Leading Blog






05.13.20

How Do You Create A Sense of Belonging at Work?

Belonging at Work?

IN a Cigna Health report from 2019, 61 percent of people in the study reported feeling lonely. Why? According to the findings, Americans felt that they don’t have enough social support, not enough meaningful interactions, struggle with physical and mental health issues, and can’t find a way to balance the demands in their personal and professional worlds. Well, with a global pandemic and shelter-in-place orders, employees are working from home and are forced to limit their physical interactions with colleagues, family, and friends. Feelings of loneliness and isolation are quite common today. However, companies and their leaders can do something to counteract the deleterious effects of loneliness. In the context of the workplace, loneliness undermines performance and productivity, at a minimum. Leaders can turn to a solution that costs little and has major dividends: a sense of belonging.

Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t. Throughout human history, a sense of belonging has been ingrained into our DNA. The comfort of friendships and the safety derived from being part of a community have always been one of the most powerful forces shaping our human experience.

What is belonging at work? It’s the experience of feeling valued, wanted, and welcomed.

Feeling valued at work: When employees believe their contributions, effort, and personal sacrifices are expressly appreciated.

Feeling wanted at work: When employees believe their boss and the organization care about them as a whole person and not simply as a means to an end.

Feeling welcomed at work: When employees believe they have a place in their team When leaders can shape the experience of belonging, employees are positioned to drive better business results. What’s more, in this era of working from home, belonging helps combat feelings of loneliness. My research on belonging in high-performing companies like the Container Store, LinkedIn, and Barry-Wehmiller show that relating to employees as people – and not just resources to get work done – can lead to tightly-knit teams that deliver breakthrough performances and astonishing results.

So how do you create a sense of belonging at work? Here are things to think about:

  1. Make them feel valued. An employee’s curiosity to learn the nuances of his or her job should be treated with the utmost respect. It needs to be encouraged – and required – in any team seeking astonishing results. Also, in these times, when most employees are working from home, leaders need to be intentional in expressing their gratitude for employees’ hard work. Without feeling valued by our coworkers, the story we tell through our performance will be disappointing, and we leave our gumption, passion, and commitment behind. When contributions go unacknowledged, no one shows up to work feeling enthusiastic.
  2. Give them autonomy. To feel valued and believe that we are right where we need to be can bring a calming influence on how we work. While doing research for Work Tribes, one employee at Barry Wehmiller, a global manufacturing company, observed how influential feeling valued is to his performance: “[It] lets people flourish in their own way. I think it’s so easy for a leader of people to impose their will (and push employees to do things) their own way.”
  3. Give voice to appreciation. More employees put in work hours at home, on vacation, on weekends, and during family outings. For this reason, employees need to be recognized when they put the company’s or the team’s interests over their family or personal life. It costs the company nothing and is invaluable when that appreciation is genuinely communicated.
  4. Make it contagious. Positive feelings are infectious. When employees have a sense of wellbeing, their cognitive thinking and creativity are improved, and they are better equipped to respond to stress and setbacks. In the end, a virtuous cycle envelops more people when the focus is on renewing how they are led and creating a place where they feel valued, wanted, and welcomed. Such a workplace is one where talented people will want to be.
  5. Help them be self-aware. In the context of the workplace, jelling with others is honoring a code of conduct that contributes to an unflagging vitality in relationships. Employees that are more self-aware can better connect with others, they are more supportive of their team members, and they are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. This self-awareness can help a team bond more deeply and enable them to quickly learn from disappointments and move on from them rather than wallowing in stress and blame.
  6. Work it. Every team player must do his or her part to help the team achieve success. This means that they quickly clean up any relationship discords, regularly discuss their purpose, focus on what’s possible, and constantly create clarity. Quite simply, it’s about doing the work, investing the time, and being committed to creating astonishing outcomes.

Let me be clear about one thing: We don’t need to make belonging a strategic initiative. It is always available to use in those micro-moments or grand gestures in workplace experiences. And when it comes to feelings of loneliness, leaders simply need to increase their one-to-one interactions with employees who are working remotely. Simple gestures like calling and checking to see how people are doing make a difference. What’s more, when leaders set aside time to talk about non-work-related matters with employees, it signals that their wellbeing is important.

Still, because of human tendencies to make messes, companies do need to be intentional about shaping belonging. The whole of the workforce is likely unaware of how their life is influenced by it. When you decide to co-create a sense of belonging, some might be skeptical. But remember, belonging is something that everyone craves. In a way, that makes it priceless – and a good reason to create experiences for it.

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Leading Forum
Shawn Murphy has nearly 30 years of consulting experience and advising companies on implementing organizational change and culture change. Central to his efforts is applying human behavior and needs to help achieve business results and create a satisfying work experience for employees. Because of his extensive experience and keen insight, Shawn was handpicked to be part of IBM’s elite New Way to Work futurist group. Shawn is currently the Director of Organizational Development and Workplace Trends at a Silicon Valley startup, Bluescape. He is the author of Work Tribes: The Surprising Secret to Breakthrough Performance, Astonishing Results, and Keeping Teams Together, and lives in Northern California.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:32 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Human Resources



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