How to foster your employees’ sense of belonging
The concept of belonging has been getting a lot of attention in the business world in recent years, and with good reason—a growing amount of evidence suggests that a strong sense of belonging among employees is vital for the overall health of an organization. What does it mean to have a sense of belonging? Essentially, it’s the feeling of being accepted and included by those around you. Whereas promoting diversity means intentionally hiring people of varying races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, religions, education levels, and ages, creating a culture of belonging is about helping your employees feel connected to the company and each other.
In its 2018 study of 1,000 employed American adults of different generations, genders, and ethnicities, EY found that more than 40 percent of respondents feel physically and emotionally isolated in the workplace. With many people now working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a real risk that this sense of isolation has been exacerbated.
This is a problem that affects not only your employees’ wellbeing, but also your company’s bottom line. According to a 2018 study by BetterUp, a research lab focused on human performance and flourishing in the workplace, employees who feel included and accepted at work perform better, are less likely to quit, and are more likely to recommend their organization to others.
And what about the impact on your customers? An employee who feels a strong connection to their company will be better equipped to deliver the desired customer experience, which can ultimately make or break a brand’s success.
Clearly, this is something all businesses need to be concerned about. So, what can you do to cultivate a sense of belonging in your organization, even while your teams are working from home? Here are a few ideas.
1. Keep your employees in the loop
When it comes to encouraging a sense of belonging at work, communication is key. In a 2017 LinkedIn survey of more than 14,000 professionals around the world, 48 percent of respondents said that transparent communication about important company developments would contribute to their sense of belonging. To stay engaged, your employees need to feel like what they’re doing matters. If they can’t see the connection between their day-to-day tasks and the company’s larger objectives, they may struggle to find meaning in their work.
That’s why clear, regular communication about your company’s current and upcoming projects and goals is vital. It ensures that everyone understands what’s going on and how they can contribute. You can choose to share updates by email, during video conferences, or through a mobile learning app such as Albert, depending on the type of information.
No matter which method you use to communicate with your employees, you should also make it clear that you’re willing to listen to what they have to say. Creating an environment in which everyone feels comfortable giving feedback is one of the key steps toward helping your employees feel included: in the LinkedIn survey, 51 percent of respondents said that having opportunities to express their opinions freely would increase their sense of belonging.
2. Publicize your employees’ achievements
Just as your employees need to understand how their work contributes to the company as a whole, they also need to know that their work is valued and recognized by their boss and colleagues. It’s always a nice gesture to personally thank an employee for a job well done, but you can take this a step further by publicly acknowledging their achievement to the rest of the organization. This way, you’ll not only let the individual know that you appreciate them, but also give them a chance to feel seen by their colleagues, who might not be aware of the hard work they put into a particular project.
You could spread the word about your employees’ notable accomplishments by email or mention them during your next team meeting. Better yet, set up a system for recognizing an employee each month. The Albert app is the ideal channel for sharing your staff’s successes. Every day, employees receive a short learning module on their smartphone with information about your company’s products and services, practices and approaches, and mission and values. Why not dedicate one module per month to showcasing an employee’s achievement? This could take the form of an interview or a sneak peek at a big project they’ve been working on. The format is up to you, but the mobile delivery and eye-catching, interactive content will help ensure that the news is read and remembered by your staff—not buried somewhere in their inbox.
3. Reward your employees’ hard work
Public acknowledgment is a powerful way to show appreciation for an employee’s hard work—but don’t underestimate the importance of more tangible rewards such as raises, bonuses, or promotions. While these alone won’t give someone a sense of belonging, they will help make them feel valued. Offering your employees better compensation and career advancement opportunities shows that you care about their dedication and want them to stay at your organization.
4. Bring new hires up to speed
Starting a new job can be daunting; the sheer volume of information to absorb over the first few weeks is often overwhelming. While it takes time for a new employee to develop a sense of belonging, you can help them out by providing essential information in manageable chunks. For instance, instead of asking them to read a 50-page training handbook, why not have them complete a series of learning modules on the Albert app? Each interactive module can be completed in under 10 minutes and helps the learner retain information more easily. Instead of spending hours reading a long text they’re likely to forget by the following morning, your new hires can spend a few minutes per day learning on the app. It’s a great way to help them get up to speed and feel comfortable in their new role more quickly.
5. Delegate important tasks
Show your employees that you trust them by giving them more responsibility. In the LinkedIn survey, 39 percent of respondents said that being assigned projects deemed important for their company or team contributed to their sense of belonging. Giving your employees more responsibility shows that you trust them, recognize the value of their work, and consider them an essential member of the team, which goes a long way toward boosting morale and performance.
6. Plan social activities
Having a strong sense of belonging isn’t just about feeling like your work is valued and meaningful; it’s also about feeling connected to the people you work with.
While the shift to remote work during the pandemic has made it more difficult to socialize with colleagues, you can plan virtual meet-ups to give people the chance to catch up with each other in a relaxed setting.
Another way to continue building community while physically distanced is through the Albert app. Each learning module includes a discussion space where employees can share their thoughts and ask questions. Even when people aren’t working side by side, they’re never isolated from their colleagues.
The point isn’t to force your employees to become best friends; instead, you should aim to help build rapport between colleagues to encourage a more empathetic work environment. In fact, the same study by EY found that 39 percent of respondents stated that they feel the greatest sense of belonging when their colleagues check in with them, either personally or professionally.