Is it Possible to Create a Sense of Belonging?

January 13, 2023by Jacqueline Hershey0

Creating a culture of belonging has become a greater challenge over the past few years. We know that it is an essential ingredient of a healthy culture and directly contributes to employee retention. Working with organizations in different industries with differing cultures, we discovered some situations that negatively impact the ability to create a sense of belonging throughout an organization.

Data is a useful tool. Using the data from employee engagement and pulse surveys, along with exit interviews, we discovered some common threads that demonstrated the value of creating a connected team in some departments and compared it with the subculture of other departments.

We identified additional factors. Mental health issues can overpower any initiative that you test in your organization. When people are struggling with their mental health, a team-building activity is unlikely to solve the problem. Mental healthcare continues to be a top concern for employee-focused organizations. Video conferences and frequent check-ins with your team members can help to identify changes that may need additional exploration. Yes, it is a delicate topic. Here are some resources to help with the exploratory process.

The second discovery is that some employees are not aligned with the organizational culture. They came from different backgrounds and experiences which helps them add value to the team, but they may not “buy into” the team events, working on-site every day, or value the free food, beverages, and game room. Sometimes after-hours activities and team building events feel like “forced fun” to employees.

Third, quantifiable data shows the value of hiring a diverse team. When organizations recruit diverse employees, it places a higher priority on creating connections that help individuals feel like they belong on the team. As an example, many organizations publicize that they actively recruit veterans. Due to the unique background of veterans, SHRM created a certification program that helps to increase the success rate of assimilating veterans and military spouses in the workplace. SHRM and the Veterans Administration recognized that additional education and a support structure would help veterans assimilate in non-military environments for the long-term.

Similarly, organizations that recruit individuals that don’t speak English as a primary language may have front-line managers and employees that encounter communication challenges.  This scenario requires solutions to bridge the gap and strengthen connections. One organization used targeted advertising to increase their applicant pool for a wide range of job openings. The campaign was effective, but the managers were unprepared to interview individuals that preferred to interview in Spanish. They encountered some cultural barriers during the onboarding process. By creating a strategy to identify, onboard, and train employees using a common language, new team members will establish a quicker connection and sense of belonging.

The remote workplace has produced an additional challenge. While some team members proactively seek others for help and collaboration, others find it difficult to reach out for assistance. Perhaps they previously worked in an environment where they felt judged by asking for help. These individuals may struggle without notice.

What are some of the solutions to these barriers? Start with the data that you have or collect the data you need to uncover the opportunities for improvement. This information will guide you to the next steps. Some possibilities include:

  1. Building a strong onboarding program.
  2. Ensuring your leaders are conducting regular check-ins with team members to gauge job satisfaction and wellness.
  3. Creating a culture of asking questions, collaborating, and working cross-functionally.
  4. Using predictive recruiting tools for cultural alignment.
  5. Engaging more than one interviewer for each potential candidate.
  6. Launching Employee Resource Groups.
  7. Creating a Mentorship Program.

It’s a New Year! Consider the opportunities to enhance your culture by cultivating an environment that makes people feel like they belong and are valued.

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OUR LOCATIONSWhere to find us
230 Hampton Woods Lane, Suite 101 Raleigh, NC 27607
Satellite Office
2929 Breezewood Ave. Suite 101, Fayetteville, NC. 28303
Where to find us