Feeling connected to others is fundamental to our survival as humans. We are not alone. Many species organize in herds, packs, colonies, families, pairs, or some equally critical support system. Simply put, to be, we need to belong. But belong to what? And how important is belonging at work? Do employee connections lead to an engaged workforce?
Nearly every aspect of our lives is organized around belonging. We grew up in a family, lived in a town, and joined a class, a sports team, or a club. The list is long. We belong to spiritual groups, political parties, and yes, ideally, we are proud employees who feel connected to the organization in which we work. Our social and emotional well-being is closely tied to the health of the groups we are part of and the quality of those relationships. The social ties that accompany a sense of belonging help us manage stress, think more clearly, and live longer.
Great workplaces typically report higher productivity, lower turnover, impressive innovation, and market-leading profits. They don’t have employees who just work for a paycheck.
Leaders in great workplaces create communities where employees feel at home. Engaged workers report they have found like-minded colleagues who support, challenge, and bring out the best in them.
As reported in Harvard Business Review, high belonging is linked to a massive 56% increase in job performance.
This pandemic has made it difficult to retain our most treasured human connections. While many of us are navigating the workplace with video calls and carefully choreographed in-person interactions, physical distance has put a strain on cultivating relationships. The ways we previously created belonging have unexpectedly vanished. The face-to-face interactions that used to bring us a sense of calm and centeredness now trigger concern about our health.
As employees adjust to our new normal, productivity for completing tasks while working from home is bound to rise. However, it comes at a longer-term cost. Feeling fully informed, aligned with your leader, and backed by your peers—while maintaining that sense of being part of something greater than yourself—is slowly slipping away as we continue to work in our separate houses or stay six feet away from each other when we return to the office.
With so many changes in the workplace, leaders are challenged to:
- create new pathways to bring belonging to their employees
- enhance their skills to connect with others over a screen or through a mask
- find time to build programs that bring connection, meaning, and community to workers asked to continue grapple with working from home
And it won’t be easy. In a recent article published in CEOWorld Magazine, “Are Leaders and Managers Essential Workers?,” I describe the challenges leaders have overcome during the coronavirus pandemic and the toll it has taken on them.
Organizations have now solved many of the fundamental infrastructure issues. And employees have settled into a new way of working. Now, it is time to support the leaders who are in the critical positions to make or break our revamped organizational cultures.
Leaders – as you make plans for the rest of this year and next, don’t forget to take into account the importance of social connections within your workgroups. Consider how you can support the most fundamental of human belonging needs.
Many deep bonds are formed when individuals band together during a challenging situation. This is a perfect time to galvanize your team and create long-lasting connections that will engage your workforce for years to come.
Three tips to bring belonging to your team:
- Communicate Openly and Often – If there was ever a time to overshare, it is now. The more you can tell your team, the more connected they will feel. Use screen share meetings as a standard practice. Written communications are helpful for sharing knowledge, but creating connectivity within your team requires more. Schedule regular meetings and make them a priority.
- Allow Everyone to Fully Contribute – When you assemble as a group, proportion time for others to talk, ask questions, and share their views. Listen. Acknowledge the important role everyone plays in the larger mission of the organization.
- Cultivate Vulnerability – Share your fears, successes, and views of the future. Allow your team to do the same in a caring and non-judgmental way. Let them see that you care about them as people, dealing with issues beyond work, like childcare and personal safety.
I have always believed that good things come from bad situations. Use this time, through your actions as an empathetic leader, to create strong bonds with your team. Ensure they know you are all in this together, and that they belong. This attention and effort will create lasting employee connections, leading to a more engaged workforce.
This writable PDF worksheet will get you started.
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This writable PDF worksheet will get you started.