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Belonging in the workplace

Employees cannot fully commit to a company they do not feel a part of. Fostering a sense of belonging within the organization, the team, and the work itself is critical for employees to stay and do exceptional work.

According to TELUS Health (formerly LifeWorks), 35% of employees feel isolated at work, resulting in a lack of commitment and engagement. In short, companies are blowing it. North American companies spend nearly $8 billion each year on diversity and inclusion (D&I) training which misses the mark because they neglect employees’ need to feel included.

Currently, while remote or hybrid work offers flexibility and saves commuting time, there is a risk that people may feel less connection to their organizations and colleagues over time. When transitioning to a virtual setting during the pandemic, many employees lost the spontaneity of office conversations that they may have found invigorating.

Creating a sense of belonging in the workplace

Creating a sense of belonging — an employee's perception of acceptance within a given group — provides human resource (HR) leaders with an opportunity to reinvigorate their inclusion goals and approach. It’s about how employees feel represented at work, representation of age, gender, race, and ethnicity in their team. HR leaders can have an impact before they even consider the work itself.

Employees cannot fully commit to a company without a sense of connectedness and belonging. Fostering belonging within an organization, within the team, and with the work itself is critical for employee performance and enrichment.

Employees are more likely to commit to their organization if they feel:

  • No matter what their position is, give employees the chance to lead, take their ideas seriously and trust them with important decisions.
  • A sense of accomplishment. Challenge your employees to push the limits of what they can achieve. When they go home at the end of the day, they should feel proud of the work they have done.
  • A sense of belonging. Ensure that employees feel your organization is a place for people like them. This starts with being open to their contributions and ideas.
  • Speaking up is far less scary if you know you are in a safe space and have a strong team behind you. Those who feel like they have the support of their team members and belong to that team are more likely to voice their opinions.

Why does belonging matter?

A sense of belonging can be conveyed as early as reading a job description. Employees immediately are assessing whether they see themselves within the company and within a specific role. Belonging is also fostered over time and includes alignment with core values, being fulfilled by the work, building relationships, and being frequently and meaningfully recognized for contributions.

Belonging in the social sense also matters. Employees spend a great deal of time “at work” which makes the workplace not only a social hub, but also an environment where inclusion, connectedness, and community correlate with favourable job performance and reduced turnover.

A strong sense of belonging positively correlates with engagement, commitment, productivity. In a time when leaders are struggling with changing work conditions and expectations, a focus on belonging can help formalize and optimize the process for introducing new programs and initiatives. For example:

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