How to create a sense of belonging in the workplace

10 July 2020 Consultancy.eu

How can organisations create a sense of belonging – feeling respected and treated fairly – in the workplace? According to a global survey of nearly 9,000 HR leaders by Deloitte, the recipe involves a combination of three additive drivers. 

Comfort

Firstly, organisations can improve comfort by creating inclusive work environments, where employees feel respected and treated fairly. Organisations with inclusive cultures are likely to achieve better business outcomes, be high-performing and have a greater propensity to be innovative and agile.

Twenty-five percent of the respondents of Deloitte's survey identified fostering an environment where workers feel they are treated fairly and can bring their authentic selves to work – comfort – as the biggest driver of belonging. 

Contribution and connection drive belonging more than comfort alone

Connection

Thirty-one percent said that having a sense of community and identifying with a defined team – connection – was the biggest driver. Connection occurs on two levels: when employees have meaningful relationships with colleagues and their team and when they feel connected the organisation’s purpose and goal. 

One way to promote stronger connections among workers is through business resource groups. This is due to business groups connecting people of similar backgrounds and social identities. 

Contribution

The third driver, contribution, is the biggest driver to creating belonging in the workplace (total of 44%). More importantly, high levels of contribution are enabled by high levels of comfort and connection. In other words, “the progression from comfort to connection to contribution is additive, whereby each step builds upon the previous one”, according to Deloitte’s research. 

Contribution occurs when employees can see how their individual talents make a meaningful difference to the organisation. The survey found that 63% of respondents report that creating a sense of belonging supports organisational performance due to belonging amplifying the link between individual and organisational objectives.

Putting it into practice

So how can organisations navigate the evolution from comfort to connection to contribution? The ‘Human Capital Trends 2020’ report from Deloitte suggests that again, three factors can make the difference: culture, leadership behaviours and personal relationships.

Culture, leadership, and personal relationships are the biggest factors influencing an organizations ability to create belonging

Organisational culture refers to the system of values, beliefs, and behaviours that shapes how work gets done within an organisation. For a successful culture of belonging, the environment should support all three elements of comfort, connection, and contribution. 

“Workers should feel their perspectives are respected and valued; the culture should be one that encourages everyone to be authentic, share their diverse perspectives, and align to the team’s and organisation’s purpose. And workers need clear mechanisms, such as incentives and peer/supervisor feedback, to show them how their work makes a difference in the pursuit of broader shared goals,” states Deloitte. 

Obviously, leadership behaviour is key in reinforcing the organisational culture needed. Leaders are expected to advocate the values of fairness and respect, and foster a “safe” environment which enables teams and individuals to perform at their best.

Third, the quality of the relationships within departments and across functions is essential. “Teams where workers feel psychologically safe bringing their views to the table, and where their relationships with other team members are strong enough to allow them to do so in an assertive yet constructive way, will be well positioned to engage in productive friction – the ability to draw out conflict and learn from disagreements to generate new insights,” found Deloitte.