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5 Ways to Foster Belonging in the Workplace

07 Apr
Business leader gathers with colleagues in the office to foster a good workplace.

Imagine you’re at work and you have a great idea that could aid in the efficiency and success of your department. You really want to share this idea, however you know your ideas have been less than welcomed in the past. So, you hold onto your idea. Not only does this affect your morale and the way you feel you fit into the organization, it affects the company’s growth. After all, a company can’t grow without hearing and implementing great and different ideas from its employees.

A sense of belonging is very important to us as humans. It’s so important that it’s included as one of the five levels on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs along with survival essentials like food, water, shelter and safety. If we don’t feel like we belong, we can feel very alone, which leads to deeper feelings of loneliness and depression.1 Feeling like this can stifle your personal wellbeing and development and will also limit your success in both personal and professional pursuits.

At the base level of a company is the employee. Brigitte Hyacinth, author of “Leading the Workforce of the Future,” states, “When employees are consistently treated with trust, dignity, and respect, they respond by giving their best.”2 Fostering a sense of belonging in the workplace is essential for the overall success of the company. In this post, we’ll explore five ways to create a stronger culture of belonging.

1. Be Open to Idea Sharing and Collaboration

It’s simple. When people feel like they’re heard and part of something bigger, they feel like they belong. It’s no different in the workplace. This means that companies should promote a culture of idea sharing. It’s especially important for executives to champion this initiative, as they have great influence to shape the culture and encourage collaboration between all levels of the company.

In addition to executive support, creating a specific platform, forum or space in the day to invite ideas and collaboration is helpful in creating belonging in the workplace. This can be done in many different ways. Plan for a working lunch with different people from the organization. Take teams on an outing to build relationships. Even a volunteer day can encourage idea sharing and collaboration in a more relaxed environment.

2. Promote Open Communication and Transparency

When people are made to feel comfortable sharing their ideas, a culture of open communication is formed. What’s even better than open communication is the ability to be transparent about ideas. Promoting an environment that relies on open and honest communication is the way to create a sense of belonging.

Transparency plays an important role in this open culture. However, making decisions at the executive and management levels can be a tough job. Leaders can walk a fine line between sharing helpful information and information overload. Finding a proper balance regarding transparency in decision-making is crucial to a healthy work environment.

Encouraging open communication and transparency are present in many modalities in the workplace. Here are recommendations to develop engaged employees:

Schedule Regular Team Meetings

Regular meetings encourage feedback, idea sharing and collaboration. Having a regular time to feel part of the business and collaborate on projects. These meetings are also a great way to cement the company culture. If a company has a great culture, it should carry through to team meetings.

Set Up Channels Where Anonymous Feedback Can Be Given

Employees may hesitate to openly share any difficult feedback or criticism. Allowing feedback to be submitted anonymously can encourage employees to share their thoughts more freely. Any concerns brought through anonymous channels can then be handled by the appropriate people or departments.

3. Recognize and Celebrate Successes for a Winning Company Culture

Recognition should be given to both deserving individuals and teams. While top down recognition is wonderful, the ways in which colleagues recognize and celebrate other colleagues is such an important part of morale and the feeling of belonging in a company. Encourage employees to recognize each other. Introduce an employee-of-the-month program. Incorporate team building activities and office celebrations to build relationships between employees. The more welcomed, closer, and celebrated employees are, the more they’ll feel like they belong.

4. Prioritize Inclusion and Diversity

An inclusive workplace is a much happier workplace. This means amping up the psychological safety aspect of the office. Make it an environment where it’s okay to share and try. Encourage diversity in all forms. This can be done through employee resource groups and promoting diverse perspectives in decision-making.

5. Support Employee Development and Growth

If an employee isn’t encouraged to grow and develop, they can start to feel stuck and isolated. An employee who’s feeling stuck can become resentful, which discourages morale, company growth and any positive feelings of belonging.

To avoid this, support and promote development programs. Do you have training and development opportunities in place for all employees in all departments? Having clear paths for advancement is an important way to support employee development. Mentorship programs are also a great way to build relationships and support growth.

Explore More Ways to Promote Belonging Through Inclusive Leadership

In the video “Seven Considerations for Inclusive Leadership,” William & Mary Associate Professor Inga Carboni discusses belonging as an essential element of an inclusive workplace. Prioritizing inclusivity in the workplace is the backbone of a thriving company. Regarding open communication as a pathway to belonging, Carboni notes that encouraging discussion in the workplace can result in conflict, and that’s perfectly okay. She emphasizes that when you invite diversity in thoughts and opinions, more people will think, “We’re all in this together!”

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Step Up as a More Inclusive Leader With William & Mary’s Online MBA Program

Earning your MBA is a pathway to cultivating a number of positive leadership skills that can help you promote belonging in the workplace. MBA programs prepare you to be a C-level executive and teach you many hard and soft skills that equip you to be an impactful manager and leader.

William & Mary’s Online MBA is a leading-edge program that will help you cultivate the skills you need to succeed in business. This program is renowned for its rigorous, comprehensive Online MBA curriculum, which includes a course on organizational behavior. William & Mary offers students a deep dive into many of the most in-demand business fields, with core courses and electives in business analytics, finance, integrated technology, strategy, managerial accounting and much more.

Schedule a call with an Admissions Advisor today to learn more.