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May 26, 2022

Belonging: 3 Questions People Leaders Should Be Asking

4 min read
By The Smarty Train

What do Pelotons in the office have to do with Belonging in the workplace, and what can we learn from them?

According to new LinkedIn research, Belonging is currently the second main driver of work culture, with average belonging in the workplace down 5% from its early-pandemic high. What are the drivers and shifts leading to this trend in the workplace?

An important driver of the increasing focus on Belonging is its inherent link to inclusivity: Research from Future Forum shows only 54% of black employees reported a good sense of belonging at work, compared to 70% of white employees, and nearly 73% of black employees also said they were seeking new opportunities compared to 51% of white employees.

As a result, one area where we are seeing companies striving to cultivate an increased sense of belonging is through office redesign. Research shows that BAME people disproportionately prefer to WFH due to the additional challenges that working in the office might provide, including code-switching or Microaggressions; these aren’t issues they face at home, a place where belonging has already been cultivated physically and emotionally for these individuals.

Examples of this focus on bringing belonging back to the office can be found at Spotify, Deutsche bank, and LinkedIn offices amongst others:

How has this been achieved? The architecture of a space can help drive culture because the spaces we live and work in shape our behaviours. Amidst the ongoing pressures of the great resignation, organisations face the additional challenge that if their people don’t feel a sense of belonging, they may look for it in another employer. 51% of employees surveyed in a recent report noted their resignation was due to a lack of belonging.

Redesigning the office is symptomatic of the larger shift towards the humanization of work. The emphasis on office redesign is demonstrating the importance for organisations to meet their people’s diverse needs by taking a human-centered approach to office design.

By imitating the spatial features of working from home, companies are attempting to cultivate the sense of belonging felt at home.

And for good reason: research shows that an increased sense of belonging in the workplace can lead to a 56% increase in productivity and performance. Maryam Mohamedali, The Smarty Train’s resident futurist, notes – ‘we are noticing a culture of reversion and shift in perspective present here: we are prioritizing the human and wellbeing.’

“We are noticing a culture of reversion and shift in perspective present here: we are prioritizing the human and wellbeing.”

So, what considerations can you make to boost Belonging in your organisation and, in turn, foster a more productive working environment?

1) Consider: How can you effectively measure belonging?

Behaviour is an important signifier of people’s sense of belonging. Consider the behaviours at your organization and what behaviours suggest an increased sense of belonging. Could it be when your people are openly and comfortably contributing? Or when they are proactive? Maybe it’s when they demonstrate passion for the work. Reflect on what works within and adds to your culture.

2) Consider: How often are you checking in with your people?

Research shows that increased check ins from line managers and colleagues improve the sense of belonging people feel.

A recent survey shows that 75% of people cite the most stressful aspect of their current job to be their manager. Equipping your people leaders with the right training and resources to practice empathetic leadership can go a long way in enabling you to check in with your people properly.

3) Consider: How are you highlighting your commitment to belonging during the attraction process?

A recent Microsoft study of more than 11,000 people found that for 62% of respondents, belonging in the workplace was more important than a salary. If used correctly, capitalizing on your commitment to belonging can be a powerful differentiator for potential candidates in an increasingly saturated graduate job market, particularly amongst the current Gen Z graduate cohort.

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