13 Ways Your Company Can Foster a Sense of Belonging
Pat Wadors, Senior VP of Global Talent for LinkedIn, believes that three factors – Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIBS) – are the key drivers of employee engagement. A sense of belonging, in particular – the feeling that you can bring your authentic self to work, that you are valued and are an essential part of your team – is the critical piece to the equation.
We posed this question to members of the Young Entrepreneur Council – their answers are below:
How does your company foster a sense of belonging?
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free, virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Don’t Just Hire to Fill a Position
I have learned over the years the types of skill sets and personalities that work well within our company culture: collaborative, kind, hardworking, conscientious and independent. Look for employees who encompass both the skill set you need and the personality that meshes well with the rest of your team. Don’t just hire to fill a position: Wait until you find the unicorn candidate.
2. Make Sure They’re in the Right Positions
If you have talent in the incorrect position, they will not contribute as they should, and this will be detrimental to their sense of belonging. In today’s employment arena, it is essential that managers be able to identify a team member’s strength and place them in the right position. When well positioned, a team member will contribute, and belonging will come naturally.
3. Let Them Know They Are Valued, Using the Right Language
It is important to know how to appreciate your employees so they feel valued for a job well done. Each one is different, so it is crucial to know which love language works for a specific employee. Communication is also key to letting them know they are valued for their hard work, and to get across the point that they are deeply appreciated for all their efforts and contribution to the team.
4. Invest Time in People
A sense of belonging comes from a genuine effort in investing time in your people. People should feel they are genuinely heard, measured and coached. Our company spends quality time coaching people via training and regular one-on-one sessions with leadership and mentors. Everyone spends time providing constructive feedback to peers and managers on a quarterly basis.
5. Regularly Focus on Individual Team Members
Each month, we do a regular wrap-up where each team member is the focal point of the meeting, and they share their ideas, as well as where they are in terms of work and their personal life. They can share funny stories that happened during the weeks before the meeting, ask questions and put forth feedback on making specific changes in the company. This focus on the individual makes them feel important.
6. Over-Communicate with Remote Workers
This sense of belonging can be particularly problematic for small businesses with remote workers. The best way to foster that sense is to over-communicate with them. Check in periodically, even if it’s not for business purposes, and consistently ask for feedback on ways business operations can be improved.
7. Discuss Thought-Provoking Questions
Each week on our calls, my team and I discuss one thought-provoking question that encourages team members to think critically and be vulnerable, such as “How would you spend your last day on Earth?” These questions enable us to better appreciate one another as individuals. As a result, we are closer and more likely to bring fresh, creative ideas forward.
8. Decentralize Some of the Decision-Making Process
Nothing creates a sense of belonging more than being honest with your team members and encouraging their participation, directly. Don’t make decisions so centralized: Spread some of it around to the team such as, “What do you guys think of this new product idea?” Get them involved in some decisions so they feel like they are heard and feel a sense of purpose.
9. Grant Immediate Responsibility
If you work on my team, it’s because I trust you, your abilities and who you are as a person. So the first day you step into the job, I am going to task you with a larger-than-usual amount of responsibility. The team is your safety net, but I want my staff to know from day one that I trust them and that we are there for each other.
10. Increase EQ Through Personality Tests
Personality tests have helped my people get where they belong in the greater whole. People who find and own their unique personality make-ups foster better communication, less frustration and increased trust for all. The tests have been far more effective than top-down culture initiatives. By increasing EQ and context for others’ points of view, we created the ultimate sense of belonging.
11. Share Financial Performance Information and Give Them a Stake
Share financial results with them so they understand what they are doing is paying off, or learn where changes are needed so they can enjoy the results. It’s a good idea to give them some type of stake or profit-sharing as well, when feasible. That makes them feel like owners.
12. Provide a Place to Chat or Vent
Our team has a Slack channel where they’re free to say just about anything they want, even if it’s to let us know what they’re listening to, or to vent about a problem. The need for professional separation is the biggest obstacle to a sense of belonging because it forces you to regulate your communication in real time. Professionalism is still important, but we keep it in the right context.
13. Keep an Open-Door Policy
As the boss, I keep an open-door policy. I like to know when my employees have issues, whether it’s with other employees, a process at work, or with the products or customers. I encourage my employees to discuss issues openly with me and as the issues arise. This fosters a sense of belonging because openness is welcomed and accepted without judgment.