Amplifying Belonging in Global Corporate Cultures
Everyone wants to feel like they belong. Yet, according to a 2021 McKinsey & Company survey, 51% of employees who quit their job did so because they lacked a sense of belonging. And 46% cited a desire to work with people who trust and care for each other. So, how can corporate cultures foster the sense of belonging employees crave? In this episode of Cultural X, Host Michael J. Asquith asks Workplace Belonging Keynote Speaker Shelley Brown just that.
Below is a recap of our conversation on global corporate cultures, the great resignation, and how belonging can help curb it for organizations. Read on for Shelley’s key takeaways on what organizations can do and why belonging matters more than ever in today’s post-pandemic workplaces.
Table of Contents
W.E.I.R.D. vs. Human
Before the global pandemic, corporate initiatives to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (D.E.I.) were already well underway. And while supporting employees from diverse backgrounds is essential, it’s only part of the equation.
Everyone, regardless of background, is also an individual—with unique needs, abilities, and ideas. By honoring each employee’s individuality, organizations build trust and allow people to become the best version of themselves. Why? Because when people can be themselves, they feel valued, appreciated, and more comfortable sharing their ideas. It’s all about letting people embrace their “weird.”
Enter Shelley’s W.E.I.R.D. framework for corporate belonging. The acronym, which stands for Welcoming, Engaging, Integrating, Risk-taking, and Dynamic, is a great starting point for organizations to increase employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention.
Here’s a brief overview of each element:
Welcoming requires organizations to create an intentional, ongoing practice of hospitality. Employees who feel welcome will want to stay.
Engaging involves amplifying a sense of belonging by remaining curious about individual preferences, perspectives, and points of view. Employees want to feel as though they matter as individuals.
Integrating is all about seeing someone as a whole person without separating the human from the employee. People want employers who care about their well-being.
Risk-taking involves showing up in authentic ways. Take the risk of seeing each employee as a human and not an object of corporate success.
Dynamic relates to empowering and encouraging individuals to try new things and share new ideas in their way. Vibrant corporate cultures progress because employers care about each individual.
Keep in mind that curiosity is key when it comes to W.E.I.R.D. Nothing else amplifies feelings of belonging quite like it. Be curious about others—and your own biases and preconceived notions. Increasing your self-awareness will increase your openness to new ideas and perspectives.
The Role of Storytelling and Communication
While a framework is practical, determining how to apply it to the workplace can be challenging. However, one of the easiest ways to get started with W.E.I.R.D. is through storytelling. Everyone knows what it feels like when they belong—and when they don’t. You can start by sharing your own workplace experiences. By doing so, you’ll help create a space where people feel free to share.
You also need to find ways to incorporate employee feedback into the workplace. This doesn’t mean abandoning standards, but it does require respecting workstyle preferences. Introverts, for example, may prefer to work alone in a quiet space, while extroverts may prefer a lively collaboration. The trick is to find a balance between these preferences.
Keep in mind that this isn’t a one-and-done conversation with employees. An authentic culture of belonging requires ongoing communication. One way to do this is by scheduling short check-in sessions once or twice a month. Ask employees how they’re doing with work, if they’re struggling with anything, and whether they need more support to succeed. This is especially important when you work with remote employees, as it’s a great way to ensure they feel included.
Belonging in Global Corporate Workplaces
Now, if you work with global remote teams, it does add an extra layer of complexity.
Cultures differ when it comes to workplace norms, and it’s important to respect that. At the same time, make it clear that people are welcome to share their ideas and experiences in ways that they feel most comfortable. For example, if someone comes from a culture where top-down organizational structures are the norm, they may not feel comfortable disagreeing with leadership during a meeting. If this is the case, allow them to speak with you one-on-one or share their ideas over email.
Another challenge arises from the lack of a shared, physical workspace. You’ll need to create virtual spaces where people feel comfortable interacting. And don’t forget to make time for fun. Consider hosting virtual happy hours where employees can have casual conversations and get to know each other. Or play games where you ask funny questions or test each other’s trivia knowledge. It’s all about replicating a team environment.
The Great Resignation or Great Reconnection?
As the workplace continues to evolve, fostering a sense of belonging has become more critical than ever. More people are working remotely, resulting in feelings of disconnection, but they’re also re-evaluating what they want from work itself. People simply have less tolerance for jobs that don’t bring them fulfillment in this post-pandemic world.
Today, employees want more than a paycheck. They want value-alignment, benefits that promote well-being, and a role with purpose. The lack of these has primarily driven the Great Resignation, as an increasing number of employees leave their positions to seek them out.
Yet the pandemic has led to one significant positive—the opportunity to reorganize the corporate workplace to better meet people’s needs. Employees want to share opinions in a safe space and be valued for their differences. They want to connect with managers and co-workers on a deeper level. Shelley calls this desire “The Great Reconnection.” Increasing your employees’ sense of belonging will strengthen connections and reduce the risk of mass resignations. And in return, employees will help you drive creativity, innovation, and revenue!