Looking to brush up on all the latest HR acronyms, buzzwords, and common terms? This glossary is for you, sort of like the ABCs of HR. It's everything you need to know in the realm of employee experience and human connection, defined in easy-to-understand language.
We'll continue to add more terms and phrases to this glossary so it's as comprehensive as possible for your learning!
We spend a huge amount of our lives at work. But our innate craving for human connection doesn’t stop just because we’ve logged on at our job. We still seek bonds with our colleagues. That’s why fostering employee belonging should be a priority for your people strategy.
Find out more about what employee belonging is, why it’s important, and how to help your people feel valued for being who they are.
Employee Belonging 101
Employee belonging is a sense of being accepted and valued not just for your contributions, but also because of who you are. Feeling as though you belong manifests itself when you align with the larger group’s values and feel synergy between who you are and what the culture puts first.
How Inclusion and Belonging Intersect
Belonging is often lumped in with your diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. While diversity and inclusion are relatively well-known concepts among business leaders, belonging has received less attention despite being just as important.
Belonging is closely related to inclusion, which refers to the efforts made to bring about a sense of belonging. Inclusion is about making sure that everyone has access to the same resources and opportunities. An inclusive organizational culture presents no barriers to participation.
Belonging is the result of successful inclusion efforts. A culture of belonging provides a sense of community and connection to every employee. Belonging in action is about ensuring your people feel like they are part of something larger than themselves.
What Employee Belonging Looks Like
Knowing what belonging looks like can help you identify and measure it within your workforce.
You can see belonging in employee interactions. In meetings, for example, people who feel a sense of belonging will be more likely to display enthusiasm and interact with colleagues than employees who don’t feel accepted.
Some of the trends you already measure, like engagement and retention, can signal belonging, too. When employees feel a strong sense of belonging, for instance, they’re more engaged in their work and more committed to their organization. They’re also more likely to stay with the company longer.
Engagement in HR-led programs (such as onboarding, performance management, or mentorship) can also demonstrate belonging. The more people participate in those activities, the more likely they are to feel comfortable engaging with their colleagues, managers, and the culture at large.
How to Measure Employee Belonging
To track belonging, you should regularly ask employees for feedback through one-on-one meetings, focus groups, and scheduled surveys. Ask employees about their workplace experiences and what could be done to improve them. By regularly soliciting this feedback, you gain a better sense of whether you’ve successfully fostered belonging in the workplace.
Surveys are a popular option because they provide quantitative data you can analyze and share with leadership. Design objective surveys that assess how employees feel about their relationships with co-workers, sense of community within the workplace, and level of satisfaction with the work environment.
Observing employee behavior is another way to measure employee belonging. Look for signs of engagement, such as employees participating in company activities or volunteering for committees. Look for signs of disengagement, too, like an uptick in sick days, frequently starting late, or taking extended lunches. While those activities have many causes, they can prompt you to look deeper into your workers’ engagement levels.
Managers play an important role in watching out for behavior that could indicate a poor sense of belonging. Develop conversation prompts to help them assess their reports for belonging. Send regular push surveys to managers to collect and aggregate pertinent data.
Why Do Inclusion and Belonging in the Workplace Matter?
A welcoming workplace that offers community and connection influences your workforce for the better. Check out three huge benefits of fostering employee belonging in your organization.
Belonging Encourages Employee Engagement
Belonging instills employees with the confidence that what they say and do matters to the company, creates impact, and influences the bottom line. Belonging fuels a sense of purpose that helps employees work smarter and more productively.
Employees can perform better when they feel secure in the knowledge that their contributions are valuable to the business. They’ll be more engaged in performance conversations, for example, and trust that the advice managers offer comes from a place of genuine support. In turn, those conversations give managers an opportunity to provide frequent recognition, which supports greater engagement and belonging.
Feeling Like They Belong Improves Employee Experience
A sense of belonging has a marked impact on the employee experience. When people feel valued, they’re more likely to want to interact with and support the people who value them most. That benefits engagement and performance. Ultimately, you’ll find that a workforce with a strong sense of belonging is easier to retain because happy employees will stay with the organization longer.
Take onboarding, for example. It’s a critical time in the employee life cycle. When you incorporate connection and belonging into the onboarding experience, you set workers up for better engagement and a longer tenure than someone who feels, from day one, as though they aren’t connected to the company or their coworkers.
Belonging Supports a Team-Based Workplace Culture
There’s power in numbers, and belonging goes a long way toward creating goodwill and drawing people together. Belonging creates a mindset that puts the greater good first by harnessing the potential of teams and the greater workforce rather than just individuals.
Every person benefits from collective knowledge, and a culture of belonging teaches respect for the opinions and contributions others make. That can manifest in important ways through your HR-led programs. Mentorship, for example, demonstrates acceptance of newer employees by those who have progressed farther in their career paths. That sharing of knowledge — and the trust and faith that go along with it — is an expression of belonging that benefits the entire organization.
How to Create a Sense of Belonging at Work
Employee belonging is an outcome of successful inclusion efforts. Implement these best practices to enhance belonging in your workplace culture.
Create an Environment of Psychological Safety
Psychological safety is about creating a workplace where employees feel comfortable taking risks and speaking up without fear of reprisal. It’s about fostering an environment of trust and mutual respect between employees and management.
There are several ways to create an environment of psychological safety in the workplace. These include:
Encouraging open communication between employees and management.
Creating opportunities for employees to give feedback.
Encouraging employees to take risks and experiment.
Recognizing and rewarding employee success.
Taking these actions supports an environment where employees are empowered to fully engage in the workplace and bring their whole selves to work.
Train Managers to Be Ambassadors of Belonging
Managers influence the culturally accepted norms and behaviors that contribute to belonging. As ambassadors of belonging, they set the example. But many managers might not know how to do that on their own. They’ll need your support to understand how to encourage belonging in practice.
One way to help managers develop this understanding is by developing a content campaign with examples of what belonging looks like in practice. Use situations managers encounter in their day-to-day work to illustrate opportunities to practice belonging. Use a workflow to deliver these insights through a drip campaign to keep the topic top of mind without overwhelming managers.
Foster a Sense of Connection and Community
Belonging increases when people feel included within the group. Encourage that belonging by connecting people with each other. This can be as simple as helping team members get to know each other on a personal level. Within the workplace, for example, you can create specific channels for people to bond over shared interests.
Provide opportunities for people to socialize at work and outside it. When you host all-hands meetings or retreats, for instance, build in time for conversations that aren’t work-related.
Your employee experience software plays a big role in fostering connections. Building workflows that include regular communication between team members helps people interact more often and more effectively. Nudges for managers, meanwhile, remind them to check in and maintain connections with their reports.
Track How People Feel About Company Culture
To get a pulse on how your employees are feeling, you should regularly monitor their impressions of the company culture. You can do this through surveys or focus groups. Those tactics are more helpful when you create an environment where employees feel comfortable giving positive and negative feedback.
When you solicit regular employee feedback, you can identify areas where people feel disconnected from their colleagues, believe they’re disrespected, or are uncomfortable speaking up and contributing. The data you derive from employee impressions of your culture can provide a blueprint for action.
Manifest Belonging to Power Your People
Employee belonging plays a big role in powering your people strategy. When your people feel valued and accepted, they’re more likely to commit to the work, their co-workers, and the organization.