In a recent Carrington West LinkedIn poll, 97% of respondents said they wanted to feel a sense of belonging in the workplace. This is an overwhelming majority, and on the face of it, encouraging for employers who see the benefit of a highly engaged workforce.
However, it does present a challenge, especially in this era of hybrid and remote working, or if you have a high number of transient contract workers. How exactly is the best way to bring people together to create that sense of belonging? Can you achieve the same results remotely? And how do you measure success?
These are just some of the questions we posed to our own HR Manager, Emily Christmas. In 2022 Carrington West proudly achieved Investors in People status, and not only did we win UK Employer of the Year, we also won an award for our engagement strategy.
“There is no one single thing that you can do as an employer that will make every colleague feel they belong. You need to have a strategy that covers the key areas that contribute to someone’s sense of belonging including learning and development, mentoring, flexible benefits as well as running an engagement programme that gives everyone an opportunity to build trust in their teams.”
In our poll, 41% of employees said they thought offsite activities were the most effective means of building team cohesion whilst 38% felt company hosted social events were key. Emily says
“I am not surprised by these figures as it is much easier to belong when you are all physically together, and away from the stresses and strains of your everyday roles. We do this through our all staff training, where we get the whole company in the same room, normally in a nearby hotel, and invite world-class guest speakers to speak on a range of topics relevant to our roles and business. But it is also important to not underestimate the importance of providing the opportunity to relax and have non-work related time for people to interact on a more personal level – if they want.
Over the years we have evolved our offsite/social engagement plan to accommodate a variety of needs and preferences. For example, when the company was smaller and the workforce less diverse, there would have been a focus on nights out in the pub or at restaurants. Whereas now we have a calendar of events that can appeal to everyone. There is less importance placed on alcohol, we look at activities that are accessible and inclusive, we change the time and location so as to not exclude people with regular out of work commitments.”
The recruitment industry is notoriously sociable, with most companies offering frequent social events, or sales rewards based on teams enjoying themselves together in social situations. This is not necessarily the norm in other sectors, like the ones many of our clients operate in. Budget for engagement activities for example, could be a challenge. Emily adds
“Engagement activities don’t have to be expensive, one of our most well attended and highly valued activities last year was a charity quiz we hosted in the office at the end of the day!”
Perhaps the most surprising statistic to come out of our poll, was the low number of respondents who were aware of how their organisation measures engagement. As a company we are passionate about feedback as a means to make improvements in all aspects of our business. For engagement specifically Emily says,
“Collecting feedback is really important, otherwise how else do you know what is working? We use a daily pulse survey app. By collected feedback on a continual basis we can take the heat map style results and see if we have dips in our overall engagement, or if we have teams that have 'cracks' in their cohesion appear. We also use it to collect specific feedback on events we run, whether it is training, reward orientated, charity based or social. This data is invaluable in helping us maintain a healthy, happy and positive culture, where everyone does belong.”