So, it is the job of people leaders and organizations to foster a sense of belonging for all.