Culture

Building Belonging At Work – An Essential Part Of Your Workplace Culture

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Building Belonging At Work – An Essential Part Of Your Workplace Culture
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Building Belonging At Work – An Essential Part Of Your Workplace Culture

One of our many basic needs as humans is to feel connected to those around us, and our sense of belonging at work is no exception. We spend the majority of our day in the workplace, so when we lack a sense of belonging, this could lead to a lack of interest in tasks, increased rates of stress, and even overall unhappiness with the job.

For this reason, creating a welcoming environment where your employees can feel they belong is a growing area of importance across the globe. Many companies have begun taking steps to ensure their workplace culture has shifted to match the changing needs of their workforce. This is an imperative step for companies to continue finding success in their industries, and raises two very important questions:

How can you help your employees feel like they belong in the workplace?

And:

How do you know if it’s working?!

In this article, we will define what belonging in the workplace looks like, why it’s important, how to build belonging in your workplace, and how to measure belonging so that you know if it is having its intended effect.

What Is Belonging In The Workplace?

What Is Belonging In The Workplace?

Before we get into exactly how you can develop a culture of belonging in your workplace, it’s important to understand what attributes make up a person’s sense of belonging.

In its most basic form, belonging is where everyone in your workplace feels valued and supported. This can be facilitated through a variety of means, some of which could be collaboration, staff retreats, excellence awards, or workplace inclusivity. What it looks like to build belonging into your workplace culture will be largely based on what your staff needs and desires from their company.

With that in mind, there are a few that you should be including right away as your foundation for growth (but we’ll get to that later). First, let’s talk about why you should be building a workplace your employees can connect to.

Why Is Belonging In The Workplace Important?

Why Is Belonging In The Workplace Important?

Creating a workplace that makes its employees feel welcome should be as important to the company as it is to the employees within it. Employees that feel like they belong in their workplace have been shown to have a wide range of benefits that affect not only them but the company as well. Some of the most common benefits include:

  • Higher Retention

    When your employees feel a strong sense of belonging to your company, they will want to continue growing with it. Finding a work environment you’re happy with can be a challenge. When you create an environment where your staff enjoys being, you’ll begin maintaining strong, long-lasting employees.

  • Increased Productivity

    Employees that are happy with their workplace tend to enjoy their work more, leading to a natural increase in productivity. An environment that an employee feels valued in will promote focus and reduce escapism behavior, making working hours used more effectively.

  • Higher Collaboration

    Collaboration is both an influencing factor and an overall outcome of employees that feel they belong within the workplace. When your staff feels like they are an important part of the company, they’re more social and have more opportunities to work closely with their colleagues.

  • Lower Workplace Stress

    Stress in the workplace has been on the rise. Creating a workplace where your employees feel they belong can be a great strategy to reduce that. Belonging helps your employees gain a greater sense of respect for their colleagues and managers, leading to a more enjoyable environment. Building belonging in the workplace creates a natural support network for your staff and combats stress.

  • Higher Employee Morale

    Employee morale is largely driven by how your employees feel while they’re at work. Creating a healthy environment where your staff feels connected to their job and their company will naturally foster a workplace culture with an emphasis on enjoyable employee experiences.

7 Ways To Build Belonging In The Workplace

7 Ways To Build Belonging In The Workplace

Whether you believe you already have a healthy workplace that creates a sense of belonging, or you know your company could use some updating in that area, there are always ways to improve and some essential factors that should be included. If your workplace is missing some (or all) of these, consider implementing them with the help of your employees.

  1. Diversify

    Having a diverse team is essential to creating a sense of belonging in the workplace. People struggle to feel they belong when they feel unrepresented. They’ll often be hesitant to stay at a company long-term if there is an underlying sense of prejudice. This can create a more stressful work environment for those employees feeling out of place.

    By building a diverse workplace that promotes inclusion, you’ll be able to help all employees feel they have a place in your company. This will also ensure your workplace is free of discrimination. Employees will see themselves reflected in your staffing and feel more connected to the company as a whole knowing they’re someone who is valued.

  2. Make Inclusion A Top Priority

    While many people use diversity and inclusion interchangeably, they are inherently different. Diversity looks at who makes up your organization. Inclusion focuses on the experiences those people are having in the workplace.

    Consider what groups of people are being included in the big decisions being made. If you have work functions, consider who’s invited and who actually attends (this can be incredibly telling about your workplace environment). Use these as a starting point for assessing your inclusion, and reinventing how it’s done at your company.

    With the rising popularity of remote roles, inclusion has become even more important. Your staff in those roles may struggle more than others to feel connected to the company and their colleagues. Be intentional with your inclusions. Ensure they are being invited to employee functions and are receiving the same amount of support as the in-house team.

