12 Nov Fostering a Feeling of Belonging in Business
A friend of ours studied abroad and ended up in the wrong opening lecture. It was 3 hours long and on a topic of little interest to her. But she ended up joining the class for the entire semester. Why? Because she was finding it hard to meet people and she made a friend in that class. So she stayed. Just like work, it’s more than the job spec that keeps your people there. Sure, there are factors like pay, location and benefits at play for your people. However, one huge aspect of them staying with your company relates to fostering a feeling of belonging.
If this all sounds odd to you, think of it in terms of your own life. Are you involved in a team or community outside of your work? Maybe you joined a club when you moved somewhere new, played with a sports team for years or are part of an online group. Have you ever wondered about what has made you stay in it? Or what made you leave one that wasn’t for you? Chances are, you stayed because you felt accepted or left because you felt rejected.
How do you go about fostering a feeling of belonging in your company? Belonging, no more than culture, can seem like a challenge when we deal in the currency of tangible goals. It might not be as clear cut as ‘Increase X by Y’, but there are small, consistent efforts you can make to nurture a sense of belonging in business. We’ve identified three key pillars in which all of these operate within and have some ideas on how you can put them in place.
It comes in many forms, but effective communication is imperative between you and your people. Starting with them, you need to give them a voice in your company, provide a safe space to express it as well as a listening ear. If these things are not available, people are not going to feel valued and certainly not like they belong, because they won’t feel like they matter to you or the company.
Freedom of Expression
People need to feel like they can be themselves. There are two elements to this. Firstly, you hired them for their exceptional qualities and ideas, so give them the space to be that person. Don’t try and put them in a box; let them make the mould. Secondly, let them be who they are. No doubt your company is full of people with different likes and dislikes from various cultures and nationalities so ensure they have a space to express that rather than hiding it. It’s all part of being able to express yourself freely and being accepted for that.
Communicate like a Leader
Communication must come from you when it comes to company business. People need these channels to work to be informed and feel important enough to be communicated with. Think about it. Imagine if there was a decision made at a meeting by other people but it impacted you, and you had to hear about it casually through a colleague weeks later. It doesn’t make anyone feel very good about themselves, and it just makes people feel left out, which is the opposite of what we are going for here.