As human beings, we want to belong. Post-pandemic research by McKinsey found that “not feeling a sense of belonging at work” was cited as one of the top three reasons for people leaving an organisation. So, how can a sense of belonging be created?
McKinsey loosely defines culture as “the way we do things around here”. People will want to belong if they feel that the way the company does things fits with the way they do things - but this feels quite superficial. A more substantial way of thinking about culture is through the lens of the values and purpose of the organisation. A recent KPMG study of younger workers had 82% placing importance on being able to link values and purpose with the organisation they work with.
When people can feel a personal alignment with values and purpose, they then feel a sense of belonging.
When talking to people about the culture in their companies, it is often perceived as something separate which is done to them. When we use the phrase “you are the culture”, people often react with surprise. Culture is not created by the values on the wall behind reception, but rather by values and purpose being translated into action and demonstrated on a daily basis by those working within the organisation. If you want people in your company to live the values, there needs to be values alignment between that of the organisation and the individual.
Many years ago we worked with someone. Let’s call him James. James told us he was thinking of leaving his organisation because he just didn’t fit. The company had a value called ‘Drive’, defined by high energy and enthusiasm. James was a fairly quiet individual who struggled to relate to this value. He was good at his job and felt he was adding value, but culturally he felt uncomfortable. We worked with James to define his values, his unique character, energy and way of being in the world. He defined a value of his which he termed Passionate Positivity. Understanding this part of himself helped to show him that his ‘can do’ approach and passion for the customer experience was absolutely aligned with the company value of ‘Drive’. James stayed and became a rising star in the organisation.
Not everyone will be like James - sometimes values just don’t fit. But this was a clear example of values alignment creating a sense of belonging. In this case, the company values were clearly defined, but the individual could not find alignment, ultimately effecting his wellbeing. When company values are clearly expressed and manifested, it gives a framework for individuals to determine how they can bring their whole selves to work.
When individuals feel connected to company culture, they are more likely to stay. They are also more engaged, more productive and less likely to experience burnout. So, next time you hear: “If only we could get our workers to be more committed and motivated”, you know what to do!