Belonging is the feeling of support and psychological safety that comes from knowing we can bring our authentic selves to work. It arises from an atmosphere of inclusion, acceptance, and trust. Belonging is a critical component of personal and organizational performance because, biologically speaking, we humans are social creatures. Meeting the need for belonging is essential for personal well-being at the individual level, and at the organizational level.
Belonging is important because it makes organizations humane, productive, and profitable. A culture of belonging creates an environment of connection, empathy, and engagement. Increased engagement then leads to improved productivity, enhanced innovation, and decreased turnover. All of this impacts the bottom line, ultimately making companies more profitable.
So how do we create a sense of belonging in our workplaces? Here are three ways to build a culture of belonging.
Listen and Acknowledge
Start by listening for who your colleagues are as human beings and seek to understand their values. Invite their opinions, make yourself available when they have concerns and include them in important conversations.
Leverage surveys and focus groups to get a sense of what’s important to your people. Then augment your listening with a healthy dose of acknowledgment. Recognize the accomplishments of your teams, make note of individuals who go above and beyond, and celebrate successes.
Culture of Candor
Being free to express your opinions at work is a major component of belonging, according to research by author Maxwell Huppert. This makes sense considering the definition of belonging includes both psychological safety and the feeling that it’s OK to bring your authentic self to work.
Colleagues who feel safe speaking their minds will be more willing to contribute unique ideas, solutions, and innovations. While we all tend to feel cautious around people in authority, lower-level employees are sometimes more aware of issues and opportunities, making their opinions even more valuable. To build belonging by creating a culture of candor, begin by identifying topics that are going unspoken and finding informal ways to start discussing them.
Tell Purposeful Stories
A group of senior leaders at Citigroup recently shared personal stories while livestreaming with their entire global organization. One exec revealed how, during her early career, she had regularly dodged disclosing that she never graduated from college. Whenever the topic came up, she changed the subject or avoided answering.
When we tell stories about our battles to be accepted as our authentic selves, we create a sense of connection, belonging and empathy.
Understanding someone else’s story gives us a sense of the dimensions and layers of their experience, and helps us get to know them in a way we may not otherwise have access to.
Belonging is the evolution of diversity and inclusion. It is the result of the intentional cultivation of workplace culture, the product of deliberate organizational choices, and the manifestation of purposeful individual interactions. Belonging has far-reaching effects, from performance to retention to overall organizational success.
Belonging can uplift the nature of work, instilling a sense of purpose that connects people for a common cause, creating meaning and fulfillment that can go beyond the walls of the workplace.
Looking to create a sense of belonging in your workplace? We can help. Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-273-1465.