The Power of Belonging, and Checking In

When people feel like they belong at work, they are more productive, motivated, engaged and 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their fullest potential, according to research at EY’s Center for Talent Innovation.

To better understand the emotional impact of belonging — and its inverse, feeling excluded — EY launched the EY Belonging Barometer study, which surveyed 1,000 employed American adults.

Here were some of the results of that survey:

  • more than 40% of those surveyed feel physically and emotionally isolated in the workplace. I would consider myself part of that 40%, and as I noted in a previous post, the blame is all mine.
  • the majority of individuals look to their homes first (62%), before their workplaces (34%) when it comes to where they feel the greatest sense of belonging. The workplace exceeds neighborhood communities (19%) and places of worship (17%). All of these numbers make sense to me; they seem to be directly related to how much time we spend with each group; the more time, the greater the sense of belonging.
  • More than half (56 percent) of respondents feel they belong most at work when they feel trusted and respected; 39% of respondents feel they belong most at work when they have the ability to speak freely and voice their opinion; 34%feel they belong most at work when their unique contributions are valued,
  • 39% of respondents feel the greatest sense of belonging at work when their colleagues check in with them, both personally and professionally. By reaching out and acknowledging their employees on a personal level, companies and leaders can significantly enhance the employee experience by making their people feel valued and connected.

I remember when I was a board member for a nonprofit and each meeting started with a “check-in”, which involved each member sharing what was new with them since the last meeting. At first, I thought it was a little odd, and I was surprised at how much personal info was revealed during the check-in. However, over time I learned to see the value in the check-in and became better at sharing more of myself with the group.

Given the power of the check-in, EY offers some tips on what makes for an effective check-in:

  • Seize the small opportunities to connect: Try to establish connections with your colleagues that communicate that you value, understand, and care about them. Be present, curious, and seize small daily opportunities to connect authentically.
  • Check bias at the door: Check-ins are a time to listen to another person’s perspectives, not to debate or persuade. If someone shares something that you don’t understand or agree with, you might consider acknowledging their point of view or asking them to tell you more.
  • Assume positive intent: Start any conversation with your colleagues believing that those talking or listening mean well, especially when it comes to difficult issues. Sometimes you might fumble through these topics, but assuming positive intent will help you pause, ask clarifying questions, and connect in a more meaningful way.
  • It’s OK to be vulnerable: Seek feedback from your colleagues, especially those who are junior to you. Demonstrate your trust in them through the way you communicate and act on their feedback.
  • Be consistent and accountable: Be transparent and model consistent, inclusive behavior, even under pressure or during difficult conversations. Expect, reinforce, and reward the accountability of others.

So perhaps more firms could model the behavior of the nonprofit, and start their meetings with a check-in. It may be that what takes place during the check-in could be the most important part of the meeting.

*image from Mental Floss