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How Employee Belonging Cultivates Company Culture

As research shows an increase in negative company culture, businesses can and must harness the power of belonging.

As world events have forced many to rethink the way we live and work, research shows that employees are experiencing negative company culture. With so much change in the air, companies can harness the power of belonging to cultivate a culture that prioritizes the authentic employee.

How Negative Company Culture is Impacting Employees

New research shows that many companies are falling short of delivering company culture. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically shifted the way we work, while cultural events such as the Black Lives Matter movement have shifted the way we think about inclusion and belonging. Companies and their employees have shared how it’s impacted them.

HR compliance and data analytics company Emtrain received anonymous employee sentiment responses to their surveys from 40,000 employees at more than 125 companies, finding a 10% decrease in employees saying that "there are well-understood norms of behavior governing how people treat each other in their workplace." Additionally, there was a 15% decrease in the likelihood that employees would say "no" to an inappropriate request from a manager, and a 7% increase in people having to minimize their personal identity to fit in.

Employee experience research from Topia showed that 1 in 4 employees say they must hide parts of who they are in order to fit in at work. Among HR respondents, 44% say they feel the need to keep their personal beliefs private. Research on employee belonging from a survey of 3,711 college-educated professionals conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation found that in the workplace, Asian women respondents felt the least sense of belonging, scoring just below Black women, while 32% of Black employees, 23% of Asian employees and 15% of Latinx employees said they have felt out of place at work because of their race or ethnicity.

What is Company Culture?

Call it company culture, organizational culture or corporate culture – the variety of elements that make up the culture of the workplace can be defined in many ways and take different shapes. Put simply, it’s the shared values, attributes and characteristics of an organization. It’s everything from the leadership structure to the way people interact, from the watercooler conversations to the company’s major goals. Sometimes it’s explicit, or it can be developed over time. Either way, it’s an essential component to any company.

Cultivating Belonging to Form Positive Company Culture

These negative trends indicate that companies can and should be doing better to build a sense of belonging. When employees lack that sense of belonging, it has major implications for job performance and retention. Focusing on employee belonging has led to a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover, and a 75% reduction in sick days, according to research from BetterUp.

With these factors in mind, some companies may need to better define or even alter their company culture and how they drive it. Whether in the form of Diversity & Inclusion efforts, workplace training on harassment, employee engagement efforts that strengthen bonds, or a renewed set of values that the company applies to its work from the top down, belonging can be cultivated and maintained. Doing so allows employees to bring their authentic selves to work every day, helping to build and preserve company culture along the way.

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