Given what we know about the impact of belonging, how can employees and leaders alike build and foster a sense of belongingness?
One study found that regardless of the role being performed, connecting to beneficiaries of our work or having positive relational interactions with them (especially internal ones like colleagues) can strengthen a sense of belonging – and ultimately drive us to act in a way that benefits those beneficiaries.
Given that, improving relational interactions between colleagues in the workplace can be a clear way to create or facilitate those feelings and it can be done in a variety of ways.
At the individual level, research suggests that demonstrating responsiveness to our colleagues needs, engaging in communal connections, and having empathetic understanding can go a long way in building positive and harmonious relationships.
In particular, mentoring, advice giving and perspective taking have been shown in recent experimental studies to help buffer or reverse feelings of exclusion. By sharing our challenges and how we overcame them, imagining the guidance we would give to someone else in our situation, and brainstorming what changes we would make if given the power to create a more inclusive environment, we’re effectively placing ourselves back into the “in-group.”
Mentoring or giving advice to colleagues in similar situations can also help us feel a sense of empowerment about a situation that may otherwise be demoralising.
Research suggests that to create the positive outcomes associated with belonging and inclusion – like high-quality relationships, job satisfaction, wellbeing and organisational commitment – organisations must first create an inclusive climate. This includes systems, leadership and practices.
To start, leaders should promote belongingness and inclusion as values shared by the company and it’s management – and work to elicit and act on feedback that provides insight into how the workplace is perceived in these areas.
Beyond the executive suite, organisations can shape the climate by creating affinity groups and employee resource groups that can act as advocacy networks, where employees can feel welcome and encouraged to have discussions, share challenges, and brainstorm solutions about shared experiences.
Organisations can also promote allyship within teams and groups – establishing the presence of a fair person who demonstrates inclusion even while other group members aren’t, has been shown to prevent the feelings and consequences of exclusion.
Ultimately, when everyone shares a sense of belonging, it can drive the kind of loyalty and commitment that leads people to support each other more, improve effort within team contexts and care for each other as human beings – the type of improvements that can make work a positive and enjoyable environment for everyone.
But before they can implement a strategy, one challenge that leaders have is understanding the belonging levels in their organisations to begin with. inclusio is a scientific solution designed to assess and measure a Sense of Belonging – and other key inclusion metrics at your organisation – giving leaders critical information about where the gaps lie and opportunities for improvement.
Not sure why a sense of belonging is so important? Check out our blog on Why Leaders Should Aim To Build a Sense of Belonging On Their Teams.