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We measure OKRs, but what about a sense of belonging?

Talia King

We’re seeing the importance of belonging in the wider DE&I agenda expand, with more businesses beginning to examine how much their people feel like they belong and are accepted within the workplace community. But, despite the people behind a brand determining overall business success, where does belonging currently rank against other commercial objectives, such as OKRs and KPIs?

We know that with a diverse workforce comes increased innovation and competitive edge. Recent research found organisations in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity were 36% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile. But to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce, businesses must look beyond hitting hiring targets and examine their employee retention strategies. Without this sense of belonging, Connectr’s research found 80% of staff actively plan to leave their role within the next 12 months. Belonging must no longer be seen as a ‘nice to have’ – but a crucial driver behind a business’ commercial success.

Our research revealed just a third of UK office workers feel they belong within a company. With the biggest hiring crisis since 1974, businesses are now challenged with more job roles than candidates to fill them. And, to replace a lost employee, it can cost on average between 6-9 months salary. This outlines the compelling business case for firms to prioritise a People strategy with belonging at its core if they want to optimise productivity, retention, and their overall bottom line. 

However, for many organisations, the concept of belonging remains an ambiguous, immeasurable concept. With many HR leaders caught up in the day-to-day of prioritising OKR and KPI performance, belonging often falls to the wayside. But in such a precarious market, it’s time for a change in priorities. 

Exploring the pains and priorities of HR leaders, alongside the importance and commercial relevance of employee belonging, we developed The Belonging Index. This provides our partners with tangile measurement and benchmarking of employee belonging, and evidences the business case for implementing a proactive progression and retention strategy that optimises employee scores and flags any potential rehiring risks to HR teams. 

Tactically, Connectr’s Belonging Index is a technology with a self-reporting scale that employees are prompted to complete when they first join their organisation’s platform, and at various intervals during their mentoring programme. This indicates a sense of distance travelled and gives insight into how the organisation can meet employees’ needs. In order to reach statistical significance we need to gather a mass of these insights, but initial indications show that engaging with learning content and mentors have a positive impact on the feeling of belonging employees have towards their organisation. This backs the market data showing 94% of employees stay longer at a company that prioritises their learning and development. This data-led understanding of employee needs and requirements is essential in developing a People strategy that proves the business case.

This data measurement is key for building the foundations of an effective strategy. What more should HR leaders be doing to drive belonging?

1 – Enable and measure – Technology is key in the modern workplace to achieve at-scale impact without putting additional resource pressures on People teams. Whether this is through a HR platform, or using an online survey solution, create a system to measure your teams’ sense of belonging. This needs to be a clear and simple approach that requires minimal effort from them, but gives you the insight and data you need to learn. And make this a regular measurement, such as once per quarter so you can create a benchmark and act quickly should it flag any issues. 

2 – Communicate – Communicate why your employees’ sense of belonging is a priority within the business, so they are encouraged to take part in internal surveys. Ensure they understand the process, why it’s important and what you plan to do with the results. When you’re announcing business updates, belonging strategies and targets should be included as part of wider commercial goals – so everybody understands its importance. An EY survey found business leaders’ words and actions make up to a 70% difference as to whether an employee feels included. Ensure belonging is championed at all levels within your business.  

3 – Examine different diversity cohorts. Using data-led insights, explore any trends or differences between employee groups – whether its across ethnicity, gender, seniority, or department and optimise the employee experience you’re delivering to meet the needs of each group. This ensures your business can deliver an informed inclusion strategy that meaningfully creates a sense of belonging for all talent. 

4 – Leverage role models. Enable employees to connect with role models they can identify with to build their sense of belonging and envisage their future career within the organisation. In a mentoring setting, well-matched mentors see significantly better mentoring outcomes. These role models will enable effective communication, inspire career progression plans and give a safe space for employees to share their challenges and learnings. 

The modern workforce is seeing employee priorities changing. And with 41% of UK employees reporting a sense of belonging boosts their motivation to succeed, businesses must take note if they want to retain their most critical asset to success – and their competitive edge. 

With hybrid and remote working looking like it’s here to stay, implementing a digital solution can drive at-scale, human connection and belonging to engage, progress and retain the best and most diverse talent. Through leveraging technology, businesses are able to put belonging firmly on the agenda for measuring – and optimising – their commercial success. 

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