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Workplace Culture: Leading and Coaching to Develop Sense of Belonging

Hiring a diverse and inclusive team has proven to be an extremely successful approach for organizations. However, creating an environment where employees thrive and are empowered takes a lot of effort and determination. Creating a sense of belonging is critical and you cannot make employees feel like they’re part of the team if you’re not showing appreciation for their lives, backgrounds, and ideas. Coaching is a powerful way to influence and empower employees to create a sense of belonging for themselves, as well as others. It impacts how employees respond to, and interpret, situations.

Creating this feeling of belonging is as common as it is rare. An employee’s sense of belonging is shaped by layers of experience, ranging from family relationships, ethnicity, politics, and even workplace culture. Navigating these differences will indefinitely cause bumps in the road, along with misunderstandings and difference of opinions. It’s imperative to have strategies in place to combat workplace situations that hinder inclusion and feelings of belonging. This is where coaching comes into place. As I always say, your organization should be lead from the top down. Leaders shape the experience for a team.

Why is it Important to Create a Sense of Belonging in the Workplace?

Not having a sense of belonging at work can be extremely difficult for individuals, not to mention stressful and overwhelming. When an individual has the freedom to be themselves in their work environment, they tend to worry less about the relationships within the organization and can concentrate more on their job and tasks at hand. Leaders and coaches are essential to creating an environment where each individual employee feels like part of the team. Employees become more confident, persistent, and this in turn leads to better performance overall.

Organizations that invest in coaching or mentoring and commit to developing their employees benefit more than those that do not. A study from Gallup reports that engaged employees are over 30% more profitable and belonging plays a critical role in engagement. Inclusive leaders and coaches more often than not have high-producing team because they feel more supported and respected. Employees are empowered to make decisions, speak their mind, and collaborate more effectively.

How Can Coaching Improve Engagement?

Focusing only on diversity and inclusion isn’t enough to keep your employees engaged. Employees of all backgrounds need a seat at the table, as well as being heard, seen, and recognized for their contributions and efforts. According to a workplace study by EY, diversity and belonging is an expectation in the workplace. More than half of the respondents indicated that diversity is best represented in the workplace, and more than one-third of respondents feel their greatest sense of belonging at work. In 2020, a sense of belonging in the workplace became even more critical as more and more employees (and entire organizations) started working in remote and hybrid settings.

Coaching is one of the best ways to help leaders and employees develop inclusive behaviors, develop a culture of belonging, and assist employees to act in a way that helps their own and other employees’ sense of belonging. Coaching helps team members do their own internal analysis, so they feel more vital to, and included in, their teams. Coach your leaders and team members to speak up and consider checking in with employees who don’t seem to get a word in. Coaching, specifically, is a great tool that can help employees work through their anxieties and develop the confidence they need to be successful.

Steps to Coaching for a Sense of Belonging:

Coaching and training your team on diversity and inclusion is only the beginning. Belonging and attachment to fellow team members can often be a strong motivator, sometimes even more than salaries or benefits, especially for employees on the fence about their current workplace. Continuous training creates an ever-evolving workforce. Employees who practice skills continuously eventually excel in those categories, which also adds additional confidence and empowerment to collaborate and be more ingrained in an organization.

Create a sense of bellowing through these steps:

  1. Create a safe space. Coach your employees on knowing it’s ok to speak their mind and be honest about their struggles with regards to the workplace. Allow employees to feel included and important to create a better sense of belonging and appreciation. Allies prevent exclusion.
  2. Regularly check in on your employees. Employees and teams feel a great sense of belonging when their leaders check in with them, both on a personal and professional level.
  3. Give your employees a voice. Encourage your leaders and team members to speak up and voice their opinions. Give them a chance to be heard and seen.
  4. Celebrate accomplishments. Employees feel empowered and proud to work for organizations that have positive cultures where they can be themselves and are celebrated for it.
  5. Ask for input. Ask your employees feedback on how the organization is run, and what other ways you can foster diversity, inclusion, and belonging.
  6. Encourage networking and team building. Allow your team members and employees to take part in diversity and inclusion, wellness, or even co-ed sporting groups. It allows employees to learn about one another while not always focusing on the job only.

Refining Your Workplace Culture

As leaders and coaches, we need to have the ability and mindset to put standards and values into perspective for our employees. It’s the responsibility of coaches and leaders to support team members in understanding the why and how of an organization, including that organization’s best asset, the people. Yes, always work towards creating a diverse and inclusive workforce, but also create goals that are purpose driven. Coaching creates awareness and has invaluable impact on establishing a sense of belonging in your organization. Coaches and leaders alike must remember that awareness of self needs to be proven first before your team will follow. Active listening, powerful questioning, and the observations of leaders and coaches are formulated specifically to provoke more awareness of the thoughts and beliefs held by your employees. A sense of belonging is fundamental to your employees’ needs and will create a successful workplace where your teams want to share a common vision and goals.

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