According to Coqual Research, several factors contribute to a sense of belonging in the workplace. These include being seen and recognized for what you do, being connected to your colleagues, being supported to grow in your professional life, and being proud of your company’s values and purpose. Belonging is essential to the employment experience, and organizations should strive to create a sense of belonging for all employees.
When people feel like they belong, they are more likely to help others and work together towards common goals. There are many things that businesses can do to foster belonging in the workplace, such as promoting diversity, encouraging open communication, and providing opportunities for social interaction.
However, some hindrances to belonging in the workplace include discrimination, lack of communication, and hostile workplace cultures. By addressing these potential issues, businesses can create an environment where everyone feels like they belong.
5 Strategies to Building Belonging in the Workplace
- Recognize and reward employees in public.
Belonging in the workplace starts with feeling recognized and appreciated by your employer. Good things should be praised publicly because it increases the person and the team’s morale, leading to a positive work environment.
When you recognize someone for a job well done, it tells them that their contributions to the company are valuable and not invisible. Believe that every person who is a part of your organization wants to contribute positively. Communicate the expectations and standards for a great job and ensure everyone knows. Be transparent on the criteria for giving rewards and incentives to eliminate talks of favoritism or biased praise.
Giving constructive criticism in private is important when an employee makes a mistake. This way, the employee can feel comfortable making mistakes and learning from them without fearing public humiliation. Taking time to mentor and guide an employee in the right direction also shows recognition for what they do. It tells them that you care about their work and want to help them succeed by doing the right thing.
Incentive schemes are also crucial for keeping employees engaged and motivated. These schemes should be designed with equity in mind, as what incentivizes one employee may not work for another. Be careful in creating one-size-fits-all incentive programs that tend to alienate certain members of your organization.
Employers can encourage a sense of belonging in the workplace by creating a culture of recognition and respect.
- Foster genuine connections at work.
As the workplace becomes increasingly more diverse, it is vital to create an environment where everyone can feel like they belong. Belonging comes from fostering genuine connections with colleagues, whether they are subordinates, peers, or superiors.
One way to build genuine connections at work is by organizing company events that promote camaraderie and teamwork. These include team-building, sporting, work picnics, or corporate family days. These events allow employees to unleash a different side of their personalities that is not commonly seen at work. It enables them to know and understand each other more personally, humanizing the person they professionally engage with.
Another effective strategy is encouraging open and candid communication with senior leaders. This will help employees feel like their voices are being heard and that they are part of the decision-making process. There are various ways to do this, such as the usual feedback boards or suggestion boxes (physical or digital) and a more intentional “Meet with the CEO” event. The latter can be a group (or solo) activity where an executive takes time to converse candidly with junior members of the organization.
Finally, organizations can hold town hall meetings where the general population has a chance to hear from top executives. This is the time to share company milestones, unveil plans, and address current issues. This will help everyone feel like they are part of the same community and that their opinions matter.
By taking these steps, organizations can build a sense of belonging that will lead to higher levels of employee satisfaction.
- Equip employees for success.
Employees need to feel supported professionally and personally at work. Professional support comes from providing access to training, skills enhancement programs, and resources to help them thrive in their roles. It also involves knowing their dreams and goals and providing opportunities to achieve them. Empowering employees to make decisions and allowing them to learn from their mistakes is also part of equipping them for success.
Personal support involves respecting work-life balance and an employee’s commitment outside work. The most engaged employees are not enslaved; they work hard to get the job done while maintaining a vibrant life outside work. Companies should encourage their employees to pursue hobbies and passions outside the four corners of the workplace.
Part of equipping employees to succeed at work is by creating equitable opportunities and resources. This means those who need extra or additional accommodation due to certain conditions must receive it.
- Embody the company’s values and beliefs.
A 2021 Edelman Study found that employees would work for companies that share their belief systems. Values and beliefs are the core reasons employees choose to work and stay in a company. Companies should be transparent about their values, and these should not just remain on paper. It should be visible in practice.
Employees expect their organizations to make a stand on today’s pressing issues like diversity, inclusion, and sustainability. They expect their companies to care not just for the bottom line but more about the lasting impact on society.
Employees who know their company’s values and see them embodied in every aspect of the business become proud employees with lasting company loyalty. They feel a great sense of belonging because the issues that they care about are the same ones important to the organization.
- Embrace diversity by promoting individuality.
Nothing kills belonging more than discrimination and bullying. The pressure to conform to specific standards stifles one’s individuality and creates a feeling of being an outsider. Employees may consent and make an appearance that they belong, but deep down, they are unhappy and disgruntled.
This is dangerous because, in plain sight, everyone seems to get along. People work together there seems to be no apparent issue. However, it’s a bubble waiting to burst. “Outsiders” may feign belonging to cling to their job, but by suppressing their true selves, they harbor ill feelings that sooner or later will get out. And once that explodes, it can get ugly. Work may suffer, and relationships may tense. Ultimately, they could leave the company causing the leadership to wonder what strategy went wrong.
Individuality must be recognized and valued in workplaces. This means that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” or “one-size-fits-some” where those who can’t fit are expected to squeeze in.
It’s time for everyone to belong!
Feeling like you belong is an integral part of life. Employees who feel a sense of belonging are more engaged, productive, and loyal.
Consult with us to create a workplace where employees feel recognized, supported, and connected. We can help you develop a strategy that engages your team and creates a sense of belonging.
When we feel like we belong at work, we can thrive.