How to create a sense of belonging at work

Stuart Sinclair - March 24, 2020
Employee Engagement | Internal Communications

Everyone needs to feel accepted, included, heard and be a part of something bigger than themselves. It’s a basic human need as important to us as food or a roof over our heads.

The feeling that we are recognised for our achievements and valued as individuals is vital in life but more so when it comes to our place of work. This is where the need to belong is heightened. We compare ourselves to others and rank our own value based on how our colleagues and our company see us.

A genuine sense of belonging encourages employees to really excel in their roles and engage with the company, it is one of the core drivers to Improve employee engagement. But how do you nurture and encourage this sense of belonging in your organisation?

Engagement means the state of being involved in something

This state of being involved is as fundamental to an employee as pay, location and benefits. Being able to connect with a team, leader, brand and organisation is vital to a person’s wellbeing as well as affecting their work performance.

This inclusive culture is one that all businesses need to adopt and is becoming a popular topic among business leaders.  Engagement and belonging are directly correlated.

 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines engagement as

‘…the state of being involved in something.’

You might already have recognised that this is something you need to address within your workforce, but how do you initiate this in your organisation?

Is a sense of belonging is lacking in your business?

How often does your business address / plan each of these areas? A lack of activity in these areas is a leading indicator of employee engagement issues or more specifically the symptom of a potentially disengaged workforce.

  • Shared internal news
  • Recognition
  • Ideas and innovation
  • Employee surveys/feedback
  • Team forums
  • Social groups
  • Events
  • Future goals and plans 

Shared values, mission statements and goals

I can remember being at a corporate conference years ago (actually it’s decades now eek!) and being asked to recite the company’s latest mission statement. We were duty-bound to live and breathe the mission of the brand. CEO’s were seeing the importance of employees belonging to a bigger whole all those years ago. The significance of a shared vision to aim towards achieving one goal.

Although the wording has changed to cover elements like ‘employee engagement’ and ‘brand culture’ the ultimate goal of including everyone and connecting all your people remains the same. Other factors have revolutionised the way we work to including flexible / offsite working, social media, apps and other technologies that help companies connect their people on a more meaningful level.

Employees need the organisation’s full picture 

  • History of how the company was set up, by whom, when
  • Current company position compared to their competitors and global share
  • Companies future goals, where they want to be and how to get there

Employees need to know where they fit in this organisation’s full picture 

  • Who owns the company, their line manager, communication protocols?
  • Brand guidelines, confidentiality protocols, social voice
  • Expectations of them, their job role and time-frames
  • Companies future goals, their personal goals and their role in making these happen

People see employment as more than just a job and getting the job done

Organisations require a workforce that adds enthusiasm, a sense of personal and emotional investment, and a commitment to going beyond simply achieving their goals for the day. Ambitious employees understand that in achieving their job related goals, they will also gain personal rewards through promotion, commissions or even a new corner office.

Employers expect their workers to achieve their work goals not just for themselves yielding job satisfaction, but for the organisation as a whole. It is difficult to quantify how a sense of belonging increases the probability of achieving goals, but we do know that happy, engaged employees are more productive, less likely to leave and inspire their colleagues to do the same.

How to create a sense of belonging that benefits your business?

Employees that have good communication, know the company’s expectations of them and have clear personal goals are happier and more productive which in turn increases business revenue. Engage your entire workforce in this way and the positive impact on the future of your business proliferates.

People need to know ‘the why’ to what they are doing; giving employees the full picture gives them value. If a company can communicate their brand values, goals and future goals it gives their employees a reason and sight of how their personal activity impacts the company as a whole. How to create a sense of belonging to a bigger entity? - Through shared knowledge, ideas and values along with being a part of a community where employees feel safe, there is a greater chance your workforce will stay, be loyal to the company, healthy and have a stronger sense of well-being.

What happens if you don’t achieve this sense of belonging?

If your people don’t feel as though they belong, they will have no reason to stay with your company. Ultimately, they will have a feeling of discomfort and will always sense something missing. This could grow into a belief that they are not listened to, recognised, valued or part of the organisation and its community. A few of the painful consequences of a lack of belonging in an organisation are:

  • Absenteeism

  • Low morale

  • Lack of initiative

  • High staff turnover

  • Health and wellbeing

All of which directly impact productivity and ultimately the profitability of the business.

Giving your workforce that all important sense of belonging means more than ensuring they feel happy and satisfied at work.

It ends at your company’s bottom line affecting business goals and revenue, but starts at the top, leading the way with regards to community building and culture. Belonging is making employees feel more than just a number on the payroll. You need to build an environment where your employees are able to socialise, communicate and be understood equally. They need to be valued, listened to and recognised. Your organisation needs to improve employee engagement by sharing its goals, values and future plans, giving people the broader picture of what the business is seeking to achieve for them. Create a community that encourages and helps your people to contribute to company goals.

 

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(refs: https://simplicable.com/new/work-performance)
https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/engagement

https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/inspiring-company-mission-statements