Belonging is one of the most important of all human needs. People will even go against their values to feel like they belong.
What does it mean to create a sense of belonging in the workplace?
Belonging is one of the most basic of all human needs. We put the need to belong before anything else. We will do anything to be part of the group. We are social animals. Belonging means that you feel like you are part of the group, you feel that people understand, you feel they value you, and you feel you are important to them. Notice I added feel to all of these because creating a sense of belonging hinges on how people feel.
Why do leaders need to create a sense of belonging in the workplace?
Leaders want to create a sense of belonging because it is their number one way to increase engagement. If people feel they belong, they feel vested in your organization. They feel they have value and will give more of themselves. This also is your number one way to increase retention people leave when they feel excluded in some way. If they don't feel like they fit in or feel excluded in some way, they don't feel that they matter to the organization. So the more you can do to create a sense of belonging in the workplace, the more likely you will be able to retain and engage your employees. Even better, if you create a really strong sense of belonging, outsiders will notice, and you will attract top talent!
How can I create a sense of belonging for my team?
Try adopting some of these simple strategies.
The number one way to make sure people have a sense of belonging is to find things they share in common. Something as simple as finding out that you share a love of cooking or hate country music, or have lived overseas, etc., is enough. It doesn't need to be complicated, but we want to seek out what we have in common with the people we work with. Some simple ways to do this:
in one on one conversations, listen for areas you share a similarity, and point it out
have some intentional time as a team to develop a shared identity by developing a list of 3-5 commonalities and then coming up with a silly name to solidify that identity (Like 'pizza lovers'!)
One caveat - be very careful that commonality does not exclude others, or it will backfire! You do not want to celebrate something that only some of you do because then you're immediately excluding other people. For example, if you come up with the name 'pizza lovers', but someone in the group doesn't really like pizzas, they will feel left out.
In your next meeting, instead of just letting the loud talkers and extroverts dominate the discussion, be intentional about going around the room and letting each person talk and say their piece. No one else should respond, comment, roll their eye, applaud or ANYTHING! By giving each person uninterrupted time to voice their thoughts, you are signaling that every voice is heard and matters.
I believe I was sold on the idea of mantras when I read Culture Code by Daniel Cole (highly recommend!!). A mantra is simply an expression of your group identity which gets repeated.....a lot! Studies have shown that we believe what we say out loud. For example, when I was in the classroom, I developed the mantra "In this classroom, we do hard things". This mantra helped develop a sense of identity because we had this idea that we shared 'doing hard things', and the first part identified the group of 'this classroom' . The mantra solidifies the group identity because it states the shared values clearly, and by repeating it out loud, your team starts to believe it and embody it.
Find commonalities you share with all of your team members. Use the free guide below to ask questions that can help you learn more about them and uncover commonalities.
Download a list of questions you can ask to learn more about your team members and find commonalities.