I’ve been hearing more and more about Belonging and its impact on employee well-being, engagement, and retention. It got me curious. Is it really as big of a deal as it seems? In a word, yes. The more I learn, the more convinced I am that it’s a golden ticket that we might not have yet completely unwrapped.
Think about it. Is it really any wonder that after months of social isolation in 2020 that belonging has come to light? More than its ties to diversity and inclusion is its ties to human nature. Humans are deeply social beings. We crave connection more than we give it credit. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, belonging is third in the chain behind survival and security. So after food/shelter, and safety…next is belonging. Only when we feel accepted and supported by others are we capable of contributing our greatest work. Without it, we likely just go through the motions, disengaged, not really fulfilling our potential. How sad. (Am I describing anyone you know?)
What can we do to promote belonging in our departments? And why is it important? Let’s start with the “why” first by sharing some statistics from the Harvard Business Review and Great Place to Work (see links to the full articles below):
- 40% of people say they feel isolated at work. A sense of belonging is a top reason employees leave their job. Could this be—in part—why we’re seeing retention challenges across our facilities?
- High belonging links to a 56% increase in job performance, 50% drop in turnover risk, and 167% increase in likelihood to recommend their company to others. If we could foster a greater sense of belonging, imagine the positive impact it could make!
Next, picture it this way: A tree standing alone in a field is very susceptible to damage from strong winds, potentially to being uprooted and falling completely. Despite its best effort to root itself, it’s exposed and easily threatened. Trees gathered together in a forest, where their roots are woven and knotted firmly together beneath the surface, can withstand those same winds with only a few broken branches. Storm after storm can come through yet nearly every tree stands strong, supported by the collective strength of all the roots, not just its own. Consider how this applies to your team performance, retention, and commitment. Who might be standing out there alone with an isolated root system?
Here are some simple things you can do to promote belonging among your team:
Foster relationship-building. Research clearly shows having a friend at work and a strong relationship with a manager is tied to higher engagement.
- Spend time and show you care. Support their work and personal needs where possible. Get to know the people on your team. Learn about their families and hobbies. Take notes if you have to so you can follow up later to ask about big events in their lives outside work. Be intentional when you conduct rounding to ask about their work life and their work purpose.
- Connect new hires from day one with a mentor who is invested in their success. Make deliberate efforts to welcome them and introduce them to others. Promote their networking across departments. Help them to create ties quickly with peers because you…
- Support team-based activities and celebrations. Make time for team-building activities. Be intentional about bringing people together, even if it’s virtually. Allow them time together…especially time to laugh. Five minutes may be all you have but you won’t regret sparing it. The dividends of the investment are widespread!
Lead with questions & get their input. Ask, don’t tell. Solicit their ideas whenever possible rather than direct what needs to be done. It’s important employees feel their voice matters and that they’re truly heard. Be creative in your efforts so you can engage everyone, not just a select few.
Address exclusion. Speak up and act if you notice an employee isn’t part of the group. Seek to understand the underlying causes contributing to the distance. Find ways to support their comfort with the group and the group’s inclusion and acceptance of that individual.
You have the golden ticket right there in your hands. You simply need to unwrap it and claim your prize!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Corrie Searles, MPT, Leadership Development Educator
In Corrie’s new role as Leadership Development Educator at the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative (RWHC), her aim is to empower leaders to create positive influence that enables others to serve well.