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Need to Know: Employee Belonging Matters

How much time do you spend thinking about employee belonging? According to the Association for Talent Development, you should give it some serious thought, especially because it may affect employee retention.

Compared to employees who feel disconnected, employees who have a high sense of belonging at their organization are:

  • 97 percent more likely to be highly engaged

  • 93 percent more loyal

  • 88 percent more likely to stay at least two years

What is employee belonging?

During a recent session delivered by Kristine Ellis, director of GuideWell/Florida Blue’s employee and executive leadership development team, belonging feels like “I have support from my colleagues,” “I’m part of something bigger,” “I’m making a difference,” and “I can be a better teammate when I’m myself.”

How can you create a sense of belonging for your employees?

There are several ways that colleagues, managers, and TD leaders can help others feel belonging, which includes these facets: being seen, feeling connected, feeling supported, and feeling proud.

Being seen, according to Ellis, means being recognized and valued. Getting to know your teammates and acknowledging them are ways to enable others to feel seen. Seek to know others on a human level, understanding “what’s important to them.” That includes understanding how they prefer to be recognized. For example, would they like a big shout out or a private “nice job”?

Employees can feel connected when they participate in retreats, outings, and volunteer days in their community together. Such activities provide common, shared memories.

Employee resource groups (ERGs) create space for those connections, Ellis states.

When individuals feel supported, they believe that they have what they need at work, both professionally and to live a full personal life. Managers can offer support by “listening through obstacles,” Ellis asserts, which may entail giving employees the answers; leaders should ensure that employees have the tools they need to be successful.

Team members feel proud when they align with the organizational and team purpose, vision, and values. That could look like an environment that allows an employee to work autonomously if that is their style.

Ellis believes there are two additional ways to promote belonging. The first is inclusion, which, by her definition, means ensuring that everyone has a voice. For instance, ERGs are a good way to foster a culture of trust and connection that makes people feel safe enough to use their voice. Another way to foster inclusion is to thank people for being themselves, Ellis says.

Offering professional development opportunities gives people the chance to feel that they belong as well. For example, managers should understand their direct reports’ aspirations and work together to incorporate those aspirations into individual development plans.

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