Belonging to or Belonging with: Which creates more organisational value?

Belonging to or Belonging with: Which creates more organisational value?

Humans have an innate need to feel like they belong. It is a major source of motivation and the third level of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Belongingness can be defined as “The human emotional need to be an accepted member of a group.” It is the need to give and get attention from others. A lot of what we do is done in the service of belongingness. Belongingness and life satisfaction are connected. When asked about how happy we are, we often tend to reply thinking about how connected we feel to the people around us, how accepted we feel in the society we live in, quality of our interpersonal relationships and social support system.

This not only includes belonging to a family, a group of friends, or a religious group, but also at the workplace. The inherent desire to belong in an organisation you work, to be accepted as a co-worker or employee, is crucial for all of us. According to Gardner, Belonging in an organisation refers to an employee’s perception of acceptance within a given group. Belonging makes people feel like they are cared for and gives them a sense of inclusion at the workplace.

So, what if you were asked to work 9 to 5, six days a week, all four seasons, in a place you don’t feel like you belong? That felt depressing to even type. Money cannot be the only source of motivation to work, other needs like the feeling of Belongingness at a company are as just as necessary for optimal work performance. 

A survey found that 79% of organisations believed that belonging in the workplace is crucial for the company’s future success. 

What does ‘belonging with’ an organisation look like: 

Maintaining an office environment that is welcoming doesn’t happen on its own, it requires careful planning and execution.

Despite having such a moving influence on our lives, belongingness is often not given much importance by many employers; almost as if we expect it to be cultivated all by itself without any effort on our part. 

Since we spend most of our day working in our office, it should come as no surprise that we have a need to feel a sense of belongingness at work.

According to a study, the need to be accepted influences almost everything we do. Connecting with people that we relate to, feeling that we are wanted and valued, all contribute to the factors of workplace belongingness. 

Our self-confidence and motivation are largely influenced by how included we feel in the decision-making process and if or how our contributions bring about a change in the organisation. Inclusion directly affects our decision making process. When you feel like you belong, you feel supported and respected. It helps you be confident about yourself because there is an environment of trust that gives you the safety of being your authentic self and taking risks without being judged. Thus,  when we feel safe enough to be ourselves, that is when we are able to give our best at work. 

Honestly speaking, we all love a good pay while searching for jobs. But would you be able to survive at a workplace where you don’t feel appreciated, a place where you don’t feel like your voice is heard?

Sometimes the only motivation to go to an exhausting day at work is the fact that you’re around people whose company you enjoy. This is just like old times when we felt that together we can take on anything. Remember when, as kids, meeting our classmates and friends used to be the only source of motivation to wake up early and leave for school? Yeah, looks like we do not change as we grow up as much as we think we do.

You see, belonging is more valuable than a lot of other factors we consider to be of higher importance at face value.

Belonging fosters motivation and morale, ultimately impacting retention and loyalty for the company. Organisations that maintain such a work environment are far more successful, have greater work productivity and are better able to meet their financial aims. 

What happens when there is a sense of ‘belonging to’ the company?

A culture where employees are treated like products owned by the company not only builds impermeable walls that create a negative sense of power structure and supremacy, but it also limits communication and collaboration because everyone is siloed into their defined roles, making creativity and innovation difficult and developing a sense of exclusion and frustration. Such a dissatisfying and demotivating culture can be problematic for the development of both the organisation as well as the people working for it. 

Treating an employee like a commodity, calling them whenever a task requires it without considering their time demarcation and personal demands can develop isolation at the workplace and has direct negative effects on the company’s productivity. As communication turned largely superficial, the pandemic has significantly disrupted people’s social lives and 20% of remote employees say they lacked a sense of belonging at work, according to recent research from Forbes. This makes it more important than ever to foster a culture of belonging as a part of psychological safety at the organisation to attract and retain precious talent, the backbone of any organization. 

How to establish belongingness at work: 

  • Conduct a survey to understand where there is a need for improvement in the organisation, get an idea of diversity and inclusion in the team. 
  • Humans are social creatures and putting efforts to ensure good interaction between employees and teams helps to build an environment where there is productive communication, less hierarchical barriers, more innovation and greater involvement. Creating opportunities in the workspace to encourage healthy interactions, either formal or informal, contributes to developing a sense of togetherness in the organisation. 
  • Social bonds shouldn’t solely be limited between co-workers and colleagues; a healthy, reciprocal relationship between an employee and leader or superior is also essential. It allows the employee to gain knowledge from an experienced mentor and gives the manager the advantage of greater involvement and evaluation of the employee’s work.
  • Transparency and openness in the management fosters the same within the team as well. When managers are approachable it helps people open up and communicate effectively, and eliminate interpersonal barriers. Authenticity builds trust and serves as motivation to be a part of the team. 
  • Acknowledging individual goals and appreciating their achievements helps employees believe that the work they do makes a difference in the organisation, and that their contributions matter. Aligning their goals with the company’s values ensures everyone is on the same page. 

The Bottom Line

Employees need to feel valued, and included in a place they spend most of their day. A sense of belonging is a major factor impacting organisational performance. For the advancement of the company, it is necessary to ensure the wellbeing, upskilling, empowerment and psychological safety of each and every employee working for the company.