  3. Give Your Staff A Voice

    Your staff is often the ones being affected by the decisions made by their superiors, and often, these choices are made without consulting them. Let them be involved in decisions that will influence their work environment.

    One way to do this is to include employees on your board. This has shown great success in many companies with some having upwards of 50% of their board seats held by current employees. Companies have found higher rates of employee belonging through having employees on company boards, helping guide decisions in ways that consider those they directly affect.

    While this may cause some unease initially from higher-ups, companies that have adopted this type of board have seen great benefits. Some of the most notable include increased productivity, lower turnover, and reduced usage of sick days and vacation time. Letting your employees help shape their environments can have significant impacts on their sense of belonging at work.

    Recognize Your Employees

  4. Recognize Your Employees

    Recognizing the efforts of your employees can go a long way. Reward employees that provide exceptional work. Implement rewards for the time an employee stays with the company. Consider incremental gifts for 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, etc as a thank you for their commitment.

    It’s also important to recognize more than just work-related events. Highlight anniversaries, birthdays, marriages, etc. These are all important factors in your staff’s lives, and they should be celebrated in the workplace. Recognizing your employee’s life outside of the workplace will instill a higher sense of value and respect for your employees, naturally increasing their feelings of belonging.

  5. Maintain Organizational Alignment

    How well your employees feel they belong in the company will be closely connected to your organizational alignment. It’s essential to focus on hiring people who are aligned with your company’s mission and values. People who are passionate about the same things as their company will become more involved, helping them feel more connected to their workplace. Above this, organizational alignment also increases your employee’s quality of work, as well as their desire to grow within the company.

  6. Promote Collaboration

    Collaboration in the workplace has proven to be an important aspect of belonging. Collaborating brings your employees together, increases relationships between colleagues, and builds a natural support system for your staff. These are all foundational elements of your staff’s connection to their workplace.

  7. Introduce Mentor Relationships

    Helping your staff grow within the company and work towards their own individual goals is an important way to build belonging. Developing opportunities for employees to seek mentorship from those who have followed similar paths as they aspire to, can help them form deeper connections with both their colleagues and the company. Employees that are given opportunities to grow and are encouraged to take them will develop greater respect and commitment to the company.

How To Measure Your Employee’s Sense Of Belonging In 3 Easy Steps

How To Measure Your Employee’s Sense Of Belonging In 3 Easy Steps

Taking steps to build belonging in your workplace is a great start, but without monitoring and measuring how your new practices are changing the workplace, you won’t know how well your plan has worked. It’s important to include this as part of your action plan to ensure your success. There are a few ways you can do this:

  1. Request Feedback From Your Staff

    Anonymous surveys are a great way to get honest feedback on the workplace environment. This works even better when the survey is handled by an outside company so your employees can feel confident that you’ll only get the results and not their names along with them. While some companies put out annual surveys to their staff, it’s more beneficial to provide frequent opportunities for staff to provide feedback. This will help you make any necessary adjustments quickly in response to any remaining issues that are causing your employees unease. Releasing a survey to your staff each quarter is a great way to ensure you’re getting up-to-date information serving two distinct purposes:

    See the impact your changes have been making while allowing you to measure them against previous surveys.

    Secondly, you’re better able to respond to pressing areas that will provide big benefits to your staff, increasing their sense of belonging and making them feel heard and valued consistently.

    To make this step even more powerful, encourage staff to make suggestions at any time. Include a section with each survey for your staff to add direct suggestions on changes they’d like to see, or areas of concern they have. Having a way for your staff to have a voice in their workplace culture is a powerful tool, and it’s the best way to discover how you can meet their needs.

  2. Track Productivity

    Happier employees are more productive at work. As you implement your strategies to increase belonging in your workplace, you should see it reflected in your staff’s productivity rates. Determine some important KPIs (key performance indicators) to help measure the changes in productivity, whether it’s output, time spent at the office, or quality of work.

  3. Measure Retention Rates

    Workplaces that struggle to meet the needs of their staff, often suffer from high turnover rates. If you’re not creating a welcoming and supportive environment where your staff can feel they belong, you won’t be able to retain staff for long periods of time. This can leave your team struggling to build and maintain top talent in your industry, and can affect your bottom line. When employees feel valued at work and they see their place in the workplace dynamic, companies see it reflected in their long-term employment stats. Many employees will stay at companies longer, with some working their way up, simply because they enjoy their workplace.

Conclusion

Creating a workplace that fosters a strong sense of belonging has never been more important. As workplaces change to include more remote roles, and demands continue growing, it’s important to be intentional in building your employee’s connections to the workplace. Think past their individual roles and create a supportive environment to help them succeed each day, both inside the workplace and outside.

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