Cultivating and maintaining a highly-skilled, motivated, engaged, and committed workforce remains paramount in the constantly changing workplace. The result is a three-way win. The organization, its management, and the employees all benefit from being part of a thriving, successful operation. When individuals at all levels can honestly and openly proclaim, “I have meaning in my work,” I have a voice here,” and “I feel safe here,” a culture of Belonging is showing up!

So we dedicate enough dialogue to the crucial aspect of valuing what employees bring every day? Maybe not. Consider the vast diversity within our teams. Everyone carries a distinct blend of experiences, perspectives, cultural backgrounds, and personal relationships. Unless we provide ways for them to open up and share, have a voice, and be genuinely included, we are missing a vast amount of input and ideas that could be the ingredients for taking us to greater performance levels. Inclusion is a foundational element for creating workplace belonging and leaning into that three-way win.

A second question to consider is whether we always show appreciation for their work and help them see how their contributions fuel us forward toward accomplishing the organization’s mission. When employees feel a part of the bigger picture, when they know how what they do every day fits into the overall plan, they can celebrate the successes and navigate the challenges together. Tasks and assignments offer greater meaning. Engaged employees can experience the second foundational element of Belonging by having meaning in their work.

A third question to consider is whether employees feel they can openly express their concerns with you. There are multiple stories in the media of incidents where employees held back information that could have prevented serious missteps or even dangerous situations because they feared the negative impacts of speaking up. Creating an environment where employees feel free to share issues and concerns means embracing the third element of Belonging, Psychological Safety, which drives the statement, “I feel safe here,” When employees can speak up, question, disagree, and discuss issues openly without concerns about potential negative impacts, the third element of Belonging falls into place. Joined with Inclusion and Engagement, Psychological Safety brings us closer to that three-way win.

So, two final questions arise. Can we genuinely engage individuals who do not feel a sense of Belonging? Can people feel included if we lack a deep understanding of who they are and fail to embrace them exactly where they are?

So, how do we effectively show our appreciation for our employees and what they have to offer?

Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Reflect on Your Biases and Perspectives: Recognize any biases you may have towards individuals who differ from you. Observe how these biases influence your behavior in the workplace. Consider who you last promoted, who you might inadvertently overlook or not commend as frequently, and whom you genuinely listen to. Reach beyond the usual individuals to gather perspectives outside your views and perceptions. Understanding and acknowledging your biases is the first step towards fostering a more inclusive environment.
  2. Celebrate Diversity Through Discovery: Embrace and celebrate the diversity among your team members. Initiate conversations where individuals can share their experiences and backgrounds. Ask employees for ideas about how to best acknowledge and celebrate cultural traditions and practices in meaningful and respectful ways that help everyone learn.
  3. Map the Connections: In group meetings, map the connections between the team’s work and the organization’s mission and goals. Simple whiteboard drawings can be a powerful way to depict how the tasks and assignments team members complete fit into the larger picture.
  4. Value Simplicity in Recognition: Acknowledgment doesn’t have to be elaborate. Simple gestures can go a long way in making people feel seen and heard. Notice all your employees, introduce them to colleagues across different levels or functions, smile, and say ‘hello’ when you see them in the hallways or as they sign in to an online meeting.
  5. Invite Conversation: Open the door to candid conversations and exchanges about the team’s environment, what’s working and what’s not working, then listen, really listen. Then talk about ways to leverage what’s working and figure out together how to address what’s not working. If the environment has not welcomed differing opinions or open discussions of this kind in the past, it may take time to establish a dialogue, but it will be worth investing the time. When employees know they can have professional discussions and express their realities, a space of Psychological Safety begins to form.

Fostering a workplace where engagement, inclusion, and psychological safety are present is fundamentally about cultivating respect for one another. Respecting our colleagues should naturally stem from a genuine appreciation for our diverse backgrounds and perspectives. After all, fostering an environment where individuals feel they belong is not just a practice; it’s a mindset in action.

And who wouldn’t relish the opportunity to say, “I have a voice here,” “I have meaning in my work,” and “I am safe here.”?

What are you doing with your team to achieve a three-way win?