As the pandemic continues on with the surge of the delta variant, there are no signs of the “Great Resignation” slowing down. Fifty-five percent of Americans anticipate looking for a new job over the next 12 months, according to one study conducted in August. Companies continue to struggle to retain talent because leaders don’t understand the real reason why people are resigning.
According to a recent McKinsey study, one of top reasons people are resigning has nothing to do with compensation, work–life balance, or mental health. One of the top reasons people have resigned is they didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work. And those employees from historically marginalized communities are more likely to say they left because they didn’t feel like they belonged in their organizations.
It’s not the Great Resignation; it’s the “Great Awakening.” Individuals are waking up to the realization that they deserve to be in organizations that respect and support them. Many leaders are busy chasing diversity, equity, and inclusion goals, and wanting to increase the diversity of representation on their teams. Yet those same leaders must be equally focused on ensuring all individuals feel like they have a place in their organizations.
Here are three questions leaders must ask themselves to ensure that individuals feel like they belong at their organizations:
Are you consistently focused on building community?
It has never been more important to be intentional about building community across your organization. A sense of community is key to belonging, and a key driver of retention. Be consistent with all company and team gatherings where you share updates and ensure people feel like they are part of the mission. Talk about your organization’s failures and struggles, and celebrate the big and small wins. Make everyone feel like they own a piece of the mission to deepen engagement and commitment.
Ensure new employees feel a connection to the company, in particular if they are onboarding virtually or are the only Black or brown talent on the team. Pair new joiners with current employees and encourage them to build work friendships. Help facilitate introductions to employees in other parts of the organization. If you have employee resource groups, this can be a good place to start to find community. According to a recent study from employee experience platform Eko, people are 10 times more likely to stay in a job if they have work friends, even if they are offered more money elsewhere. So don’t underestimate the importance of friendships and a sense of community in deepening belonging.
How are you supporting colleagues during moments impacting their communities?
Our colleagues of color continue to not only battle the pandemic, but are living in a racism pandemic. According to the American Psychological Association, racism is associated with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as contributing to development of cardiovascular and other physical diseases. Ensure that your organization is acknowledging and discussing events impacting Black/African American employees, Asian American team members, colleagues from Afghanistan, veterans, and other communities. Let them know that you see what is unfolding on our screens and in our social media feeds.
Offer access to one-on-one counseling and group sessions to support colleagues and let them know your organization stands with them as an ally. Modern Health is a mental health platform offering resources that are accessible, personalized, and culturally centered. They offer Circles that are designed to be spaces to collectively learn, grow, and connect across topics including “Healing Asian Communities” and “Healing Black Communities.” Modern Health has also designated a number of their sessions free to the public, led by top therapists and coaches who specialize in the areas they support.
Do you check in consistently to see how people are doing?
Leaders must ensure they spend dedicated weekly one-on-one time to check in on how employees are doing. One on ones are one of the most important tools at a leader’s disposal to ensure employees feel seen, heard, and feel like they have a place on your team. Be sure to prioritize this valuable time to connect with employees.
Don’t spend this time simply reviewing deliverables and progress on projects. Do spend this time checking in on how they feel about working at your organization, particularly if they are the only Black or brown talent on the team. Ask them what you can be doing specifically to support them and create an environment where they feel like they are part of the team.
Finally, ask employees why they choose to stay. Ask them what would make them leave. Be prepared to hear something you might not like or might disagree with. And be prepared to take accountability and action on how you and the organization can ensure they feel like they can belong. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when they walk out the door. Because in this Great Awakening, individuals are now demanding to work in organizations where they are respected and supported, and where they feel like they belong.
Mita Mallick is a diversity and inclusion leader. Currently, she is the head of inclusion, equity, and impact at Carta.