Have you ever wondered how to create a sense of belonging for the members of your team? If so, you may be ahead of the curve. When an employee feels as if they truly belong on a team, it offers many benefits. Their well-being, engagement, and performance are all likely to improve.
Research from Harvard Business Review (HBR) shows that the value of belonging creates many bottom-line benefits. In hybrid workplaces, which are increasingly common, experiencing workplace culture has become more elusive, subjective, and diffused. However, this doesn’t have to be the case.
Another HBR article looks at several practitioners from ManpowerGroup and Spotify. It looks at the three major challenges that all leaders need to navigate in how to create a sense of belonging and ensure that teams remain connected. We’ll go over those below and talk about how to create a sense of belonging in your workplace.
When employees feel that they belong to a team, their performance, engagement and well-being improves. HBR research demonstrated the value of belonging to bottom-line benefits:
In the hybrid workplace, the experience of culture has become more diffused, elusive, and subjective. In a new HBR article, practitioners from Spotify and ManpowerGroup identified three challenges that leaders must navigate to foster belonging and help their teams stay connected:
1. Balancing the tension between a strong culture and effective DIB (diversity-inclusion-belonging) practices.
Hire for culture add-on (ensuring that whoever joins adds something new to the team) rather than fit.
2. Retaining the social element of work, even when people continue to work from home.
Provide opportunities to have meaningful connections with others.
3. Having the courage to let the culture evolve.
Each crisis gives way to a new version of the world, and just because a system managed to survive an actual crisis doesn’t mean there is no need to change it. Figure out how to create a sense of belonging and community within organizations where fear, anger, and depression during the pandemic are being replaced by choice, flexibility, and freedom.
Clinging to the old ways of working can have a negative impact on team culture and performance. In their new book, ‘Leading at a Distance,’ two Spencer Stuart experts found that 25%+ of the virtual teams were not performing up to par, largely because organizations and leaders were approaching work as if the dynamics were the same as working in the same physical location.
The authors argue that the trickiest part of the manager’s job in a hybrid environment is building rapport — balancing supervision and trust. To get good at virtual leadership, managers will need to unlearn some of the practices that worked in the past and apply new approaches to fostering belonging, connection and trust.
Balancing the Tension Between a Strong Culture and Effective DIB (Diversity-Inclusion-Belongings) Practices
Many companies hire while thinking only about culture fit but this might not be the best choice. Instead, consider hiring based on who adds something to the culture. When a diverse workforce is in place, there is a space for everyone. This is how to create a sense of belonging that includes everyone who wants to be a part of things.
This isn’t to say that skills aren’t necessary to do a good job. However, keep in mind that skills are something that people can be taught. Culture isn’t. You want to bring in people that work well with the current culture but add something that isn’t already there. This is the best method to ensure culture remains strong but you also have diversity and inclusion practices at work.
When employees have purpose and meaning at work, it can spell the difference between having a job and a career. Research shows that those who feel they belong, in terms of values while being allowed to express their identity, are most likely to perform at the highest level while having great well-being and levels of engagement.
On the other hand, if you haven’t learned how to create a sense of belonging, employees may underperform, be more apt to experience burnout and feel alienated. Hiring for culture fit and add-on is the best way to create an environment everyone can be happy with.
Retaining the Social Element of Work, Even When People Continue to Work from Home
With more and more businesses operating on a hybrid or remote basis, it can seem challenging to keep the social element alive. Leaders need to be willing to create opportunities for employees to meaningfully engage with each other. While focusing on how to create a sense of belonging, consider how you can bring people together instead of moving them apart.
There are numerous ways to put them into action depending on what works for your workplace. For instance, perhaps the team could participate in a virtual charity event or you could start a gratitude event with e-notes of thanks to colleagues. Consider implementing an employee resource group that brings people together in their shared interests.
What are other methods to create the ability to socialize on a remote basis? Come up with creative ways to celebrate holidays and birthdays. Make sure there are ways for workers to chat informally about things other than work. Add space to meetings for everyone to chat at the end. Any or all of these things can help.
Having the Courage to Let the Culture Evolve
It might seem frightening to let the culture evolve at a workplace if it’s been the same for an extended period. However, you can reframe that thought to make it more exciting than it is worrying. Consider the fact that every crisis impacts the world and changes it. Even if a system worked through a crisis, that doesn’t mean change might not be useful.
As you ponder how to create a sense of belonging, think about what changes are needed. Give yourself time to see the benefits before deciding you shouldn’t move forward. Sometimes the best thing you can do is move forward and try new things.
This is especially accurate in a world where depression, anger, and fear from the pandemic are being replaced by freedom, flexibility, and choice. Learn how to create a sense of belonging and then implement it for the good of everyone in the workplace.
The Importance of Belonging
Unfortunately, in the United States, 40% of employees feel as if they are isolated in the workplace. Doing nothing to change that means employees may be less productive and feel as if they don’t belong in the company they are at. In the end, this can lead to the resignation of great employees who simply feel out of place.
When you understand how to create a sense of belonging and do the work to put it into place, you reinforce three essential attributes. These include comfort, contribution, and connection, each of which can be a boon for the modern workplace.
When workers belong, they feel comfortable in the workplace. It is a place where they know they are respected and treated fairly by team members as well as leaders. Contribution refers to being a part of good outcomes and knowing how a worker’s strengths help achieve goals. The last aspect, connection, means having a meaningful relationship with others and a connection with the goals of the company.
Belonging can be fostered through engagement and impact an employee’s happiness positively. The employees who feel happy in their workplace are more likely to stay and help the business grow to be the best it can be.
Employee-Led Feedback and Input
If you’re still searching for how to create a sense of belonging in your workplace, let employees provide you with feedback and the answers you are seeking. After all, they’re the ones who know precisely what it is that they need. Speak to them directly and open conversations about how things can be improved. Brainstorm ideas and consider what will work best to build a workplace where everyone belongs.