Strengthening a sense of belonging in organisations.

In times of crisis and change, the most effective way of strengthening or revitalising the mutual cohesion within teams is to create a feeling of belonging to the company. By helping to support each other, team spirit is a great way to improve individual well-being. Human beings long to be together. We need contact like our bodies need food and water.

Studies show that belonging to social networks is particularly important for protection against the vagaries of life. Groups are, in themselves, a therapy for well-being. Joining new groups increases life expectancy and quality of life. By trusting each other, employees will feel more supported, motivated and happy at work. This sense of belonging is said to increase employee productivity by 12%—the University of Warwick

Happy employees also mean lower staff turnover, which saves time and money!

The feeling of belonging in a company is sought after by everyone. Whether in private, social or professional life, it is essential to our fulfilment. Indeed the legendary Maslow’s Pyramid shows this, and it is not the only one: pride of belonging in a company is at the top of our pyramid of the ten pillars of well-being at work. Therefore, strengthening the sense of belonging in organisations is a priority.

Firstly, it is essential to understand the reasons for a sense of belonging in a company and then focus on a pragmatic and long-term approach. Then integrate employees into the process and create a solid and inclusive corporate culture.

Understanding the reasons for corporate belonging

Before trying to create, cultivate or develop employees’ pride in belonging to the company, it is best to ensure we understand it so that we are on the same wavelength.

When I first started working with organisations, “corporate” belonging was deemed different from belonging in our personal life. Now it’s a package deal: an employee is much more involved in his work if he is proud to belong to his company. Moreover, organisational belonging holds the same value and emotional importance as belonging.

A ‘Sense of Belonging’ is the bond of affection between the company and its employees. And without a sense of belonging, happiness at work is less obvious.

The pillars of pride of belonging in a company

The feeling of belonging to a company is supported by communication. Still, its essence lies in the employee’s support, identification and involvement in the company (in terms of its vision, global project, events, initiatives, etc.). Trust, recognition, respect and sharing are also essential. In human terms, each employee needs this to feel genuinely at ease within a social group such as the company.

As for the quest for meaning, which is increasingly omnipresent in companies, it is crucial here (as it often is): how can we feel proud to belong to an entity if we cannot find any meaning in it if the direction is not clear? As for remuneration, it has been proven that the link between salary and a sense of belonging is weak. Of course, we suspected this, but it is important to point it out…

It all starts with the management team.

Many leaders and managers know they are vested in making their employees proud (and happy, which are related but different) to work for their company. The problem arises when it comes to putting this into practice: what are the levers of action to cultivate this sense of belonging?

The long term: a sense of belonging develops over time.

The process must include all employees if employees develop a sense of belonging at the company’s top. But why is it so important to start from the ground up? Because decisions are taken from the top down, it is essential to supplement the process with day-to-day analyses, mainly through employee surveys. In the end, it is the employees who are most affected.

As we have seen, trust is essential for developing a sense of belonging in a company. So trust your employees. If they have been recruited, it is because they deserve it. Who better than them to help you with how to proceed? Refrain from relying on every new arrival to have an immediate effect: the feeling of belonging develops over the long term with the appearance of many employees.

So you start the machine, ask everyone how they feel, if they feel proud to belong to the company, how to improve their sense of belonging… and then you iterate. The field is the only way to anchor ourselves in reality: the daily life of employees and their state of mind. You have understood that only a global plan at all company levels can generate a strong sense of belonging shared by all.

Long-term: a sense of belonging develops over time, and organisations are not exempt. It’s the same: once all the elements are in place to create a strong sense of belonging in the company, only time will tell. This is the last piece of the puzzle. Trying to force things leads only to counterproductive results: a sense of constrained pride, a feeling of superficiality and a backlash.

And it is the opposite of what we aim for.

Together we go further.

It is through proximity that belonging develops, between managers and employees—the smaller the distance, the healthier the relationship and the more influential the communication.

A strong sense of belonging is also a natural feedback loop. The virtuous circle of a sense of belonging is a boon for the whole company:

Creating a solid and inclusive corporate culture

Every employee must be able to identify with the company’s culture to feel proud to belong to their organisation. It must be assertive without being too divisive: the aim is to attract suitable candidates, retain the right talent and build around this culture.

What is a unifying corporate culture?

“Working with us is an experience you won’t find anywhere else. Easy for a company to say, much harder to do. With a solid and inclusive corporate culture, this promise is often fulfilled.

A sense of belonging to your teams can take you to new heights: reduced turnover, better engagement, increased loyalty, improved employer brand, better productivity…

According to Edgar Schein, a company’s culture is based on ç elements:

  1. its history 
  2. its vision 
  3. its values
  4. its rituals.

The pillars of the sense of belonging lean on the clarity of the vision and leadership of the senior management team.

Better integration with onboarding to “kickstart” the feeling of belonging

Onboarding depends on the company culture; it is a rite of passage in its own right. It is a rite of passage in its own right. It is necessary to integrate well from the outset, and this is what is at stake in successful onboarding. The feeling of belonging is built over time and through experience. Therefore, the first milestone that lays the foundations for this feeling is onboarding. This is why it is a particular time to indulge newcomers, accompany them during their first days and offer them an experience that they will not (really) forget in a rush. Imagining, designing and implementing its own culture is a significant step in cultivating employees’ sense of belonging.