What is a Culture of Belonging and how to create it!
By: Lindsay Johnson
Interesting fact; in the last four years, the search term “employee experience” has increased 140% on Google. What does this tell us? That we are in the middle of a major shift in mindset when it comes to employees. Attracting, retaining, and engaging top talent will be the key advantage successful companies use to win, and it all starts with creating an amazing employee experience.
So what is “Employee Experience” anyway? Simply put, the employee experience encapsulates what people encounter, observe or feel over the course of their journey at your organization. These perceptions and experiences drive how employees feel about their employer and how much effort they put into their job. The employee experience determines how effective your company is at attracting, retaining, and engaging your workforce.
In a 2018 survey performed by Culture Amp measured “employee experience” across various factors of diversity, belonging, and inclusion. They uncovered that a person’s workplace motivation and pride was directly tied to how much they felt they ‘belonged’ which in turn impacts their commitment to the company. A sense of belonging is not the same as feeling similar to everyone else. Our desire to fit in often compels us to hide who we really are. Belonging is when you feel safe and valued for embracing what makes you different.
In the workplace, opportunities to re-evaluate your culture and help your employees feel safe and valued include:
How teams are structured
How groups can be brought together to solve specific problems outside their day-to-day work
How offices are designed to create opportunities for social interactions
How and where remote teams are brought together to build social bonds.
For sake of diving deeper into FitPros' areas of expertise, let’s talk about how bringing people together can provide an environment where people feel they belong. When employees can connect outside of their day-to-day work allows them to ignite connections that are rooted by common interests or even from differences that enable a meaningful conversation. I’ll reiterate my earlier statement that to feel a sense of belonging does not mean people have to agree or even enjoy the same things. Keeping this in mind can actually make your onsite wellness planning a lot more fun. This allows you to think creatively about the activities that you have to offer employees.
We know that not every employee wants to exercise at work, not everyone needs to learn about financial well being, and they might not be in the mood to sit through an educational health talk on the day you plan it. But, at some point during their time working for your company everyone on your staff will want to learn about at least 1 of the 5 Wellness Pillars. The challenging part for you is that they may not know how to tell you what they need. Thus, surveys are important to get a pulse, but the key is to plan a wellness program that is multi-faceted pulling activities that fall into each pillar, with the underlying theme of helping employees feel that they belong because you acknowledge that every employee is unique with diverse backgrounds, lifestyle needs and unspoken stressors.
Of all the Wellness Pillars I feel that “Social” is the most crucial for employers to include in their wellness plan. When I’m talking to companies about their long-term, consistent programming I recommend at least one social engagement activity per quarter. If the budget allows then host the social activity at least once a month! A company can cultivate genuine relationships through social wellness programs that bring people together, and not in a ‘forced fun’ way because a strategic social engagement activity will resonate with their lifestyle needs.
FitPros Social Engagement Activities
Free & Easy for You To Implement Ideas
Inspirational Quote or Fact of the Day
Broker and Carrier Support
You’ll notice that we did not include the traditional “Happy Hour” as a wise option for social engagement. Although drinking activities are easy to plan, they are not conducive to creating a culture of belonging. According to statistics from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), 30% of American adults don't consume alcohol. Another 40% question if they should drink alcohol, but because they are surrounded by booze they rarely resist the temptation. The next time you’re planning a function where employees hangout and drink please take into consideration that you could be making some of your workforce feel uncomfortable instead of the goal to enhance meaningful connections.
To encourage employees to participate in your onsite wellness programs is another subject entirely, but here are a few ideas to drive engagement:
Lead by example - create a culture of wellness by aligning your wellbeing initiatives with the company values, therefore making wellness a priority.
Train Managers - to encourage their team members to take care of themselves and get involved in what the company is offering.
Learn what employees want - support their wellbeing by asking them point blank through impactful, not boring, surveys.
Design a well-rounded program - that fits the needs of your total population, then circulate the information constantly, through multiple channels.
Gradually and consistently implement - activities to get employee buy-in, doing so will also allow you to learn from and evolve the program as needed.
The greater majority of the workforce (Millennials and Gen Z) are demanding a work environment that meets their lifestyle needs. One that is not only positive and welcoming, but one that gives them purpose and aligns with their “Hierarchy of Needs”. Traditionally leadership training programs have the physiological and safety levels covered, but what lacks are the upper most three levels; belongingness, esteem and self-actualization.
When employees bring purpose to their work they develop stronger relationships, feel they make a greater impact and they are more likely to learn things about oneself. When an employee feels as though they ‘belong’ at work, they are far more likely to develop purpose in their work. Data proves that when we feel mentally and physically well we’re not only more productive in our work output, we're more likely to be receptive to the ideas that other people have to contribute.
Bottom line, by creating a sense of belonging in your workplace your employees are most likely to stay committed to your company. When they have friends at work they will feel more accountable to put in equal efforts, and they will take greater pride to produce quality work. All you have to do is be thoughtful about creating supportive culture that allows each individual employee to be who they are and feel comfortable as they let down their guard while participating in the engagement activities that your offer in your workplace.
For more insight on this topic check out this webinar with FitPros Founder Lindsay Johnson and Employment Attorney and Co-founder of Shift HR Compliance Training, Katherin Nukk-Freeman on February 12, 2020.
Want to learn more about Creating A Culture of Belonging?
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