Groucho Marx famously quipped, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” In all seriousness though, humans are hard-wired to want to belong – in their families, friendship groups, clubs, and in the workplace. As employers grapple with ‘The Great Resignation,’ instilling a sense of belonging for employees has moved up the HR agenda.
If you’re concerned that building a culture of belonging is too soft a priority in these tough times, the findings in our 2021 ‘Culture Report on Belonging at Work’ survey might surprise you. It turns out that belonging directly impacts top line business metrics like cost reduction, productivity, and employee retention. In nearly every category we measured, employees who feel a sense of belonging are at least twice as likely than the average to act in ways that contribute positively to your company’s reputation and bottom line.
Let’s zoom in on just four of the findings that really stand out in this area:
- Employees with a sense of belonging are 51% likely to recommend their place of work. That’s more than twice that of the employee average of 23% and nearly thirteen times as high as employees whose sense of belonging is low (4%). This has huge implications for the many companies that are struggling to recruit right now, sometimes having to pay huge premiums in recruitment fees and signing bonuses.
- Economists and business leaders speculate endlessly about the UK’s ‘productivity puzzle.’ It turns out that Belonging may be a corner piece in this puzzle. According to our research, 45% of employees with a sense of belonging report that they are their most productive selves at work. Compare that to an employee average of 20% and a mere 6% for those who don’t feel like they belong.
- Half of employees with a sense of belonging also feel a strong sense of safety in their workplace, compared to an average of only 24% and only 6% for those who don’t feel like they belong. This suggests that human connections form what feels like a ‘safety net’ for employees. And when employees feel safe, they do their best work, treat colleagues well, and are more likely to resolve disputes without litigation.
- Finally, in these uncertain, unpredictable times, we hear so much today about the importance of resilience. When asked whether employees “feel capable to manage obstacles and challenges as they arise” 41% of those who felt a strong sense of belonging agreed with that statement. This is compared to an average of 20% and 8% by those who didn’t feel a sense of belonging.
Now, what practical steps can you take to build a culture of belonging in your organisation?
The first step is to measure and define what belonging means in your organisation. You can use pulse or annual engagement surveys as tools to help benchmark your progress.
Next, we recommend you align your HR technology and processes against these five pillars of belonging: “Welcome”, “Known”, “Included”, “Supported”, and “Connected”. Our research shows that these areas all correlate positively and significantly with a powerful sense of belonging. You can read more about these in the report.
Thirdly, embrace differences by ensuring your organisation’s DEI efforts are aligned with belonging. Women, LGBTQ employees, people of colour, disabled employees, and other frequently marginalised groups may need extra support and resources to feel a strong sense of belonging.
Finally, establish a culture of recognition so that people feel seen, valued, and respected. Our customers demonstrate time and time again this is the most powerful way to build a culture of belonging. Tools that allow all employees – regardless of their seniority or location – to recognise their colleagues can be immensely powerful at this stage.
Despite Groucho Marx’s witty banter on the subject, belonging is a serious issue. Our research categorically shows that investing in a culture of belonging in your workplace will pay huge dividends. This is especially true today, when so many employees are currently re-evaluating their work situations.
The 2021 Culture Report on Belonging at Work, is freely available here.