We all share a deep desire for belonging. From Abraham Maslow to Brené Brown, experts agree that this “indescribable feeling of being welcomed” is a fundamental need. Even the earliest behavioral scientists recognized that the need to belong is an integral aspect of the human experience.
Cut to today. The year is 2023, and the state of the global workplace is … confusing. For example, in the United States, people spend a massive portion of each week at work. And increasingly, we’re questioning the way we manage our careers.
All around us, full-time employees are shifting to part-time work, office workers are becoming digital nomads, and teams are dissolving. The apple cart has been tipped. And frankly, no one is really sure where all these changes will lead.
Despite this season of flux and indecision, employers can help people find clarity. By prioritizing an inclusive work environment, leaders can create an authentic culture of belonging that attracts talent from all walks of life.
Belonging is not just a powerful talent acquisition strategy. It’s also an effective way to engage people, whatever their values may be. It appeals to everyone, from full-time employees to contingent workers, no matter whether they work onsite, offsite, or in a hybrid capacity.
How Inclusion Impacts Employee Retention
Workforce inclusion and retention are deeply intertwined. According to a Deloitte survey, 80% of full-time employees consider inclusion an important factor when choosing where to work. It also remains significant throughout the entire employment relationship. In fact, 23% of respondents told Deloitte they’ve quit a job where inclusion was lacking.
These statistics speak not only to inclusion’s influence on recruitment, but retention, as well. When people feel included, they’re naturally more engaged. And although engaged people care more about their work, they’re less likely to suffer from anxiety or burn out.
A genuinely inclusive work environment promotes a sense of belonging. And a sense of belonging lifts team morale. As a result, businesses benefit in multiple ways. For example, inclusive organizations tend to be more productive and more profitable. This means fostering an inclusive work environment is not just a good thing to do. It’s also a good business move.
All of this ties back to people who feel included and engaged. So the message is clear: If your culture is inclusive, people will feel more connected to your organization and invested in your success throughout their relationship with you.
How to Foster an Inclusive Work Environment
What strategies and practices help build a culture of inclusion and belonging? Focus on these fundamentals:
1. Educate Around Diversity
Diversity and inclusion are closely linked. But diversity alone is not enough to move the needle. After all, what’s the point of creating an inclusive environment only for one kind of person?
Instead, ensure every member of your workforce is welcome to bring their authentic selves to work. This starts by consistently communicating your commitment to diversity, and illustrating that commitment with action. In other words, look for ways to openly support and celebrate different skill sets and abilities, backgrounds, accessibility needs, gender identities, and ethnicities.
Leaders can also educate employees by raising awareness and encouraging people to interact in appropriate ways with co-workers. For example, neurodiverse team members may need noise-canceling headphones to stay focused and productive at work. Or on Zoom calls, hearing impaired participants may need to rely on captioning. Educating teams about these adaptations and how to apply them will help everyone feel more receptive and comfortable.
2. Prioritize Inclusion, Even in Stormy Weather
In this time of reshufflings and resignations, your commitment will be tested. Maintaining a culture of inclusion and belonging is essential, even when your business is facing a downturn.
In times of crisis, many leaders may default to outdated practices, especially when managing reductions in force and communicating about these decisions. But remaining open and intentional about layoff practices can help you keep your inclusivity promises.
Above all, insist upon treating all employees with an equal level of respect and appreciation throughout disruptive organizational changes. This tells everyone that the way you let go of team members is just as important as how you hire and retain them.
3. Offer an Environment of Care
Inclusion not only means people feel welcomed at work, but also that your organization cares about the quality of their employee experience. Demonstrating care can take numerous forms. For example, you could:
- Reserve time each day for wellbeing check-ins or social activities that promote team care and bonding.
- Reward employees for inclusive, caring actions toward others.
- Ensure that everyone receives training on how to develop emotional intelligence skills and put them into practice at work.
The possibilities are limitless. But whatever mix you choose for your organization, keep in mind that creating an environment of care reinforces a sense of belonging. So the sooner you craft this agenda, the better. Also, the sooner employees experience a sense of caring, the better.
Start with the onboarding stage, or even earlier. Think about how you can help applicants and news hires understand how much your company values and prioritizes inclusion. Then consider how you can keep checking in periodically to ensure employees’ needs are being met and they’re actually developing a sense of belonging.
A Final Note on Inclusion, Belonging and Employee Retention
For better or worse, the nature of your work environment directly influences workforce recruiting and retention. If you learn how to foster a culture of belonging, you’ll attract, engage and retain people who appreciate sharing their talent with an organization that makes them feel wanted.
Making a meaningful impact on your culture may require you to invest more time, attention and funding to inclusion. But, as many employers have discovered, it is well worth the effort.