Most workplaces are – thankfully – a cultural cauldron in which unique customs and traditions mix in harmony, instilling in staff a sense of belonging. Those that fail to provide an environment that perpetuates a sense of belonging will be rendered futile.
Figures show that a high sense of belonging is linked success: 56% increase in job performance, 75% reduction in sick days and a 50% drop in turnover risk. So why is it that more than 40% of people feel emotionally and physically isolated at work? This can be explained by an absence of shared characteristics and feeling different from colleagues, which can arise through differences in ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or simply social or professional background.
It’s important to create cultures that enable peak performance, just as is creating cultures of belonging – one where people matter. Where marginalised, underrepresented or excluded people are no longer dependent on an offer of brief inclusion, but where they feel that they have a purpose, where they can contribute and affect change.
Companies stand to lose if people leave their authentic selves at the turnstile, morphing into the cookie-cutter employer they think they need to be before every Zoom call. Cate Murden, the founder of PUSH, a business consultancy grounded in human behaviour, offers these incredibly simple techniques below that will help reveal one’s true self, thereby fostering a sense of belonging within every single one of your employees and transform their engagement.
Share stories – Practically this means creating spaces and time for people to share their experiences, realities and stories. Anecdotes – especially from high-level people – about the struggle to fit in, or in bringing their authentic selves to work, can be a powerful tool that fosters and nurtures a sense of belonging within an entire workforce.
Show Support – Show support for others’ ideas and work. Practically, this entails going out of your way to ensure that every voice is heard and, more to the point, feels safe to be heard. This will also mean that every idea needs acknowledgement and respect to demonstrate their validity and importance.
Speak up against injustice – Finally, we must all encourage our people to speak up when they see injustice against themselves or others. This starts with clarity of what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to behaviours and for leadership to exemplify this at all times.
Creating a culture where every single one of your team members matters is absolutely crucial for developing individual, team and organisational performance, and this is because of the tangible impact that feeling like we matter has on every single one of staff members: they feel their contributions recognised, respected and a sense a that when they all matter, and can make a real difference in the world.
It’s vital to demonstrate how much each of your team members matters, particularly at a time when they may be lacking face-to-face contact. So here’s how to enhance communications skills with your remote team:
- Tell people that you ‘see’ them – Start sentences with “I hear you”; “I understand you”; “I appreciate you”.
- Listen with curiosity – This means more than quietly nodding your head whilst waiting for your turn to speak again. It means opening your ears, listening with curiosity and making the other person the sole focus of your attention.
- Acknowledge everyone – When you acknowledge someone, you recognize their value and importance. This is as simple as starting your next meeting saying good morning to everyone on the zoom. Or ask them what emotion they’re bringing onto the call. Small ways that you can acknowledge people even when you’re not together.
- The ultimate present you can give another is your PRESENCE – You don’t have to be available for everyone all the time, but when you have someone’s time and attention; honour it with your presence. Really make that person the center of your attention and experience.
For these actions to work, everyone has to commit to the journey, because this isn’t happening overnight. The first step is recognising that change must happen, and we all have the responsibility to show up every single day to make that change a reality, no matter how hard or messy it gets along the way.
That’s how we’ll create cultures where we all feel like we truly belong, and that’s how we’ll enable our organisations to achieve peak performance.