June 12, 2020
Fewer than one-third of UK employees feel a sense of belonging
Just 32 percent of UK office workers feel as though they completely belong within their company, despite this being essential in order for employees to feel motivated and loyal, according to new research. Over a third claim they have no bond with their employer at all.
The research claims that men are the least likely to feel as though they truly belong, with just 31 percent feeling a sense of community, compared to 34 percent of women. However, the statistics are incredibly low for all workers. This is a significant issue for UK employers and one that is only set to worsen as millions of workers across Britain remain furloughed or working remotely, creating even more distance between them and their employer and thus increasing the risk of employee disengagement.
The research, which was conducted on behalf of MyKindaFuture, amongst UK office workers and HR decision makers, suggests that having a sense of belonging within a company is more vital to British workers than ever before. Whilst salary remains the number one work-place perk for UK office staff, with 70 percent of workers flagging this as key, other emotional benefits were also found to be incredibly important.
Being valued came in second with 47 percent claiming this is vital in the workplace, closely followed by getting on with colleagues (43 percent). These cultural attributes are now far more important than many of the monetary incentives traditionally favoured by employers, overtaking the likes of subsidised gym membership (4 percent), office parties (5 percent) and health insurance (10 percent).
A sense of community
The study suggests the significant impact cultivating an improved sense of community can have on retention and engagement. 57 percent of people agree that they are more motivated in the workplace when they feel as though they belong. Almost half of workers also feel more engaged, more likely to work hard and more loyal towards a company when they feel a sense of belonging.
“Even for those that do feel as though they belong it has taken an immense amount of time for this to be achieved”
In fact, as many as 80 percent of those who don’t feel a sense of community within their workplace are considering leaving their jobs within the next 12 months. What’s more, this is already happening, with almost one in 10 workers citing ‘not fitting’ in as the reason for leaving their last job. The research also suggest the importance of nurturing a sense of community when it comes to attracting the best and brightest talent. Shockingly, just 25 percent of employees are currently highly likely to recommend their employer to a friend.
For the minority of people who feel as though they do now belong within their company, it was a slow process. It took an average of five months for these workers to feel comfortable in their role, with over 20 percent stating it took more than six months. Some even suggested it took as long as a decade before they felt as though they belonged. This is perhaps no surprise given the fact that over a quarter of companies don’t begin building a relationship with an employee until after they have started working at the organisation.
Will Akerman, Founder and Managing Director at MyKindaFuture, commented: “It is clear from the findings that a lack of belonging is a huge issue amongst UK employees. This will, inevitably, be negatively impacting staff engagement, retention rates, and most likely the company’s bottom line”.
Moving to include
Of the HR decisions makers researched, the majority recognise that a sense of community is a problem within their organisation, with just 37 percent claiming that their employees feel as though they belong.
Yet, despite the scale of the problem, just 40 percent of HR heads believe that their organisation is currently working hard to encourage a sense of inclusion or any form of change, according to the research. In addition, a quarter of businesses are still choosing not to discuss the issue at board level.
It is undeniable that some companies are taking steps to try to improve their employees’ sense of community, suggesting that progress is being made. Flexible working, regular catch ups with line managers and team bonding sessions were found to be the most common strategies put in place.
However, the results suggest that there is still a lot of work to be done. For example, just half of those surveyed agree that their employees are encouraged to express their opinions freely, despite many office workers flagging this as a key factor in helping them to build a positive relationship with their employer.
Another factor, suggested by the research found to help employees build a relationship with their organisation was mentoring schemes, with over 50s most likely to prefer face-to-face programmes, and 16-24s often opting for online tools. Digital solutions designed to support staff are also favoured by those returning to the workplace after a period of time away for parental or long-term sick leave, with one in 10 agreeing that online platforms played a key role in making them feel valued when they returned to the workplace.