How to Create a Culture of Belonging

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By DeVry University

June 13, 2022
5 min read

Human beings are social creatures. Whether it’s through our families, hobbies or social groups, we feel an instinctual need to be a part of a community in some shape or form. But being part of a group is different than feeling like you belong to one, which can have a positive impact on your wellbeing.

When you’re exploring how to create a culture of belonging in your own workplace, it’s important to identify exactly how creating this environment can benefit your team and encourage them to bring their best selves to work.

Benefits of Belonging

According to the Mayo Clinic, “The social ties that accompany a sense of belonging are a protective factor helping manage stress and other behavioral issues. When we feel we have support and are not alone, we are more resilient, often coping more effectively with difficult times in our lives.”

These positive benefits of belonging can also have a significant influence on your working life. Along with feeling like their work aligns with their values, a culture of belonging enables employees to feel safe expressing themselves, which can encourage higher engagement and better job performance while staving off negative outcomes like burnout or feelings of alienation.

What Does a Culture of Belonging Look Like?

When everyone is on equal footing and encouraged to contribute their ideas and perspectives, the stage is set for cultivating a sense of belonging. As a manager, being proactive about creating this culture within your team is just as important as facilitating their professional and personal development.

According to cited research from Coqual, creating a culture of belonging centers around four principles:

  • Being seen: Being recognized for who you are as well as being respected and rewarded for it.

  • Feeling connected: Having authentic, positive interactions with your colleagues and senior leaders.

  • Feeling supported: Feeling that your peers and managers can give you what you need to complete your work and live a full life.

  • Feeling proud: You feel that your company’s values align with your own, and you feel proud to come to work with an aligned purpose and vision.

How Do You Create a Culture of Belonging?

There are many ways that you can help create a culture of belonging, and it’s important to determine what works best for your team. To help you get started, The Change Coaches founder LaTonya Wilkins recommends the following 3-step approach for cultivating an organizational culture of belonging and inclusion:

Practicing REAL Leadership: REAL stands for relatable, equitable, aware and loyal. In short, leaders who make an effort to relate to employees who are different from them are taking the first step in actively creating a culture of belonging and connection. Managers must also ensure that equity in pay, hiring practices and team and manager-employee relationships is respected across all team members, while remaining aware and invested in team’s goals and creating genuine connections. Lastly, developing a reputation for being a loyal manager goes a long way to create psychologically safe spaces for employees to thrive.

Leading with empathy: Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is an important skill in both life and the workplace. Leading with empathy requires you to take note of how each person on your team participates on a general level, and how you need to respond to their body language, voice and facial expressions when they come to you with concerns. When an employee feels like they’ve been heard and understood, they are more likely to feel like they are an important part of the group.  

Creating safe spaces: Creating a culture of belonging involves building psychologically safe relationships with your employees. This means helping your team members feel like they can approach you with honest concerns, questions or feedback that is not met with retaliation or punishment.

How Do You Create a Sense of Belonging in a Virtual Environment?

Keeping your team engaged and feeling like they belong can happen through a variety of different virtual bonding activities. Try organizing a fitness challenge or planning virtual meetups that aren’t work-related so team members can get to know one another. Encouraging teammates to join employee resource groups is another way to help them feel as though they belong to a community.  

Making meetings interactive is another way to help manage remote workers and help them feel as though they’re contributing to the group. Using polls, virtual white boards or other interactive methods can provide ways for teammates to give their opinions or weigh in on big decisions. Recognizing contributions to deepen and grow relationships can also make team members feel more valued and essential.

Grow Your Leadership Skills at DeVry

Whether you’re looking to elevate or change careers with an MBA or want to grow your skills in a specific field, we have a range of management-focused degrees, certificate programs and specializations to help you get closer to your goals. The best part? All of our programs can be earned 100% online, meaning you can attend class on your schedule and receive the same level of education as in-person courses. Contact us to speak with an Admissions Representative.

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