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Belonging Part 3: Three Ways to Measure a Sense of Belonging in the Workplace

Can belonging be measured? If so, how? Many people think of belonging as something achieved only through internal understanding. Yet it is more than just a feeling; belonging can be broken down, identified, observed, and put into practice. For example, the authors of What Does It Take to Build a Culture of Belonging? have developed a quantifiable definition of what it means to belong.

We belong at work when we are:

  1. Seen for our unique contributions
  2. Connected to our coworkers
  3. Supported in our daily work and career development
  4. Proud of our organization’s values and purpose

As such, efforts to understand, measure and increase a sense of belonging have real implications for a company’s bottom line and reputation.

This series began with a definition of belonging beyond the workplace. Part 2 examined challenges and solutions, while this part explores how to measure it and why it is critical for leaders.

Why Measure Belonging?

Measuring belonging provides insights into the nuances of this phenomenon. The authors of the report, Belonging Barometer: The State of Belonging in America, have noted that while friendship can bring togetherness, one can still feel belonging without relationships or strong ties. It is also possible to lack belonging, even with friends, if one’s social identity is not accepted.

So, leaders ought to gauge how connected their work teams feel. Those who feel they are part of the team or company tend to stay longer and show more enthusiasm than those who don’t. A sense of belonging encourages employees to be more engaged.

3 Ways to Assess for Belonging

1. Use a standardized assessment tool

Different disciplines have studied “belonging.” However, the Belonging Barometer is a standardized tool that provides a deeper understanding of it: a 10-item questionnaire that captures nuanced facets of belonging in various life domains. Questions are rated on a 1-5 scale. For example, “To what extent do you agree with the following statement: I feel emotionally connected to my company or organization.”

2. Check-in with colleagues regularly

This article in the Harvard Business Review details the findings of a belonging study. It revealed that simply asking how your coworkers are doing drives a sense of belonging. This one by Culture Amp offers best practices for taking pulse checks to assess how your colleagues feel about the working environment. Ask about their connection to others or learn about their sense of identity at work just by being curious and caring.

3. Conduct stay interviews

Stay interviews are invaluable for understanding why employees stay and what drives them away. When used well, interviews can improve your team’s retention rate.  From these conversations, you’ll gain a clearer sense of whether team members feel valued, recognized, and connected to the organization. And, most importantly, whether they feel a sense of belonging. It’s essential to make meaningful changes based on employee feedback. Failing to do so will only cheapen the process and disappoint your staff. Here is a great reference for learning how to conduct a stay interview courtesy of the Academy to Innovate HR.

Now that you understand the meaning of experiencing a sense of belonging and have learned how to measure it, are you equipped to make inclusion a central part of your leadership agenda?

 Be sure to stand by for part 4, the finale, where I’ll do a deep dive into the six signature traits of inclusive leaders to provide a framework for bringing belonging from theory into full practice. If you missed Parts 1 and 2 of my  Belonging series, you can check them out here and here.

Shakima “Kima” Tozay is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker whose government career spans over 15 years, beginning in the U.S. Navy. Kima has dedicated her career to serving the military community in various roles across diverse settings and agencies.  Her current position is as a Medical Social Worker serving Veterans. She is also a Social Work doctoral student at the University of Alabama. Kima is a Certified Diversity Professional (CDP®). She also holds certifications in Executive Leadership from Graduate School, USA, and a certificate from Stanford University in Leveraging Diversity and Inclusion for Organizational Excellence. Connect with Kima on LinkedIn.

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