Workplace Inclusion: How to Foster Belonging in the Workplace

Have you ever attended a celebration but felt out of place? Perhaps you thought you didn’t belong, or had nothing in common with the rest of the crowd? 

Unfortunately, everyone goes through this. When the feeling is temporary, it doesn’t adversely affect your life, however, when you feel this way every day at work, it can be a huge demotivator. Belonging is essential for our well-being, and when we don’t feel included at work or don’t fit in, it can lead to a lot of work-related anxiety, and refreshing of your resume.

What is Workplace Belonging?

Belonging is not only a human need but an organizational asset. Belonging at work is feeling accepted and respected by your colleagues. It is the sense of being a valued member of a team or an organization and that you have common interests with other employees and align with their values. 

Sadly, more than 40% of the workforce feels isolated at work.

Understanding and working towards workplace inclusion is significant to your organization’s future. It will help you keep good talent and establish a competitive advantage through better organizational performance, creativity, and innovation.

Four factors that contribute to high levels of workplace inclusion are: 

  • Good management that supports diversity in the workplace and ensures everyone’s voice is heard during decision-making processes 
  • Effective communication between co-workers and employees who have different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives
  • An open culture of trust where people can be themselves without fear of being judged
  • A supportive organizational climate that values input from all members regardless of their position, background or perspective

A sense of belonging is highly correlated with high levels of motivation and work engagement, leading to higher job satisfaction and employee retention. When you feel you belong, you’re more productive, leading to more organizational performance. 

How to Foster Belonging in the Workplace?

Leaders and managers should learn how to cultivate belongingness in the workplace. Here are ways to do it.

Encourage Connections

Just like at school, you need to learn how to make new friends and connect with people. For some people, this comes naturally, but others don’t know how to make friends quickly.

Knowing how to make connections is an essential part of belonging. Take a few minutes at the top of a call to connect with your co-workers or plan connection exercises for larger team meetings.

Foster Open Communication

Your employees should know that they can share their perspectives freely without fear of being judged or ridiculed. If someone makes a mistake or has a bad day, they should know it’s part of everyday life and should be seen as a learning opportunity.

Build Relationships

Create connections with employees outside your circle and extend invitations so you can learn more about what matters to them and their perspectives on different organizational activities. This is also a great way to see where there could be alignment cross-functionally. 

Reward People's Efforts Towards Inclusion

If someone goes the extra mile to make sure everyone feels included, recognize them for their efforts.

Set the Example

As the leader of your organization, you must lead by example and encourage inclusion in all aspects of organizational life. When employees see leadership demonstrating how they can connect with others or show interest in what matters most to employees, it will inspire them to do the same.

A list of techniques to foster a sense of inclusion in your organization can help you achieve a high level of workplace inclusion. But, this is not enough because culture change usually does not happen overnight.

To make lasting change, it’s important to treat inclusive leadership as a skill that managers and leaders need to continuously work at, not just a one time event.

Why is Belonging in the Workplace Important?

When employees feel that they belong, are accepted, valued, and respected, they tend to be more motivated and engaged in their work. 

Benefits of belongingness in the workplace include:

  • Higher job satisfaction
  • Reduced anxiety and stress 
  • Better health outcomes
  • More outstanding commitment to organization goals
  • It reduces absenteeism and turnover rates
  • Higher customer service ratings
  • Increased creativity and innovation in the workplace
  • Better organizational culture
  • More engaged employees mean better corporate performance

It is easier to attract talent with inclusive company culture. There are greater chances of attracting and retaining the best people when the entire workforce feels included and valued for who they are. It is not an easy task to create a climate of belonging in your organization. But, with the right tools and techniques, it is achievable.

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