Why Staff Need To Feel A Sense Of Belonging At Work

Why is it important for staff to feel a sense of belonging in their jobs? Our CEO LEANNE MAREGA explores…

‘Belonging’ is increasingly a buzzword in the world of work. Among leaders and managers. On blogs and websites. In research institutes and conferences. But what does it mean to ‘belong’ at work? And why is it now seen to be so important?

The BetterUp group says it’s when a person feels included and accepted for their ‘authentic’ self. The Coqual thinktank breaks it down into four elements: being seen for your unique contributions, being connected to your coworkers, being supported in your daily work and career development, and being proud of your organisation’s values and purpose.

It’s increasingly a term referred to in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) work as well. Pat Wadors from LinkedIn says “Diversity and Inclusion may capture your head, but Belonging captures your heart.”

So if you’re a leader in an organisation, why does ‘belonging’ deserve your attention? 
I think the answer is simple. Whether in work or outside of work, belonging is key to being human. Some Psychologists even rank our need to belong with our need for love. And so, in case you need it, here are four reasons to invest in belonging at your organisation:

1. Belonging leads to a better business

A Harvard Business Review study found that high levels of belonging can mean a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days. They say that “for a 10,000-person company, this would result in annual savings of more than $52M.” But organisations often fall short, as the study also found that 40% of people feel isolated at work. This means lower productivity and greater disengagement, but it also means hurting, and at times unwell, team members too. Which leads me to my second point…

2. Belonging leads to better wellbeing

Our physical and mental health is intertwined with our belonging. The Mayo Clinic links depression and anxiety as common problems for people lacking a sense of belonging. In the workplace this may mean more sick days, less engagement and less productivity. On the flipside, people who feel like they belong are almost three times as likely to have a greater sense of wellbeing. We also know that higher staff wellbeing correlates with an organisation’s profitability

3. Belonging leads to an engaged workforce 

In a study of almost 12,000 people around the world, survey company Qualtrics found that “a sense of belonging emerged as the strongest driver of employee engagement’. It came ahead of ‘trust in leadership’ and ‘ability for career growth’. And there are many reasons that employee engagement is a good thing: it reduces staff turnover, it improves relationships with beneficiaries and customers, and it increases productivity. 

4. Belonging leads to more innovation 

Whether you’re a business or an NGO, change is inevitable. This means that your ability to innovate in the face of change is central to your ability to adapt and grow. In our work with clients on Psychological Safety, we know that belonging is needed in order for people to innovate. Unless you have employees who bring their authentic selves to work, including their opinions and ideas, they are less able to innovate. But with a culture of belonging, staff are more likely to share their most creative ideas. It gives them permission to try, and maybe fail. Consultancy firm Deloitte found that organisations with a culture of belonging are six times as likely to be innovative and agile. Belonging unlocks creativity! 

So why is belonging being talked about now more than before? I think there are probably a number of factors, including climate change, racial injustice, an increasingly polarised social landscape, the isolation many felt during the pandemic, and now, perhaps also the fear that accompanies the rising costs of food, fuel and energy. All of these things shape how people show up at work. And so, fostering belonging at work can seem even more important now. 

In my next blog post, I will share some ideas as to how you can foster belonging in your workplace. Sign up to our newsletters to receive this blog post

We can help you build a culture of belonging in your organisation. If you’d like to explore this with us, email Leanne directly: leanne.marega@thrive-worldwide.org. 

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