Why Belonging is Essential for Employee Performance

5 min read

For many people across your organization, their job isn’t simply a means of paying the bills. When employees are satisfied in their professional lives, they start to form bonds with their colleagues, creating a profound sense of belonging—the need for which is deeply embedded in the human psyche.

And this trend is becoming increasingly prevalent thanks to growing numbers of millennials in the workforce, who are seeking a job that brings emotional and financial rewards.

Worryingly, a study from EY found that 40% of US employees report feeling physically and emotionally isolated in the workplace. Equally—or perhaps more—concerning, figures cited by LinkedIn reveal that minorities spend up to 25%-30% of their time worrying about how they fit in.

Let’s examine this growing phenomenon and suggest ways to create a sense of belonging among your workforce.

Belonging and the bottom line

While the emotional wellbeing of your workforce is reason enough to foster a climate of acceptance, doing so can also help boost profits and productivity, with research from Harvard Business Review finding that employees who experience a sense of belonging display a 56% increase in job performance. 

Likewise, it also identified a 50% drop in turnover risk and a 75% reduction in sick days. Say your company has a headcount of 10,000; these factors could result in savings of up to $52 million.

Left-out workers negatively impact the entire organization

Even more tellingly, those who feel left out of group situations may go so far as to sabotage the team’s collective efforts. By conducting experiments among 2,000 employees through a ball toss game scenario, the researchers programmed bots to act as virtual teammates and consistently throw the ball to included workers while leaving out certain individuals. 

Participants completed a task where they were told they could earn money, either for themselves or the group. When left-out players were told the money would be shared with the team, they worked less hard than the included players. If, however, the excluded players were told the earnings were just for themselves, they worked just as hard as the “excluded” players. Luckily, you can take steps to help prevent feelings of isolation from taking hold across your business.

Three ways to promote a sense of belonging

1. Celebrate uniqueness

Many of us falsely believe that we can’t truly belong to a team if we openly display our eccentricities. Encourage your employees to bring their unique selves to work by praising the distinct contributions made by individual team members. This strategy is likely to be particularly effective with a Millennial workforce, with 59% of these millennials rating recognition as the single most significant contributor to a sense of belonging.

2. Inform workers of the bigger picture

As a leader, it is easy to become immersed in spearheading innovation. Although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you must keep all your team members apprised of any key developments within your business. From a psychological standpoint, it’s widely accepted that human beings work harder when striving for common goals.

3. Don’t forget about remote workers

The benefits of hybrid working environments are well established but those working from home can begin to feel separate from the core company culture. Try creating online platforms where employees can socialize and discuss non-work-related issues or host virtual get-togethers and celebrations. Create practices that involve remote workers such as providing a stipend to order food when attending meetings that are normally catered for the in-office staff or holding all meetings virtual to level the playing field.

While isolation in the workplace is, of course, a concern for all businesses, it can also be a call to action that brings around positive change and leads to increased productivity. CareerPoint coaching can help employees engage in healthy discussions about positive workplace relationships, show employees strategies to improve communication, and teach the value of increasing workplace morale.

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