A sense of belonging is such a powerful force that the pioneering social psychologist Abraham Maslow included it in his famous Hierarchy of Needs. In order to thrive, people need to feel a sense of belonging in their lives— and that holds true for their work lives, too. They want to feel that they fit in, are valued, and share a common purpose and connection with their colleagues. In the workplace, a sense of belonging creates community, encourages better collaboration, drives employee retention, and boosts productivity. In short, it produces great business results.
Not surprisingly, then, fostering a strong sense of belonging among its employees is one of the most valuable things a company can do. The question, of course, is how should it accomplish this?
Show employees that their work has meaning.
Before they can have a sense of belonging, employees must first have a sense of purpose. Work just for the sake of work can leave employees feeling disconnected and depressed. But when they know that what they do matters and that it makes a difference, people are more likely to feel connected and committed to their organizations and their coworkers. Managers should clarify and prioritize the link between an employee’s work and its impact on the “big picture.”
Set team goals.
When people operate as part of a team and work toward a common goal, they build each other up and support one another. Companies should set team goals that encourage individual employees to build connections in order to collaborate with each other—and flourish together.
Recognition is a powerful motivator and fosters an important emotional connection to the work, the team, and the company. Publicize group successes so that the rest of the workforce knows what has been achieved through teamwork and collaboration. Encourage management to acknowledge how these successes support the organization’s larger goals and mission.
Inclusiveness emerges when people are asked to contribute. When people believe that their opinions matter and can actually make a difference, they feel that they’re a part of something larger than themselves. Workplace leaders should include team members in meetings, solicit their input, and act on that feedback to help employees feel invested in the organization’s performance. This sense of ownership promotes a sense of belonging and encourages employees to stay with the company.
Encourage camaraderie at work.
Getting things done should be the top priority in the workplace, but there’s nothing wrong with building camaraderie and having a bit of fun now and again. Managers can encourage people to connect through at-work and outside-of-work events, such as birthday celebrations, monthly team lunches, group volunteering events, and employer-subsidized activities. Fostering a positive workplace culture can pay enormous dividends, so it’s well worth investing the time and resources to bring everyone together.
Celebrate successes together.
Commemorating successes (such as hitting sales targets, achieving long-term goals, and landing new clients) as a group can foster strong bonds within a team or department. Such celebrations give employees a chance to reflect on their teamwork and appreciate what they have achieved together.
There’s no doubt that a sense of belonging is a powerful motivator for employees in the workplace. Nurturing this feeling in the people who work for an organization isn’t hard or expensive to do. When employees feel that they truly belong to an organization, their increased commitment, productivity, and engagement can lead a company to success.
This article originally appeared in Advanced Resources HR Insights Magazine.