New report spells out the importance of belonging at work

03 October 2021 4 min. read
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Employees with a strong sense of belonging are happier and more hardworking in all sorts of times, according to a new report by Achievers. Matt Seadon, APAC General Manager at the firm, reflects on the report’s key findings.

Impressed by how successfully your team has risen to the challenge during the uncertain, Covid-19-riven months of 2020 and 2021? Or perhaps you’ve seen them struggle to take events in their stride and watched productivity plummet, as the pandemic has played out? 

It’s something of an understatement to say that both employers and employees have had to contend with ‘interesting times’ of late. Protracted lockdowns, remote working, travel restrictions and supply chain disruption have made business as usual an impossibility for thousands of Australian enterprises, of all stripes and sizes. 

I feel a strong sense of belonging at my organization

Employees, from the C-suite to the coal face, have been asked to dig deep; to do whatever it takes to maintain business continuity and keep providing service and support to customers. 

Belonging matters

Fatigue and emotional exhaustion have been familiar states for many workers but those who are deeply invested in their employers’ success have typically managed them more successfully than individuals who are not.

That’s not surprising, given what researchers have learnt, of late, about belonging and how much of a difference it makes, in terms of employees’ productivity and wellbeing. 

The Deloitte 2020 Global Human Capital Trends survey showed that a whopping 79 per cent of organisations globally considered it played an important role in their success. The 2021 Culture of Belonging Report by Achievers reveals why: employees with a strong sense of belonging are twice as likely to be engaged, productive, committed and resilient as those who don’t feel integral to the organisation that pays their salary.

Outcome of belonging

Australia’s report card

It’s an area where many Australian organisations could and should do better. The report found that just 23 per cent of workers feel a strong sense of belonging at their organisation. The same number stated that every employee had the same opportunities to succeed and advance, while just 15 per cent believed their unique background and identity were valued at work.

Less than a fifth of Australian workers say they’re regularly recognised by their managers, and just 11 per cent work for companies that provide avenues for them to develop and maintain friendships at work. 

As a country, we’re on par with global trends, except when it comes to administering personality and values tests: just 10 per cent of Australian respondents had completed one, compared with 14 per cent of respondents globally. 

Understanding what it means to belong

So, what’s the secret to helping employees feel like they’re inside the tent, not out in the cold?

According to a framework by the Achievers Workforce Institute, there are five pillars of belonging:

  • New hires need to be welcomed aboard – introduced, inducted and incorporated into the organisational team and the culture;
  • They need to be known, as individuals with unique qualities to be celebrated, not anonymous cogs in the wheel;
  • They need to be included; valued and accepted into the fold, without reservation;
  • During their time with the organisation, they need to be consistently supported, to develop their skills and progress their careers;
  • And lastly, they need to feel connected, to colleagues and fellow employees across the enterprise.

Belonging and the employee experience

How a recognition program can help

Not sure how your organisation can start to do things differently or better? Employees who are recognised and rewarded for their efforts regularly are twice as likely to feel a strong sense of belonging as those for whom pats on the back and public shout-outs are rare occurrences. 

A formal recognition and reward program can provide a framework for leaders across the enterprise to engage with and acknowledge employees whose efforts contribute to the success of the organisation, in a positive, meaningful and authentic way. Without one, it’s all too easy for good intentions to slip by the wayside, for strong contributors to be taken for granted and for new hires to feel lost in the crowd. 

Stronger together

Your team is likely to be your biggest asset; daylight second. An engaged and enthusiastic workforce of people who feel they’re part of the organisation’s story and have a personal stake in seeing it succeed can’t be bought – but it can be built. Taking steps to foster a collective sense of belonging is a great place to start.