We’re always looking for new ways to help cultivate happier, more innovative and productive teams, and we know that a sense of belonging is key to helping people contribute fully at work. We recently worked with YouGov to survey over 2,000 UK employees in a variety of businesses, to uncover why belonging matters to them in the workplace.
What is ‘belonging’?
The desire to belong is a basic human need. It connects us to others to create meaningful relationships, and it makes us feel good about ourselves and the groups we’re part of. “The collection of us” is how we talk about belonging at EY – and it’s a core part of what holds communities, societies and workplaces together.
In our research, respondents said belonging at work means that their contribution matters (63%), that they are accepted and valued for who they are (62%), and that they are treated fairly and impartially (61%). Belonging is considered to go beyond diversity and creates an environment where an individual can contribute fully and is recognised for it.
Why belonging at work matters
According to our survey, 90% said that ‘belonging at work’ is important to them - it means they enjoy work more (72%), feel happier and healthier (71%), and more motivated (65%). Also, a sense of belonging can increase an individual’s wellbeing, organisational efficiency and performance. It’s why more employers are recognising ‘belonging’ as a new distinguishing factor when attracting and motivating their people.
What gets in the way of us feeling like we belong?
Clearly, belonging at work is important. However, according to our survey, only one in five (18%) said that they “feel a sense of belonging a lot” and over one in three (36%) said they don’t feel that they belong. The survey revealed that the behaviour of senior leaders (35%) and workplace culture (32%) were partly to blame, but it was ‘office politics’ (39%) that was cited as the main reason for the lack of belonging.
What can you do to help create a greater sense of belonging?
We can all play a part in promoting a stronger sense of belonging. How? We need to be empathetic; be able to put ourselves in the shoes of others and focus on the things we have in common. We should take positive action to help people feel included so everyone’s voice is heard and they feel that their contribution matters. A practical way of doing that is to invite people to offer a different view - then listen carefully and take their point of view on board.
When it comes to creating a sense of belonging, even the smallest actions can go a long way to help others feel like their personal and professional aspirations are accepted and supported.
And what are employers doing to help?
Creating a sense of belonging is something that leaders, managers and employees can focus on and develop as part of their daily practices. There’s also training which can help sharpen social antennas to recognise situations that are not conducive to belonging.
At EY, we have inclusive leadership training that helps individuals develop certain skills to strengthen a sense of belonging – which includes learnings like recognising insider/outsider group dynamics and taking positive steps to remove unconscious bias. EY also has a performance management system where leaders are rewarded for putting these skills into action.
Learn more about our research and how we create a sense of belonging at EY.
Source: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from an online YouGov Plc survey. Sample: 2,016 employees from private sector businesses. Fieldwork dates: 28th September - 4th October 2018.
Written by Justine Campbell, Managing Partner for Talent at EY, UK & Ireland.