For leaders around the world, the effects of the ‘Great Resignation’ continue to be felt, as employees use this period to either level up or down with new employment opportunities.

Most people devote at least a third of their lives working, whether for an organization or in their own business, it makes sense that more of us want this part of life to be more meaningful and rewarding. For too long employers have had the upper hand in the equation.

Now that the world is recovering from the effects of a pandemic that upended the way we live and work, more employees are claiming their power back. They are looking for more meaning and reward and the buzzword of ‘Employee Well-Being’ is no longer a nice to have but a requirement for keeping key talented staff.

The degree of meaning and purpose you derive from work may be the biggest difference between a job and a career, and psychological research has consistently shown that when employees feel that they belong to a team or organization — in the sense that it aligns with their values, and enables them to express important aspects of their identity — they will not only tend to perform better but also experience higher levels of engagement and well-being. In contrast, a lack of belonging will increase the risk of alienation, burnout, and underperformance.” (Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Katarina Berg)

The Future of People requires leaders in people management to take this issue of well-being and belonging more seriously. Paying lip service to it won’t cut it anymore. Neither will gimmicks that try to keep employees happy with trinkets like ‘Beanbags and Benefits Culture’ of the past decade.

People are looking for more than just a paycheck and a nice workspace, they demand to find meaning and a sense of belonging. This can be a tall order for leaders responsible for more than a handful of employees, but it is possible to accomplish it.

How can you create meaningful employee well-being by focusing on creating a culture of belonging?

Start with Respect as the Foundation

Crafting policies that are culturally respectful, that treat employees as individuals, and that aim to create a culture where all employees feel like they belong is a new frontier for many organizations. Belonging means more than having access.

“Belonging entails being respected at a basic level that includes the right to both cocreate and make demands upon society,” according to John A. Powell, (director of the Othering and Belonging Institute at the University of California, Berkeley).

Because belonging is such a fundamental human need, the challenge is for organizations to go far beyond crafting the right policies and practices. This means leaders need to look at existing organizational policies as well as accepted behaviours from the lens of how these promote respect across different cultural backgrounds and expressions. If any policy and or behaviour is found to be culturally disrespectful it needs to be revised or replaced.

Leaders need to be measured and rewarded for their ability to foster a culture of respect and belonging for a diverse workforce.

2. Provide Support in Moments that Matter

Nothing communicates ‘you matter’ like getting the support you need in moments that matter most to you. These may include moments of great and often unexpected life changes like starting a family, losing a loved one, or going through a major life-changing experience.

To foster a sense of belonging, organizations need to step up and treat employees as people that matter to their success by providing support and doing so consistently. For example, Policies such as expanded leave, condensed work schedules, work-from-anywhere options, and emergency backup care are all ways that organizations can support workers who are caregivers for example.

Providing support for employees in moments that matter to them ensures that they feel supported and wanted by their organization. Team leaders can play a key role here, by keeping in touch with employees and offering benefits that the organization provides like mental health benefits, mentoring, and coaching services (to name a few).

Another way to support employees is by promoting and supporting Employee Resource Groups. Employee resource groups (ERGs) are community-building opportunities that bring together coworkers with something in common. Larger organizations can benefit from supporting employee resource groups and empowering these to provide the much-needed specific support that employees might have.

3. Empower Managers to Inculcate a Culture of Inclusion

It’s not enough to tell managers that they need to create and maintain an inclusive culture. Managers need to be empowered and given the necessary skills to be more inclusive in the way they lead and also help their teams to embrace being inclusive.

Providing training and resources for managers on the ‘how to’ and practical tools of creating inclusive culture must be an ongoing part of their development. “Competencies like recognizing unconscious bias, practicing inclusive leadership skills, empathy training, conflict resolution, and effective communication are not soft skills; these are leadership skills for the 21st century,” says Minda Harts, adjunct assistant professor of public service at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Training for managers on Inclusive Leadership Skills can no longer be a nice-to-have, since inclusion is integral to belonging which in turn is key to employee well-being.

So, it’s time to ditch the Bean Bags as a strategy for employee well-being and focus on what really matters to create a sense of belonging.

(Reference: HBR Beyond Employee Wellbeing)


About the author of today’s Tuesday Tip – Buhle Dlamini

The way we think about people working together in organizations continues to change. We need to apply new ways of thinking about all aspects of people working together:  Teamwork, Organisational Culture, Belonging, Diversity, Inclusion and Equity. That’s what the future of people is about.

Buhle Dlamini brings his extensive experience in organizational culture, diversity and cultural intelligence to help you navigate the future of people in a changing world. Chat to us about booking Buhle for your upcoming conference or event.


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