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Belonging at Work

Where do you belong?

Do your employees think they belong with your company?


Maybe I’m just reminiscing about the “good old days,” but I like the stories about when men and women took a job out of college or off the farm and kept that job until they retired.

When I happen to read the obituaries, it’s the employment history that always catches my attention. Many of the obits contain one short paragraph about employment. They just had one, maybe at most two jobs. It seems they all had a job where they felt they belonged.

The era of employment for life, however, is long over. Workers now migrate from job to job over their life-time in search of greater fulfillment and compensation. And that is okay. Interestingly, the average person has 12 jobs over their working career.

Those statistics are comparable with the level of turn over I experience at my company. There are many reasons employees move on to new jobs. More money, a different atmosphere, an adjustment in work/life balance, all play an important role in moving from one job to another.

But regardless of the reason to change jobs, the human need to belong has not gone away. We are all hardwired for connection and belonging.

Belonging at Work

So, if you, as an employer, want to beat the statistics and have your employees stick around longer, one strategy is to create a place in your business where you foster the sense of belonging.

Employees who stay longer in your organization will reduce your training costs and improve your productivity. Employees who feel as if they belong with your company are higher performers. They will collaborate better, problem solve better, and are generally more insightful into your business practices.

From experience and numerous studies, we know that the employees who have a sense of belonging are nearly always your better employees.

How to Belong

Unfortunately, we all unintentionally inject programs, systems, and structures in our organizations that cause divisiveness and alienation. We too often fail to see how our decisions and actions take away the sense of connectedness and belong.

It’s never too late to start implementing programs and actions that will improve the sense of belonging in your workplace. Here are a few ideas I have uncovered.

  1. Make your mission and purpose inspirational. Successful businesses know they do not just make products, they make products that enhance people lives.
  2. Make your company’s values core to everything you do. These values should emphasize respect, integrity, and fun.
  3. Train your leaders to champion your company’s mission and values. Train them how to be better empathetic leaders.
  4. Deal with any perceived values that are not in line with the company’s defined values quickly and decisively.
  5. Communicate better. Be open with your business and organizational issues, especially those that may have an adverse impact on your employees.
The Bible

We live in an age where we celebrate non-belongingness. Memberships to both social (e.g., Rotary Club) and professional (e.g., Society of Professional Engineers) organizations are in decline. Some faith-based organizations are shrinking, but the ones that promote connectedness and belongingness are thriving.

The Bible is a story about a group of people who were alienated, yet still needed the connectedness where they felt safe, cared for, and loved. Jesus came back to this group of people, as well as all other people, to call them back into a relationship designed for connectedness and belonging.

1 John 3:18-19 says.

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence.

As employers, we are to develop a sense of belonging for our employees.

Selfishly, this sense of belonging will improve our bottom line. But more importantly, we need to provide a sense of connectedness and belonging with our employees for their benefit, so that they know they can have a community that cares for them and loves them.

And hopefully, they can see the immense value in this connectedness to stay with your company until they retire.