Abraham Maslow, famous psychologist, made it very clear in the Hierarchy of Needs, that humans cannot achieve a higher level of existence or performance until the previous level of needs are met. The need for physical security being the base must be met before a person can advance; psychological security is next, followed by “belonging” (aka, community).
Sirota studies on engagement point out that one of the three key factors in creating and maintaining an engaged and enthusiastic workforce is “camaraderie at work” (aka, community).
Without belonging, community, feeling a part there can be no high level performance or outcomes. Clearly, as leaders we must strive to help people feel that they belong to something, to a family, to a company. Even the etymology of the word company (companion) speaks to the function of giving people a place they can call “their own.”
Building community is hard enough when you are together. When you are remote, it’s incredibly difficult to build and reinforce; however, it can and must be done.
Language is a part—using phrases like “we” and “us” and “our” instead of “me” and “I.” Swag—shirts, mugs, trinkets—helps. Constant communication is required and the use of video conferencing (using Zoom, Teams, GoToMeeting, et al) instead of emails or just phone calls makes a difference. Online fun and celebration contributes; when a longtime employee retired earlier this year, we surprised her with a team Zoom call that she thought was just a team meeting but was really dedicated to sending her off with love. Curated company news sources that keep people informed about the business are fine but a site or internal social media (like Yammer) that includes personal updates is best.
There are many other ways to build a sense of belonging. Can you add your ideas?