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Why Team Belonging Matters – And How Managers can Get Involved

Two colleagues working together

A person experiences true belonging when they feel accepted for who they are, recognized for their unique contributions, and connected to people and purpose. In the workplace, belonging and culture are totally intertwined. When a person feels they belong on the team, they are more likely to feel engaged, productive, and to put in the extra effort to cultivate a positive environment for themselves and others.

While the presence of belonging is foundational, the absence of belonging is just as impactful. A lack of belonging can usually be seen through increased apathy or isolation in team members. Decreased belonging is generally correlated with low levels of employee engagement and performance. Unsurprisingly, people perform worse on teams where there is a lack of communication or respect among team members.

How can managers improve their team’s belonging?

Managers typically play multiple roles on a team, including leading, motivating, organizing, and encouraging direct reports towards success and goal accomplishment. High levels of team belonging is great for the entire team, as the environment is more conducive to collaboration, communication, and ideation.

Below are a few ways managers can improve their direct reports’ sense of belonging, ultimately creating a more rewarding and fulfilling experience for the team.

Create an inclusive environment

Managers can improve belonging by creating a psychologically safe environment for their teams through articulating a strong vision that includes everyone, being open to and providing constructive feedback, openly and regularly reflecting on shared goals and purpose, and motivating others based on their strengths. Inclusion is key to making your employees feel that they belong, are valued, and are taken seriously. 

Give employees an opportunity to work together

A team that connects both during and outside of work is more likely to feel a strong sense of belonging. Frequent collaboration among direct reports and between teams encourages knowledge sharing and coworking, and more casual interactions, like lunch outings or happy hours, can foster group cohesion. It can be tricky to get all members together for this kind of stuff, but it nudges them to develop interpersonal relationships beyond the confines of the office.

Praise people publicly and privately

While it’s important to praise people in front of their peers, it is even more important to praise people in private. Acknowledging people’s accomplishments and telling them how their work positively impacts the company is an excellent way for managers to improve team members’ sense of belonging.

Schedule one-on-one time

The most powerful way managers can improve their team’s belonging is by meeting with them one-on-one on a regular basis. These meetings are an opportunity for managers to strengthen their relationships with direct reports by creating the space for mentorship, performance-related conversations, and project-oriented discussions. They’re also a great way for managers to get to know their direct reports on a deeper level.

Create an culture of open communication

It is human nature to avoid difficult conversations. When managers create a culture of open communication, it makes employees feel like they can speak up about things without worrying about being judged, making them more likely to take smart risks. Managers should model open communication by providing constructive, timely feedback, encouraging debate when it could spark creativity, and creating space for different personalities to shine in group settings. 

Foster team belonging with Vityl

Backed by leading research, we focus on empowering leaders and employees with recommendations and resources to grow individually while building culture together. As employees engage in new actions and achieve culture goals, employers realize stronger retention and performance. Check out your My Belonging page for more nudges to help you foster belonging on your team.

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