According to a new study, a strong sense of belonging is key to a productive, engaged workforce.
Everyone needs to feel that they belong somewhere; and a new study shows that employees who feel that they belong at work are happier and more likely to stay. In fact, employees who have a strong sense of belonging demonstrated a 56% increase in performance, a 50% decrease in turnover risk, and 75% fewer sick days. Read on to see how important belonging is to employees and how you can ensure your workers feel like part of your team.
The impact of belonging on productivity can’t be underestimated. For instance, if all workers at a 10,000-person company had strong feelings of belonging, the study authors suggest, this can translate into millions of dollars in boosted productivity.
Not only are employees who feel they belong more likely to be happier and more productive, but they also are great recruiting tools. Compared to workers with a low sense of belonging, they are 167% more likely to recommend their company to others as a great place to work.
Just as inclusion has a positive impact, exclusion can cause great damage. For example, the study authors say that even one instance where an employee feels excluded can immediately cause a 25% decline in that person’s performance.
The study identified certain elements that can help determine whether or not workers feel like they belong:
- More highly educated people are less likely to have a strong sense of belonging.
- There is a connection between a sense of belonging and having a “tribe.” For instance, liberals and conservatives tend to feel connected more than centrists or extremists.
- Managers (team leaders) generally have a stronger sense of belonging than individuals working alone.
- For-profit workers feel more connected than their counterparts in non-profit and government sectors.
There is much that organizational leaders can do to promote a sense of belonging. For starters, the study authors say, fairness (rather than special treatment) makes a difference. They also recommend several steps to create and sustain a culture of belonging:
- Lead the change. Acknowledge the importance of belonging and how hard this can be sometimes. Work with managers to create alliances and functioning teams. Look for people who seem disconnected and help them. This may mean moving them to another team where they are a better fit.
- Pay it forward. Help employees envision how they can help other people in a similar situation in the future. This can help make them feel valued.
- Gain perspective. Offer insights into how others have coped with similar situations and implement best practices.
- Be an ally. Having just one ally can make a person feel like he or she belongs. This can improve performance and prevent the negative impact of exclusion.
- Promote allies. Work to create viable teams and bring people together with common goals and passions.
The authors conclude, “Remind yourself of the importance of inclusive behaviors at all times. We can never fully know another’s sense of belonging within our team. Including others and treating them with fairness is always a good idea.”