The Power of Belonging

The rate of actively disengaged employees in the United States continues to rise as the rate of engaged employees is consistently declining. 

And one of the elements that dropped the most amongst younger workers and women is “feeling cared about at work.” (Gallup, January 2023).  

“Employee engagement is the involvement and enthusiasm of employees in both their work and workplace.”

– Gallup

Engagement and Belonging

A crucial element of engagement is an employee’s sense of belonging. And an organization’s culture empowers creating and nurturing that connection – establishing a feeling of security and fit within the organization.

During my corporate career, I was at one point the employee relations lead aligned to the community banks (non-big city markets). The community banks’ leadership team comprised market presidents from towns and smaller cities throughout the organization’s U.S. footprint.

While supporting these colleagues, I spearheaded a community banks organizational development initiative. As a result, all presidents converged in one of the small city market locations.

While this might have been an uneasy assignment because I was in an “Only” situation, it was not.

Why? 

Because the head of the community banks created a collaborative, inclusive environment early that anchored a strong sense of belonging:

Lessons Observed

  • He saw me as an individual and got to know me over time.
  • He was curious to learn about my background, life experiences, and career experiences.
  • He looked for and built on what we had in common. 
  • He demonstrated an appreciation and respect for my knowledge, skills, and abilities – the expertise I brought to the table that he knew was not within his wheelhouse.
  • We engaged in two-way conversations, actively listening and collaborating in setting our direction and expectations.
  • He was a proactive ally, setting the tone and tenor for how others on his leadership team engaged with me.
I experienced a sense of belonging, was treated with dignity and respect, and enjoyed engaging as a value-added partner and achieving the targeted outcomes.

Belonging Elements

The Achievers Workforce Institute (“Achievers”) produced its Belonging at Work 2021 Culture Report.  Achievers identified five elements correlating with a stronger sense of belonging. 

Welcomed

Organizations should have an onboarding process to help socialize new employees into the organization.  That goes beyond the first day of completing the new hire paperwork. 

For example, I worked with a company to develop an extended onboarding plan, devising and sharing with the new hire a written plan that spanned six months with organized “meet and greets” for the few weeks after joining the company.  Equally important was not suddenly removing the focused attention and support but establishing a structured mentoring program to familiarize the new colleague with the organization and develop business relationships over time. 

Known

Get to know the employee beyond the knowledge, skills, and abilities the individual brings to the organization.  Know the employee’s values, strengths, aspirations, and what interests them.

Included

Even though an individual is new to the organization, resist excluding the value they bring with their career and life experiences. Instead, create space for employees to express their viewpoints without the pressure to conform, although different than yours (the leader’s) or other prevailing views.

Supported

Provide the space for the employee to openly initiate a conversation about how you can best help them at work, such as upgraded equipment, openness to changing a process or procedure to gain efficiencies, and more.  Likewise, listen for the employee to express work-life integration opportunities. Again, be open to addressing the individual’s unique situation rather than paint with a broad brush approach. 

Connected

An employee with a best friend at work will likely have a stronger sense of belonging and connection. So, social interactions and building collegial relationships are essential.  Rather than leaving it to chance, help the employee find their tribe, possibly through an Employee Resource Group.

Cast a Wide Net

While the Achievers elements speak to new hires, when all of your team members feel they belong, you position your team for unmatched success.  Determine what you might do more, better, or differently so that all employees enjoy a strong sense of belonging.

Create a win-win-win opportunity – for you, your team members, and the organization.

You don’t have to go it alone. Contact me for a complimentary consultation: https://www.endviewsolutions.com/contact/.

Lillian Davenport, SPHR, SHRM – SCP, CTACC, Principal, End View Solutions, LLC

Lillian Davenport

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Lillian Davenport is a coach, consultant, and leadership strategist. Her signature program, M3 LeadershipSM, prepares you to enhance and develop your self-awareness, embrace your inner strength, and lead with confidence, courage, and impact.

Lillian’s career as a human resources leader includes roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Woodforest National Bank, and American International Group, Inc. (AIG), where she leveraged employee relations, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expertise in leadership development.