While simply saying hello can sound easy enough, we may have completely underestimated the amazing power it can have to foster ownership and belonging in the workplace. All too often, we go to work on autopilot and almost forget that our co-workers are fellow sentient human beings with thoughts, feelings and emotions. Despite the importance of deadlines and getting the work done, it is important not to forget to be human.
According to a study by the Center for Talent Innovation: "We humans have an innate need to belong — to one another, to our friends and families, and to our culture and country. The same is true when we’re at work. When people feel like they belong at work, they are more productive, motivated, engaged and 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their fullest potential."
Given that a greeting or a question is free, it seems like the easiest thing to do to create camaraderie and a collegiate work environment. This begs the question – if this is so simple, why do we struggle so much to do it?
While we might be there to work, it is human nature to crave engagement. If we are forced into an unnatural environment for ten hours a day, would we tackle our work tasks with the enthusiasm and pride that would maximise our productivity?
As leaders, it is incumbent on you to take the effort to check in on your employees. When you do that regularly, the rest of your team will take that cue and kickstart building that inclusive culture. People are more invested in helping and cooperating with people they know which will in turn have a direct impact on work productivity where team mates are more prepared to work in concert and share knowledge.
A study conducted by EY surveyed 1,000 employees in America. That study indicated that many people want more connection with those they work with. So how can companies connect more effectively with employees and help them feel like they belong within their workplace community?
The study also found that "39% of respondents feel the greatest sense of belonging when their colleagues check in with them, both personally and professionally. This was true across genders and age groups, with checking in with co-workers being the most popular tactic for establishing a sense of belonging across all generations." By reaching out and acknowledging their employees on a personal level, companies and leaders can significantly enhance the employee experience by making their people feel valued and connected."
How then do companies achieve this? Well, establish more opportunities for co workers to check in with each other regularly of course! This is inevitably easier said than done. Check ins must be done in the appropriate manner and at the appropriate times. After checking in with someone, you must be prepared to listen and share. Engagement is not a one way street. It is also perhaps not the right time to inquire after someone's general wellbeing if they are clearly trying desperately to meet an impending deadline.
Build A Culture of Vulnerability
Human fragility is a connection point. However, as much as they are normal, people are often afraid to admit them at work for fear that they would be seen as weak. Perhaps leaders could take the lead and normalise human emotions at work ranging from stress to a lack of motivation on a particular day. Give your team and yourself the chance to be human and to establish some kind of emotional connection rather than only a work connection. Small steps like this create an atmosphere of mutual respect and openness. Examples could be conversations that centre around your co-worker’s hometown, culture or children. Be aware not to be too intrusive and when your questions crosses boundaries.
Sometimes just a simple “How was your weekend?” can become a meaningful conversation.
Fostering inclusivity and building an organic harmonious community isn’t about reaching some endpoint. It requires check-ins with your team members and customers, sustained trust, change, and a commitment to improvements. When there are missteps (and there almost certainly will be), make it a priority to listen, learn, and adapt. Part of building an inclusive community means freeing the voices that aren’t usually invited to speak up. Give space, and take a backseat so those underrepresented community members can lead discussions, lay out ground rules, strategise, and define priorities.
Expand Your Business Network
Building a network of diverse client profiles can bring new customers and more strategic
partnerships, and increase financial returns too. Your customers see that conscious effort to focus on inclusivity, which could in turn, yield vibrant communities of support and ultimately, higher levels of success for new majority business owners.
This is significant because diverse business owners must see themselves represented in the marketplace and have access to resources and opportunities that will help them grow their companies.
Try some forward thinking activities such as working with special needs groups as a part of building your own inclusive community. This helps expand your employees’ horizons and teach them to consider new perspectives where differences are celebrated.
If you are wondering where and how to begin a level of engagement in your organisation, the team at Engaging Leaders are all about building team rapport and a sense of community. It takes much effort for leaders to break down barriers, therefore we are here to support you in breaking down these walls among your teams. Diverse teams have proven to be more efficient and effective, so it’s important to celebrate all employees and create an inclusive culture so that everyone feels empowered to reach their maximum potential.
Monica Tan, email@example.com
Monica Tan, Engaging Leaders, leads our clients through a journey of performance and change. With more than 15 years of client and project management experience, she serves as a key advisor to our clients.