Article: Fostering a sense of belonging among employees

Employee Engagement

Fostering a sense of belonging among employees

Belongingness ranks high in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. And it also ranks high in the list of reasons why employees stay with an organization.
Fostering a sense of belonging among employees

Why we search for belongingness in the workplace

Belongingness ranks high in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It often comes in the form of friendship, camaraderie, intimacy, teamwork, family, and a sense of connection. This comes from the fact that humans have an emotional need to form relationships as part of a group.

A study revealed that people spend at least 90,000 hours of their whole life at work. That’s already one-third of an average lifetime. And with this in mind, it comes as no surprise that most people try to find connections in the workplace.

But the workplace is like a jungle where people of different backgrounds, upbringings, personalities, and aspirations collide. For some, it may be easier to find conflict than connections in the world of work, making the search for belonginess a major struggle.

This might be amplified in the today’s work environment, where flexible and hybrid work arrangements are prevalent. Recent studies have shown that at least 65 percent of employees feel less connected with their teammates in 2022.

When people are disengaged or disconnected, they are most likely to leave and follow their instincts to look for a workplace where they can find more meaningful connections, a place where they can feel that they belong.

READ MORE: What is an employee value proposition and why it is important

What fostering a sense of belonging can do

A study conducted by BetterUp showed that more than half of the employees are more likely to be productive when they feel a sense of belonging. Healthy relationships and interactions between colleagues also tend to boost employee morale, even in the most challenging times.

As a result, employees with a sense of belonging become happy and satisfied. They are also less likely to leave the organization as they consider, more than just a workplace, a home where they find their friends and “extended family” members.

Beyond retention, fostering a sense of belonging among employees also creates a synergy across teams, functions, and roles. This makes embarking on huge, transformative projects that require collaboration easier to pull through.

Having healthy relationships at work also motivates an employee to show up on duty, which is highly effective if a business needs to reduce absenteeism among its workers.

The role of diversity and inclusion in belongingness

The workplace can be an isolating environment, especially if you struggle to find people with similar backgrounds or interests. This can be most especially true for underrepresented people at work, such as women, LGBTQ+ individuals, disabled people, and people from historically oppressed ethnicities.

READ MORE: Citi's approach to global DEI leadership

This is why it is important to take proactive measures that ensure high levels of diversity in the workplace. Having a diverse workforce makes its easier for people to start making connections by finding people who have something in common with them.

But the essence of fostering a sense of belonging among employees is to create more connections between people outside of their demographic representation. What this effort intends is to create relationships that are based on values and appreciation of each other.

And this is where efforts to foster inclusion comes in, such as providing platforms and avenues for employees to interact and know each other on a deeper level. Team building activities, inter-departmental competition, and other engagement activities can help in this aspect.

READ MORE: Here’s companies empower LGBTQ+ employees coming out

Why inclusive leadership is crucial

Having an inclusive leadership can also become a transformative approach in fostering a sense of belonging among employees. This leadership style is all about creating an environment where every individual feels valued, respected, and included in the decision-making process.

A crucial aspect of inclusive leadership is active listening. Since belonginess is built upon the foundation of listening with each other, having a leadership style that values feedback and honest expression of feelings can set the tone for the organization.

Leading by example is fundamental to inclusive leadership. This is why consciously making efforts to treat everyone fairly, avoid favoritism, and promote a culture of equality can be really have a profound impact on the employees.

Inclusive leaders also ensure that all team members have equal access to opportunities for growth and development. This involves identifying and mitigating biases in processes such as promotions, project assignments, and training opportunities.

READ MORE: This Japanese company fosters inclusivity across 13 different markets

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of inclusive leadership is the ability to empower people. When employees are empowered, they tend to be more open in valuing different perspectives, which opens the path for more relationships despite very obvious differences.

Just as a family finds strength in its diversity and unity, so too does a workplace flourish when every individual is not just a part of the team but an integral member of a collective mission.

When there is a sense of belonging, colleagues transcend the traditional confines of coworkers; they become allies in the pursuit of common goals, collaborators in innovation, and pillars of support during challenges.

Friendship, a concept often reserved for personal spheres, finds a parallel resonance in the workplace. When colleagues evolve into friends, bonds are forged that withstand the tests of time and professional tribulations. In this camaraderie lies the secret sauce of workplace synergy – a shared understanding, mutual encouragement, and the joy that comes from shared successes.

Belongingness, then, is the catalyst that transforms a group of individuals into a cohesive, high-performing team. It is the shared laughter in break rooms, the collaborative spirit in meeting rooms, and the genuine concern for each other's well-being. A workplace that values belonging is a sanctuary where individuals not only contribute their skills but also find fulfillment in a community that cares.

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Topics: Employee Engagement

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