How to build belonging at work (and why it matters)

Belonging at work

According to the Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2020 report, belonging at work and well-being are the two most important human capital issues right now.

Efforts to create a sense of belonging have traditionally focussed on respect and inclusion in many organisations. The theme here has been that if we can support people to feel comfortable and accepted for who and what they are and bring their whole selves to work, then connection and engagement will follow. A third step is now being highlighted by Deolitte, and that is linked to contribution.

For a feeling of contribution to be achieved, people need to first feel comfortable and connected and then also have clear line of sight to how their ‘individual talents and efforts make a meaningful difference in advancing team and organisational outcomes’. The Deloitte survey then comments on the link between contribution and belonging: ‘sixty-three percent of our survey respondents, when asked how creating a sense of belonging at work supports organisational performance, answered that it does so by enhancing alignment between individual and organizational objectives’.

This link between effective goal setting and motivation is something that McKinsey also wrote about as far back as 2017. Their angle back then was slightly different, with the focus being on how to go about setting goals and so is a useful counterpart to the data from Deloitte on the cultural, emotional and productivity gains that can be achieved when we get it right.

The three main points called out by McKinsey were involving the individuals concerned throughout the process, linking the goals to business objectives and adapting the goals as a dynamic and evolving way of helping people match their contribution to the forward direction of the organisation.

This view of goals and contribution is a useful one. Especially when we consider what it means in light of how the contribution and goal orientation of people working in any organisation changes over time as they move along their employment journey (particularly their first 12 months).

Question for you (and be honest). How often do you hire someone into your team or organisation without a clearly defined set of goals for their role? Now put yourself in the shoes of a new hire and think about what it would be like to arrive to solid 30 day objectives and then at the end of that period collaborate with your organisation on setting your 3, 6 and 9 month goals.

If you aren’t doing this, you’re likely missing a trick when it comes to supporting new people in your organisation to develop a sense of belonging. A warm welcome and feeling of acceptance will help them feel comfortable. Once they’ve settled in and understand this is for real, they will start to feel connected. But having a dynamic goal setting approach that adapts to the stage of the individual is probably quite important to help them understand how their contribution supports the organisation to succeed.