Why does belonging matter in the workplace? | Deloitte US has been saved
By Colleen Bordeaux, Betsy Grace, and Naina Sabherwal
Deloitte's Workforce Experience by Design practice uses human-centered, equity-based design to understand workers like we do customers and design experience solutions that cultivate trust and loyalty. We define workforce experience as "the sum of a human’s lived experiences at work and how they feel about their organization" and believe there are eight key relationships that influence a worker's experience at an organization—two of which have been newly incorporated into our leading practice perspective. These elements include a worker's relationship with the work they do, the people they work with, the places they work, the technology they use, the organization they work for, their sense of belonging, and the growth that delivers value to their career. A worker's sense of belonging and their growth are two new additions to highlight how organizations can foster diverse, equitable, and inclusive communities for the worker (belonging) and portable value beyond a worker's lived experiences (growth).
The world is constantly changing and evolving. There are many events that are making us feel polarized, less stable, and volatile. External events like climate change, political instability, global pandemic, racial discrimination, etc., are causing a sense of frustration, fear, and disruptions. This is leading to individuals finding solace in everyday life. For most of us, this means turning to the organization to find a sense of meaning and solidarity. However, organizations are going through their own disruptions. Shifts in workforce composition, ways of working, virtual workplace, etc., are leading to changes that leave workers feeling isolated. Today1, 40% of people say they feel isolated at work and the result has been lower organizational commitment and engagement.
Employees are increasingly looking to work for personal fulfillment and satisfaction, essential to which is a sense of belonging2. This article will focus on eight of the core relationship attributes for elevating workforce experience: Belonging.
What is belonging, and what contributes to it?
Deloitte defines a worker's sense of belonging as how organizations can foster diverse, equitable, and inclusive communities for the worker and how they feel like a member of the broader world. This impacts how an employee shows up and feels comfortable being themselves—and how they contribute to an organizations’ common goals.
Creating a sense of belonging requires three mutually reinforcing attributes3
How can an increased sense of belonging enhance the workforce experience?
Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends report ranked ‘Belonging’ as the top human capital issue that organizations face today. Seventy-three percent responded stated that fostering a sense of belonging was important to their organization’s success with 93% agreeing that a sense of belonging drives organizational performance4. But why is belonging rising as such an important topic for organizations?
Research5 states that belonging is not only good for workers but for business too. Belonging can lead to a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% reduction in turnover risk, a 167% increase in employer net promoter score, 2X more employee raises, 18X more employee promotions, and a 75% decrease in sick days. All this alludes to the positive impact that ‘belonging’ has on workers leading to employee engagement and enhanced workers’ experience.
There are three factors that influence an organization’s ability to activate belonging and enhance employees’ experience6, namely:
Organizational Culture: Organizational culture refers to the system of values, beliefs, and behaviors that shapes how work gets done within an organization7. Fostering a culture where everyone belongs and can thrive requires a commitment not only to diversity and equity but also to inclusion. Having a culture that encourages workers to be their authentic selves, own their uniqueness, and share their perspectives without any fear increases the sense of belonging. To create a holistic organizational culture:
Leadership Behavior: To embed an organizational culture of belonging, leadership behavior plays a crucial role to reinforce the value of fairness, respect, and safety. This inspires workers to feel united and part of an organization that values them. To instill good leadership behaviors:
Personal Relationships: With work structured around the power of teams, it’s extremely important for workers to feel involved and included to facilitate contribution. Having the space to openly bring viewpoints without hesitation, encourage healthy discussion, and feel connected with team members (even at a personal level) fosters a greater sense of belonging. To enhance personal relationships:
Using human-centered design to create a sense of belonging for the workforce
Human-centered design12 gets to the root causes of issues of belonging by examining human perspective in each step of the problem-solving process. By using the workforce experience design approach, organizations can cultivate a culture of belonging that is shared by all—whether working remotely or on-site—vital for activating organizations’ potential. Deloitte’s Workforce Experience by Design practice uses human-centered design thinking13, to create opportunities for organizations by taking the following steps:
In summary, there is no one size fits all solution to create a sense of belonging. All organizations are different and so are the people within them. What’s important is to put your employees at the center and understand what makes them feel valued. Creating an organizational culture of belonging that is backed by leadership support and enhanced individual relationships is the way to elevate workers’ experience. Ultimately, when workers feel comfortable being themselves and expressing their true thoughts, the door to improved collaboration, greater fulfillment, and well-being at work is opened.
“If you look out for your workforce, they will look out for you”
1The Value of Belonging at Work (hbr.org)
2Creating a culture of belonging | Deloitte Insights
3Culture of Belonging | Deloitte US
4Creating a culture of belonging | Deloitte Insights
5Designing the Workforce Experience | Deloitte US
6Culture of Belonging POV_vF_2020.pdf
7Creating a culture of belonging | Deloitte Insights
8Creating a culture of belonging | Deloitte Insights
9Southwest Airlines Culture Design Puts Employees First | By Gustavo Razzetti (fearlessculture.design)
10Creating a culture of belonging | Deloitte Insights
11Creating a culture of belonging | Deloitte Insights
12Can Human-Centered Design Reduce Burnout and Improve the Work Experience for Nurses and Other Clinicians? | Deloitte US