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How Employers Can Foster Belonging in the Workplace

Group of diverse colleagues with a great work friendship

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, it’s only human nature to want to feel a sense of belonging. My introverted colleagues, who have always worked remotely, are at the highest risk of feeling a lack of belonging in an organization due to little social interaction and contact with the home office. Conversely, my more extroverted coworkers at headquarters, may feel a stronger sense of belonging because they have the opportunity to be more socially active, oftentimes with a good story or idea that gathers in newcomers as well as old friends.

Having a sense of belonging is a basic human need like food, water and shelter. It’s also an intrinsic motivator that pushes us to be involved and present in our environment. Our individual personalities dictate the degree to which we seek a sense of belonging and connectedness with others.

Despite our hyper-connected world and social media, there are far-reaching implications on the mental and physical health of people who are lacking in personal, social contact and sense of belonging. Loneliness is an epidemic and as a result, organizations are looking for ways to intentionally increase connectedness among their workforces. Happier employees who feel that they have friends/confidants at work will in turn be more productive, more engaged and more resilient, thereby reducing workforce instability and costs.

Many, if not most of us, spend more time at work than any other activity. This makes the workplace a hub for social contact and belonging. In some cases, it’s the only place some people go to commune with others and make new friends.

“The more a company can offer its employees opportunities for meaning and connection, the harder those employees are likely to work and the more enduring their loyalty is likely to be,” says renowned behavioral psychologist, Dan Ariely.

 

Related: How can you inspire your people to believe in your brand, or better yet, take it a step further and genuinely advocate that your brand is exceptional? Find out the secret to successfully inspiring employee advocacy.

 

An engaged employee talking with his work friend online

So what’s the magic behind making people feel empowered and included in an organization?

Create a culture of belonging. Emotional connections strengthen a sense of belonging. Helping people feel included in an organization doesn’t come easy. In order to create a sense of belonging among your employees, it's important to first understand it: Memorable experiences. Personalized interactions. Relevant and timely information. Tailored motivators. And immediate feedback.

Focus on purpose. Bringing people together starts with giving them a common purpose. As Simon Sinek is famous for saying, “Start with why.” The 'why' is the purpose for what we do, think or act. Survey your team. What are their values? How do they align with your company’s values? Clearly and frequently communicate your culture’s values. Live the values. Ensure the work has purpose, meaning and recognition.

Inspire your team. Motivating people isn’t about fluff and flowery language. It’s understanding what truly motivates them. Be authentic. Relate and collaborate with your team. Make the workplace fun. Use a blend of engagement tactics to move performance forward. Lead the way.


According to Dan Ariely, if you want to motivate people effectively, provide a sense of connection and meaning in their work. As someone who looks to motivate others, consider a broad approach by understanding the hidden forces of motivation and the importance of creating an environment where people feel they belong.

Jane Sarles Larson's picture

Jane Sarles Larson

As the Research Manager for ITA Group’s Marketing Strategy, Jane is on the forefront of market research and thought leadership. Her interest in neuroscience and how it applies to human behavior and engagement has led to the development of ITA Group’s approach to motivation called Motivology. Her 30+ years of international advertising, sales and marketing experience is second only to her knowledge of dark chocolate.

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