How to create a sense of belonging in your organization

Posted by: on November 9th, 2020

Five ways to help employees feel welcome

Even at our best, we can miss our mark when we aim to make new members feel welcome in our organizations. I have been thinking about specific ways I have heard employees describe what they want.

  1. When you ask me, do I have questions, know that I may not be ready to voice my lack of understanding. Circle back around with me, over a good period of time.
  2. Connect me with someone who will help me acclimate (someone who is not my supervisor).
  3. Explain to me what I need to understand about the dominate members of the group and/organization, including what motivates them.
  4. If I look a little different from the general profile of the group, whether by age, gender, race or any other characteristic that you can clearly see, be prepared to provide a little extra support in the event that my perspective is not heard.
  5. Above all, put me in relationship with others in the organization.

Read about how building relationship, examining dominant culture and checking assumptions can help you create a sense of belonging in your organization at my blog, link below.

#HR #Community #Belonging

We cultivate belonging through relationship…

When it comes down to it, most of us got to where we are in life through relationship and association. If we truly desire an organization where people feel they belong, we are going to give people access to each other. That means creating conditions in which people converse across, up and down the organization through informal and formal meetups, online or off.

Examples of this include participation in ad hoc groups to address urgent issues or a project with weighty significance. But we also see online tools and platforms emerging that simulate gatherings around the coffee pot or informal meet ups after work.

I have seen powerful shifts occur by bringing frontline supervisors from across departments together for regular meetups, or by including office managers in development of employee policies, and by creating a frontline customer service peer group from across departments to recommend ways to streamline and build efficiency in addressing customer issues. Mixing any of these groups with others in technology or management to review and talk about issues can enliven and broaden perspective, but the main thing is that it allows for relationship to foster trust.

But first we need to understand our dominate groups…

Dominate groups define culture and understanding how they do that allows us to create more inclusive workplaces. I participate in an online business community of mostly young women who run an online business. As someone who runs an in-person consultancy (and did not learn how to program early in life) I am not part of the dominate group and it shows up in vocabulary, knowledge that is valued and prominent voices. The community does not exclude, rather, it expresses norms and preferences.

I am also active in an international online community focused on change management. Members number in the thousands and although there are many practitioners, like me, the dominate group is highly academic. I assert my ideas and am well received, but I understand the dominate culture is about critically examining ideas from an academic grounding.

The first group has few men, the second group, few women. Although both groups are international, the prominent voices are primarily white. Both are actively welcoming and strive to become more diverse but are challenged by the expression of their dominant culture.

Local governments also have dominant cultures that reflect the body politic (often steeped in tradition) and surrounding community. As communities shift toward greater diversity, diversity in staffing has been slow to follow. I believe this is in part due to a lack of attention to invitation but the other is the difficulty in overcoming barriers embedded in dominant culture. Examination and ability to articulate dominant culture is hugely important in shifting attitudes and creating a place where people feel they belong.

and check our assumptions…

I can think of three areas where we make assumptions that interfere with a sense of belonging, but there are many more.

  1. Vocabulary – If an anthropologist visited our organizations, what would they see and hear in the communication? How does our language support a sense of community or create barriers to entry? To what extent do we assume that words that make us comfortable is good for everyone?
  2. Humor – Similarly, to what extent do we assume others share our humor? Over years I have heard countless excuses for “gallows humor” that have no basis in reality. Humor is vital to life, but pointless if it excludes people vital to our community. Discovering shared humor requires imagination but is vastly more interesting and beneficial to health.
  3. Stories – Narratives of who we are, how we got here and our vision for tomorrow is fraught with assumptions if we don’t pay attention. Who do hear from, what are the visuals we use to tell our story and to what extent do we assume that everyone wants what we want? We can make a huge impact in our organizations and our communities by reaching beyond old narratives that limit our possibilities. Choosing someone outside the dominant culture to lead is one powerful example of this.

Eventually, we are likely to find that the more we grow in relationship to one another, the more we gain acceptance in one another’s eyes and the greater the acceptance, the greater the latitude we allow one another to express our unique humanity, including the good, the bad and the ugly.

Are you interested to learn more about creating shifts in your organization?

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About Nancy J. Hess

I help leaders pioneer extraordinary change through high engagement and whole systems approaches that focus on HR and People.