Why prioritizing employees over leaders helps build a culture of belonging

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Why prioritizing employees over leaders helps build a culture of belonging


Good morning CHRO Daily readers! Paolo Confino here, filling in for Amber.

The HR sector is full of buzzwords and phrases that can often seem nebulous at first glance: ‘psychological safety’, ‘work-life integration’ and a recently popular ‘culture of belonging’. The latter belonging has gained popularity in recent years, especially after the death of George Floyd. Many operations leaders see this as the next frontier of diversity and inclusion. But what exactly is this and, more importantly, how does one create said culture – one in which belonging is deeply embedded in the very system of an, often times, global firm? George Ho, the co-founder and chief product officer of HR software company Vityl, has some ideas.

Belonging, Ho says, extends the idea of ​​a “good” company culture beyond just a friendly office environment. Instead, it seeks to stimulate the basic human need to feel connected to others and to have that connection valued. “Belonging is understanding one’s place in a group,” says Ho.

If that sounds abstract or subjective, that’s because it is, says Ho. Belonging, by its very nature, is closer to a personal emotion than an HR goal because it is an effort to build deeper relationships among colleagues. As with all relationships, it requires a foundation of mutual appreciation to be meaningful and rewarding.

Contrary to popular belief, affiliation essentially requires continuous reciprocity among peers, not between managers and their direct reports. In a recent study by Vityl, 37% of employees say they are responsible for belonging, while 36% say their colleagues are. Only 6% say leaders are responsible for belonging, suggesting that day-to-day relationships with peers are what most foster belonging.

The business results of affiliation are compelling, according to the study. Employees who said they felt a sense of belonging at work reported:

  • 10x more engagement
  • 6.5x higher retention rates
  • 50% more likely to be considered good performers

CHRO Daily talks to George Ho about the business imperatives of belonging and what HR teams often get wrong.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What is the business case for affiliation?

The business case when you talk about retention is significant. What we’ve seen in our research is that organizations that invest in belonging will see strong returns across all of their people KPIs – better engagement, better collaboration and better business results.

Your report highlights three factors – acceptance, recognition, connection – that make up belonging. How should we think of them in relation to each other?

Early in one’s tenure in an organization and in one’s career, acceptance matters most. If someone was early in their career and had a high degree of acceptance, they were more likely to feel a stronger sense of belonging. Recognition and connection begin to matter more after the first year in the organization. This arc really describes the journey of first seeking a certain position in a company, a degree of acceptance. Then, once you feel that, your priority becomes the desire to feel recognized, to feel respected for your personal contribution. Then to feel connected – and not just connected socially. It’s really about building a supportive relationship through shared experiences and shared learning.

What are the organizational competencies that HR teams need to establish to effectively build a culture of belonging?

The skills and competencies needed to progress are communication and change management. One of the biggest issues around this is driving action. Human teams have become extremely good at listening, but this is almost a dangerous place to stop. The best way to build this kind of participation and engagement in day-to-day ownership building and culture change is by having great communication skills and thinking about each stakeholder, their role in it, and then empowering them to take the right actions through the right resources.

When it comes to the small work, everyone should know what his part of it is. I really wish HR teams would focus on this: How can they resource themselves to empower every person to take action? The longer they sit and listen and think about it and strategize or create advice – those are all necessary things – but unless it becomes a trial and error where people are given a chance to find out what success looks like, then those little everyday moments that build belonging don’t happen.

How long does it take to actually develop belonging?

The beauty of belonging is that it is not linear. Everyone is looking for that moment that helps them feel a sense of belonging, and you can’t predict what that is for every person. We’re trying to get people to first just commit to trying to build belonging and try to create as many of those moments as possible at any given time. If you’re talking about building a holistic culture of belonging in an organization of people, it’s an ongoing effort that happens every day. It’s not something where you unfreeze it, work on it and refreeze it and people belong. It just doesn’t work that way. This process continues, but for each individual it can happen like this [snaps fingers]. This is the most exciting part of building an affiliation, it only takes a few moments to solidify and maintain it.

Paolo Confino

Around the table

An overview of the most important HR titles, studies, podcasts and long-reads.

– Productivity dashboards and automated screenshots. These are just a few of the new performance tracking tools that some companies are implementing. Officials say these efforts are invasive, bordering on blanket surveillance. Employers, on the other hand, say they have no choice because communication with employees has become a “black hole.” New York Times

Only 1.2% of VC investments made this year went to black-owned businesses. The economic downturn is already having a disproportionate effect on minority-led startups. Investment in black-founded companies fell 63% in the second quarter of 2022, even though overall investment only fell 23%. Bloomberg

Tech companies laying off workers are making a “big mistake,” according to the report. Danny Allen, CTO at software company Veeam. Such layoffs, he argues, negatively affect the brand, which will continue to exist long after the short-term pay cuts. (Condition’Paige McGlaughlin says the same in this piece (a detailed description of the long-term consequences of mass layoffs.) Business Insider

– Entry-level employees at Wall Street firms share TikTok content about their work lives. Although most are careful not to reveal the names of their employers, it still creates a conundrum for banks who have long valued privacy and privacy. Their solution? Launch your own TikTok accounts. So expect to see Goldman Sachs doing the latest dance challenge. Bloomberg

Water cooler

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Best friends… not forever. Employees with friends in the office are more likely to be productive and have fun at work, according to a Gallup survey. But as workers distance themselves both physically and emotionally, creating stronger barriers between their work and personal lives, they become less likely to form long-lasting friendships in the office. —Chloe Berger

Act your salary. The term “quiet opt-out” is trending and has received some backlash. Many see the phenomenon as simply setting healthy work boundaries, and in a Reddit thread, users are finding new terms for what they see as a necessary separation of work and personal life. —Joe Constance

Not so sweet dreams. A bad night’s sleep actually can leads to an increase in selfish behavioraccording to an article published in the journal PLoS Biology. The study found that losing even one hour of sleep made people less willing to help others, including family and friends. The next time your coworker is being selfish, they might just need a nap. —Chloe Taylor

Endemic of COVID. Dr. Anthony Fauci said that COVID probably will “rather an endemic situation in the US until he retired in December. This can give talent leaders more ammunition to bring employees back to the office. —Nicholas Gordon

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