It’s no secret what’s been keeping business executives up at night: how to retain their top talent. Today, we’re calling it the Great Resignation. Just yesterday we were calling it the “War for Talent.” Retaining talent is, was and will always be a challenge, though the current work at home dynamic introduces an entirely new level of complexity.
A related problem is the rise in presenteeism (aka, “quiet quitting”), which is a particularly pernicious drag on productivity, as it’s often hard to detect and when it is detected, it’s often too late – the problem has been festering under the radar for months as the employee becomes increasingly disengaged and disaffected…soon to join the ranks of those flowing out the door.
The paradox of today’s world is that we’re more connected but feel less connectedness. We have tools to manage and coordinate the mechanical aspects of our work, but we lack the social connectedness that builds cohesive teams and brings purpose to our work. Half of all workers are disenfranchised. Greater connectedness – or belonging – can be the difference between valued employees who stay, grow and become influential leaders…and those who linger and leave.
It’s a big problem requiring a solution – indeed, a vision – that is not simply about retaining or even engaging top talent but cultivating a workforce (and the teams that comprise today’s workforce) that’s connected and all-in at every level – millennials and boomers, gig workers and senior management.
The focus on DE&I has only recently extended to “belonging.” There are several critical differences between the two, even though there’s a general lack of understanding where the lines are. We were fuzzy on this ourselves, but after speaking with – and interviewing on our podcasts – several I/O and behavioral psychologists about this topic, we’ve distilled it into several illuminating analogies: it’s the difference between being invited to the dance and asked to dance. It’s the difference between being on the team and being on the field and in the lineup, where you have agency and opportunities to affect the game’s outcome.
Belonging or an “all-in” culture begins with leadership being attuned to the needs and wants of the (hybrid/remote) teams they manage/interact with. It’s when team members are seen, heard, supported, and given opportunities, resources and tools to flourish and succeed…where they are invested in their work, in each other, and in the company mission.
Surveys indicate that more employees today prize flexibility, yet they also want to feel they belong – they want more freedom, yet they want more attachment. This doesn’t make sense until you realize that belonging is not about fitting in or team spirit, but having the freedom to be who you are, choose where you want to go, and having the support to get there. In other words, you don’t need to be hugged to feel embraced.
In a follow-up post, we’ll discuss what we’re calling “Quality of Engagement,” a model based on organizational network analysis (ONA) that tracks digital communications patters to determine levels of engagement, where it’s strong and weak, and how it can function as an early warning system for “flight risk.”