It is more important than ever for organisations to foster a sense of belonging in their employees. The feeling of belonging has become challenged over the past two and a half years as we’ve moved away from in-person interactions and found ourselves relying more on virtual meetings to stay connected with our colleagues.
HR and senior management must be aware of new demands when it comes to creating and sustaining a true sense of community within their organisations. This can be challenging in the era of hybrid working, whereby organisations are not only trying to increase the flexibility of working arrangements, but are also offering more remote working policies, which can decrease opportunities to experience the company culture in person when on the job.
We must embrace the fact that the typical idea of what we used to call a workplace no longer has any limitations. Instead, we can focus more on human needs and wants to stay healthy, productive, creative, social, and inspired. However, to address this, organizations need to combat three major challenges with remote and hybrid working:
Work is not just a job; it can also be the opportunity to have meaningful connections with other people. This can be the main reason why many people miss the office. Those who are eager to return to the office may experience a sense of belonging, or perhaps it is this sense of belonging that encourages them to return to the office in the first place. But what are employers going to do for those who can’t return, due to Covid or other personal reasons? If, aside from personal circumstances and constraints, people decide to remain at home or continue to work in physical distance from others, how can we truly cater to their need for meaning and purpose, and ensure that they feel included in the next chapter of the company’s cultural evolution?
Nurturing a sense of belonging while working from home is challenging. This should encourage discussions about what leaders need to improve upon to enable a relevant sense of community and culture while people are distributed and/or in different circumstances. People are, above all, social beings, and creatures of habit. But no matter how many virtual social gatherings we have added to our schedules, it doesn’t measure up to the real thing. People are longing for the connective tissue and social glue we once took for granted.
To elevate the importance of diversity, companies need to harness an inclusive culture where people feel valued and respected for their differences. Whether this is at work or in any other area of life people tend to gravitate towards what is simple and easy to understand. Therefore “culture fit” is a popular approach to hiring and promoting talent, it is a lot easier than diversity-inclusion-belonging. When you finally start to talk about the fact that diversity comes with a cost, things like hiring for culture add-on (ensuring that whoever joins adds something new to the team) rather than culture fit really come to life.
Letting Your Culture Evolve Naturally
The temptation to cling to the past is strong. However, external changes (such as a pandemic) force cultures to evolve. And when cultures survive in the face of external changes, the temptation is to add to them. However, each crisis gives way to a new version of the world, and just because a system managed to survive an actual crisis doesn’t mean there is no need to change it. It’s like a heavy smoker, drinker, or overeater who is hospitalized from a heart attack and manages to survive; the answer is not to smoke, drink, or eat more, but to change those habits. And changing habits involves replacing old practices with new ones, rather than relishing the opportunity to go back to the past.
In the wake of Covid-19, we need to figure out how to create a sense of belonging and community within organizations where fear and anxiety are replaced by flexibility, and freedom.
Although nobody knows what the future will bring, we can expect a wide range of approaches to making hybrid and/or remote working work for employees. In future, offices may play more of a collaborative and creative role for in-person encounters, and checking-in with colleagues for social interaction. No matter what approach your organisation chooses, it is vital to ensure your employees understand your rationale, and to evaluate what works, and what doesn’t, and to be ready to adjust accordingly.
Are performance and culture issues something you want to improve upon in your company? If so, book a free demo with one of our performance management experts today to see how Our Tandem can benefit your team and transform your performance management.