Do I Belong Here?

February 16, 2024by Jennifer Murray0

Diverse group of people

Do I belong here is a simple question that passes through the minds of job candidates as they pursue employment options. The question resurfaces during the interview process and again during onboarding. Job candidates are assessing what they read, hear, and experience during the job search, hiring, and onboarding processes.

Attracting a diverse team requires a culture and brand that demonstrates you created an environment that fosters a sense of belonging. Individuals are searching your website to identify your mission, vision, and values for indications that they will easily fit with your team.

Organizations are typically clear on their mission. They may need to publicize it more boldly to connect with individuals that share a passion for that mission.

Documenting organizational values is important, as well. Here are some value statements that are stated on the websites of popular organizations. Apple: Accessibility, Education, Environment, Inclusion and diversity, Privacy, Racial Equity and Justice, and Supplier responsibility. Ben & Jerry’s has different values and may attract different job candidates: Advancing human rights and dignity, Protecting and restoring Earth’s natural systems, Supporting social and economic justice. Does your messaging help candidates assess their potential fit if they pursue a position on your team?

Strategically advertising job openings will expand the candidate pool to a diverse group of individuals. Greater diversity can quickly create a pathway for a sense of belonging. For example, hiring multiple veterans increases the likelihood for a long-term employee journey. SHRM Foundation reported higher overall retention rates for veteran hires as compared to nonveteran hires. Conversely, hiring one veteran without a support structure is more likely to fail.

Bolster your success by implementing inclusive hiring practices. Does your hiring team need training to remove unconscious bias? For example, most hiring managers are not veterans. They may struggle to correlate military skills and experience with nonmilitary job requirements. When we provide hiring managers with inclusive hiring training programs, they are more likely to identify the skills and experience job applicants can bring to the organization.

Imagine walking into a costume party and discovering you are the only one that didn’t wear a costume. What if your child showed up at the game wearing the wrong jersey? The missed expectations feel awkward at the onset. The rest of the event could go either way, depending on how other attendees respond and the individual’s personality. New team members can instantly feel the same way.

Don’t underestimate the importance of the first week experience. I have heard countless stories about day one job experiences that went poorly. Managers were not prepared. The door was locked. The workspace wasn’t ready. Most of those lousy experiences were avoidable. Create a plan and block calendars to improve the day one experience, so new hires feel like they are important and will play a key role in the organization.

Another common failure is the unstructured job shadow experience. The new team member is told to sit beside someone for several hours and watch. What are they watching for? What is the lead supposed to show them? It is tough to assess the value of the experience without understanding the objectives. All the while, the new hire is wondering, do I belong here?

Next, consider the feedback mechanisms you have put in place. How many times have you heard leaders say they want to hear your input and seek your contributions in meetings? In some organizations, the messaging is authentic. The leaders establish a work environment of psychological safety where team members are comfortable expressing themselves without fear of judgment or retribution. The culture is inclusive and the opinions of team members at all levels matter.

In other organizations, those words are not authentic. Team members who joined to make a difference and contribute are hushed into silence and do not feel like they belong. Unfortunately, they typically don’t last. A culture of belonging fosters teamwork and encourages the opinions and ideas of the team.

There are additional layers of support you can build into the employee experience to help team members belong. Create mentor and buddy programs. Assigning a buddy to the onboarding program can help to address small questions when managers are not available.  At the same time, the new team member is quickly establishing a connection with another teammate.

Mentoring Programs can help to establish a connection for new hires, as well. The mentor can provide support and guidance within the established mentoring framework.

Implementing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) creates another layer of support. Not only do these groups enjoy the community they build, but they become a strong referral source for new team members. Including your team in the ERG development process will increase the success and participation.

Next, evaluate your internal communication strategy to ensure you are reaching multiple generations and individuals who have different communication preferences. Leverage platforms that translate written words to voice or videos that also provide a transcript. If you have a group of team members that speaks English as a second language, translate messaging into their primary language.

When you check-in with your new hires after 30 days, are they confirming that they established a sense of belonging? If there is room for improvement, the feedback is worth considering and addressing. Belonging is one of the key factors for employee engagement. Next month, we will talk about another key factor.


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