The Importance of Belonging in the Workplace
Research led by MyKindaFuture found that just 32% of UK office workers feel as though they completely belong within their company. This is despite it being essential in order for employees to feel motivated and loyal. In fact, over a third claim they have no bond with their employer at all.
Interestingly, men are the least likely to feel as though they truly belong, with just 31% feeling a sense of community, compared to 34% of women. However, the statistics are incredibly low for all workers. This is a significant issue for UK employers and one that is only set to worsen as millions of workers across Britain remain furloughed or working remotely, creating even more distance between them and their employer and thus increasing the risk of employee disengagement.
What do office workers value?
The research amongst UK office workers and HR decision makers suggests that having a sense of belonging within a company is more vital to British workers than ever before. Whilst salary remains the number one work-place perk for UK office staff, with 70% of workers flagging this as key, other emotional benefits were also found to be incredibly important. Being valued came in second with 47% claiming this is vital in the workplace, closely followed by getting on with colleagues, at 43%. These cultural attributes are now far more important than many of the monetary incentives traditionally favoured by employers, overtaking the likes of subsidised gym membership at 4%, office parties at 5% and health insurance at 10%.
A Sense of Community
The study highlights the significant impact cultivating an improved sense of community can have on retention and engagement. 57% of people agree that they are more motivated in the workplace when they feel as though they belong. Almost half of workers also feel more engaged, more likely to work hard and more loyal towards a company when they feel a sense of belonging.
In fact, as many as 80% of those who don’t feel a sense of community within their workplace are considering leaving their jobs within the next 12 months. What’s more, this is already happening, with almost 1 in 10 workers citing ‘not fitting in’ as the reason for leaving their last job.
The research also demonstrates the importance of nurturing a sense of community when it comes to attracting the best and brightest talent. Shockingly, just 25% of employees are currently highly likely to recommend their employer to a friend.
For the minority of people who feel as though they do now belong within their company, it was a slow process. It took an average of five months for these workers to feel comfortable in their role, with over 20% stating it took more than six months. Some even suggested it took as long as a decade before they felt as though they belonged. This is perhaps no surprise given the fact that over a quarter of companies don’t begin building a relationship with an employee until after they have started working at the organisation.
Will Akerman, Founder and CEO of MKF said:
“It is clear from the findings that a lack of belonging is a huge issue amongst UK employees. Even for those that do feel as though they belong it has taken an immense amount of time for this to be achieved which will, inevitably, be negatively impacting staff engagement, retention rates, and most likely the company’s bottom line.
“At MyKindaFuture, we know that a sense of belonging is increasingly important to employees and the challenge of achieving this is only set to become more severe as businesses across the country are faced with building this culture remotely whilst staff are furloughed or working from home. So, it is essential that employers work harder than ever and innovate new strategies to enable them to attract and retain the very best talent as we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.”
How can you create a sense of belonging?
Of the HR decision makers researched, the majority recognise that a sense of community is a problem within their organisation, with just 37 % claiming that their employees feel as though they belong.
Yet, despite the scale of the problem, just 40% of HR heads believe that their organisation is currently working hard to encourage a sense of inclusion or any form of change. In addition, a quarter of businesses are still choosing not to discuss the issue at board level.
It is undeniable that some companies are taking steps to try to improve their employees’ sense of community, suggesting that progress is being made. Flexible working, regular catch ups with line managers and team bonding sessions were found to be the most common strategies put in place.
However, the results suggest that there is still a lot of work to be done. For example, just half of those surveyed agree that their employees are encouraged to express their opinions freely, despite many office workers flagging this as a key factor in helping them to build a positive relationship with their employer.
Another factor found to help employees build a relationship with their organisation was mentoring schemes, with over 50s most likely to prefer face-to-face programmes, and 16-24s often opting for online tools. Digital solutions designed to support staff are also favoured by those returning to the workplace after a period of time away for parental or long-term sick leave, with one in 10 agreeing that online platforms played a key role in making them feel valued when they returned to the workplace.
Yet, despite clear demand for multi-media mentoring schemes, just 37% of the organisations researched offer access to this type of service. Of those that do have a mentoring scheme, 90% were carried out face to face.
Will Akerman concluded: “We know from experience that mentoring offers a fantastic solution for tackling the huge challenge UK companies are currently facing when it comes to cultivating a sense of belonging amongst employees. The research confirms this. During these unusual times, when most businesses’ face-to-face engagement has been placed on hold, digital platforms that allow employers to communicate with staff remotely offer a fantastic solution for ensuring each employee maintains a sense of belonging during their time away from the workplace. It is vital that companies invest time and resource in maintaining this sense of belonging virtually via digital channels now in order to prevent issues with employee productivity, motivation and retention later down the line.”