Workplace belonging affords a certain sense of safety to employees. When you feel truly safe, you’re able to relax. There is less pressure to perform or avoid mistakes. Belonging is a catalyst that ignites creative inspiration and eager collaboration. Ideas flow like a raging river.
But there are less poetic and more practical benefits, too. Inclusive workplaces have higher retention rates, which saves on hiring costs. With less stress, employees get sick less often, reducing insurance costs and productive time lost to sick leave. When everyone is able to perform at their best without fear, more gets done faster.
How does a company foster this sense of belonging, though? There aren’t many blueprints for workplace D&I and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every company. How do you figure out what’s best for your organization’s needs?
Here are our 5 tips to improve employee retention by building a culture of belonging.
Get the Facts
Like the old saying goes, the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. Before you know what elements of your culture need improvement, you have to fully understand what you’re dealing with. Anonymous employee surveys and word-of-mouth are great ways to establish cultural baselines.
But understanding the scope of the issue is only half the battle. You also have to know what resources you have available to work toward solving those problems. You may find yourself in a position where you have to prove the validity of investing in D&I. Getting as much information as possible right at the start will help you build your case.
Set SMART Goals
You’re aware of what needs fixing, how do you go about fixing? Vessy Tasheva believes in the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) model when it comes to measuring D&I changes. Giving yourself concrete goals and quantitative ways of tracking your progress will make it easier to follow through.
It’ll also give you something to aim for. “Increase the percentage of female employees by 20% in six months” is a much easier goal to achieve than “hire more women.”
Author and speaker Brené Brown says, “What we know matters, but who we are matters more.” The smartest, hardest-working employee in the world is not going to maximize their potential if they can’t get along with their colleagues.
Create time and space for employees to get to know each other better. Team-building exercises are good (if sometimes cliché) but shouldn’t be the only tool in your tool belt. Co-working spaces, fun events like trivia game nights, and other initiatives are just a few other ways to build a community at work.
Community-building is especially important for hybrid or fully remote work. Organic, impromptu conversations are often the most potent in strengthening relationships but are essentially nonexistent in the virtual world.
Employees that are isolated at work rarely do their best work. They’re also less likely to stick around. And who could blame them? Nobody wants to be in an environment where they constantly feel ostracized, out of the loop, and alone. Increasing diversity is important but so is ensuring you’re including people who already work for you.
Keep a sharp eye out for employees who appear to be slipping through the cracks. Who doesn’t seem to be engaging with coworkers much? Who’s always silent during meetings? There may be a reason they’re not speaking up. They may have needs they’re afraid to bring up or simply aren’t sure where to turn. Seek out these people and find out what you can do to make them feel more included.
Walk The Walk
A culture of belonging is more than team-building exercises and hiring diverse people. Employees need to believe their organization truly wants what’s best for them. Paying a living wage, offering benefits like mental health resources and flexible work scheduling, and making sure everyone has the tools they need to thrive show that belonging is not just talk. Plus, these resources benefit everyone.
There are also more targeted initiatives, such as celebrating underrepresented groups with company-wide events, which is a great way to foster a culture of belonging. So is ensuring that employees from marginalized groups aren’t overlooked for promotions or other exciting opportunities.
Workplace diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging is a hot topic in the corporate world right now. Skeptics may find the concept unimportant but the numbers don’t lie. Companies with cultures of belonging perform better, save more on costs, and make more money. They also help make the world a better, more inclusive place.
What is your company doing to foster a culture of belonging?