How to Foster a Sense of Belonging in the Workplace
Updated: Mar 13
It may come as no surprise that people from different backgrounds and circumstances experience the workplace differently. While welcoming different groups to your organization is incredibly important, inclusion alone is not enough. Fostering a sense of belonging among all of your employees will give your team members the commitment and motivation necessary to take your business to the next level.
The Value of Belonging
A sense of belonging plays a critical role in the success of workplace teams. If your business is lacking a sense of belonging, employee engagement will suffer, so seek to build an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone. Recent studies suggested that companies with engaged employees report a 23% higher profit compared to those with disengaged workers.
Employees who feel disengaged or excluded from the workplace often feel unheard, unappreciated, and undervalued. This results in absenteeism, high turnover, low morale, and diminished mental well-being among employees. According to TechRepublic, employees who feel like they belong enjoy a 56% increase in job performance and take 75% fewer sick days than those who feel excluded. From a financial standpoint alone, it pays to foster a sense of belonging among your employees. And your employees will benefit too! Thankfully, there are several great ways to help your employees feel like they belong to your organization.
Work with Human Resources
While business owners and team leaders can do a lot to foster inclusion in the workplace, the responsibility often falls on human resource managers. And rightfully so! HR exists to bridge the gap between employees and management, encouraging open communication and managing these critical relationships.
Establish Company Values
Creating a corporate culture that emphasizes company values is one of the best ways to bring your employees together under a common goal. This may involve supporting shared values and working towards solving social and environmental problems instead of focusing solely on profit margins and quarterly gains. Looking for business opportunities in shared values is a fantastic way to help your company grow while showing your employees—and your customers—that you care about the greater good.
One way to strengthen your company culture is to promote leaders who care about social issues that have long-term implications for the success of your company. Someone who is focused on short-term profits will not do a lot to promote shared values. You could also work with your team to create a mission statement for your company! A well-crafted mission statement explains why your business exists and how it differs from your competitors. This statement should serve as a foundation for your employees or a common goal that everyone can rally behind to help your business succeed.
Strive for Open Communication
Good communication is the backbone of any thriving workplace. But if a lot of your employees work remotely, you may have a tough time maintaining open and regular communication with your team members. Remote workers are particularly vulnerable to feeling excluded. Help foster a sense of belonging among your telecommuting team members by ensuring they have all of the tools and resources they need to do their best work. Most importantly, make sure your remote team knows when you are available to hop on a call, answer questions, or clarify projects.
Creating a workplace culture of open communication is all about giving your team members the confidence to say what they want to say without worrying about receiving blowback from their higher-ups. Understand that some criticism can be valuable to you and your business. Welcome feedback of any kind and encourage your team members to be honest about what they think! When your employees know that their opinions are valued, they will feel much more connected to your business as a whole.
Build Individual Relationships
These same communication principles apply in a workplace setting as well. It’s easy for managers to talk to team members as a collective group with the intention of saving time, but individuals can easily feel excluded in this communication approach. New team members and those who don’t tend to speak up in meetings may feel unnoticed and unheard. And group emails—while necessary in many situations—can be very impersonal.
To get around this issue, try to reach out to each team member so you can build a solid relationship with them. When an employee is talking to you, use body language that displays you are listening and engaged—make eye contact, smile, and nod. During team meetings, encourage everyone to have a say. You could even try asking individual employees for input on new projects before presenting them to the entire team.
If you’re working with remote staff, you may have to take some extra steps to build a more personal relationship. Make sure to check in daily, make time for non-business chats, and schedule one-on-one time. If it’s not possible to meet with them personally, hold the occasional video call to communicate and discuss projects. Encourage them to prioritize wellness and to create an organized, calming, and positive home work space.
Create a Mentor Program
When employees have a chance to build trusting relationships with team leaders, they are much more likely to feel like a valued and important part of your company. This has important implications for new hires and people filling entry-level positions. To help your employees build these valuable relationships, consider creating a mentoring program! According to GQR, workplace mentoring programs can decrease stress among employees, increase job satisfaction, and reduce turnover rates! Mentors also develop a stronger sense of commitment to the company when they’re involved in a mentoring relationship.
A sense of belonging is at the heart of every successful team. Creating a culture of inclusion at your company will ensure that your employees feel psychologically safe and engaged with a greater purpose. Make each and every employee feel like they belong, and they will truly thrive in their role!