As companies grow, their focus inevitably shifts more and more to business outcomes and the measurement tools needed to grow.
In that rush of success, they sometimes stop seeing the unique individuals that drive growth.
This can make it hard for employees to find their place, which could lead to people losing their trust and sense of security in their workplace.
The key to combating this lies in belongingness: the human emotional need to be accepted as a group member.
As individuals, we have an intrinsic desire to belong and be a part of something greater than ourselves. This is an incredibly powerful desire and can influence how individuals feel and their output into both their personal and professional lives.
With the way we work drastically shifting over the past year and half, so has the role of belongingness. It’s been an extremely lonely time, with many people working from home, and isolated from colleagues. Remote, flexible, and asynchronous working is now the norm and is implemented by many organizations. The issue is that these different types of work don’t always naturally foster belongingness as employees can have a harder time identifying themselves within a workplace, disrupting a personal view and potentially a loss of insight into the inner workings of an organization.
According to Gallup Global Emotions report, there is a record high number of people that are more sad, angry and worried than they have been in the past 12 months, with four in 10 adults saying they have experienced worry (40%) or stress (40%).
These numbers, combined with a shift in working environments, suggest that belongingness is needed now more than ever.
The difference between belongingness and fitting in
Belongingness truly goes beyond general wellbeing and engagement. It ensures that all unique voices across organizations can contribute to overall growth by enabling individuals to feel comfortable speaking up and supported by colleagues when they do so.
This concept of belonging should not be confused with fitting in.
Fitting in is accessing a group of people and changing yourself to feel accepted, for example changing the way you speak or what you wear. True belonging will never ask an individual to change but instead, accept who they are as an individual.
Belongingness is the ultimate key to scaling businesses since it allows for every individual to be their most authentic selves and do their best work.
Empowering belongingness in the workplace
To truly create a culture of belonging, organizations need to dedicate time and resources to the concept.
Roles such as ‘Chief Belongingness Officer’ (CBO) create a strong foundation for a team, acting as a driving voice for creating activities and programs centered around belongingness.
This is especially important during the new hire onboarding process – that way new starters have programs allowing them to feel part of something from day one and know how to replicate this attitude towards their colleagues.
At Templafy, during onboarding each new hire will join a session with me, the CBO, to introduce the concept of belongingness and how it fits into the company.
Putting in this extra effort ensures new employees feel welcome, important and valued from their first day – ultimately fostering the feeling of belonging.
Templafy also has no global HQ, which allows for all offices to feel equally important and valued.
How to create belonging through technology
Another powerful tool to help create a culture of belongingness is technology.
It can be an integral part of breaking down barriers, time zones and walls creating open communication and collaboration across global offices.
An example of this is Zoom. It’s become essential to allowing employees to form relationships when not in person, with the option to appear on camera coming down to personal choice.
At Templafy, we use Zoom to hold company-wide all-hands meetings. This allows company updates to be communicated in a transparent environment, while also providing a platform for individuals to speak to the entire at once.
Programs that can be held via Zoom include HeartBeat sessions. This is when a small group of co-workers talk about how they are feeling and what they are currently working on. Questions can be asked including what they felt was their most important contribution that week, whether they spoke up and if they felt heard.
Having these smaller group based conversations ensures that voices are heard and respected. It also fosters friendship and camaraderie, allowing employees to feel as if they belong to each other and the organization.
Another tech tool that helps to encourage communication and collaboration in a working environment is Slack.
It provides a forum for employees to chat quickly and collaborate on different topics no matter where in the world they’re located.
There are even slack add-ons such as Donut, which randomly matches employees from different offices and encourages them to participate in quick coffee chats – helping to build relationships across continents.
Overall, any tech tools that encourage better communication are essential to fostering belongingness as they ensure employees are feeling valued, heard and understood.
Fostering belongingness through the tech stack
To continue supporting employees and providing them with the resources needed to do their best work, businesses should also create a connected tech stack.
When tech stacks are integrated, collaborative workflows are much easier to achieve throughout an entire organization – resulting in a better employee experience.
To reach this level of connectivity, business leaders must look for a content enablement platform that connects all the different tools within their tech stack to create a seamless workflow.
A recent Templafy report found employees are specifically looking for tech stacks that are integrated, intuitive and company-wide – all of which adds to better communication across an organization, adding to a culture of belongingness.
Ultimately, to expect the best out of your employees they need to feel supported, and this can be accomplished through belongingness and technology.
With the new hybrid working environment, employees need to have technology at hand which seamlessly connects them with the right tools, content and processes allowing them to succeed within their roles.
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Chief Belongingness Officer at Templafy
Anne-Marie Finch is known for going beyond policies and ideals; she actively influences culture to ensure people’s happiness in the workplace, and she does this right down to the linguistic level.