One in five employees are feeling lonely at work, exacerbated by more people remote and hybrid working. So what’s to be done? John Nicklin, MD of Sorce, believes that company-wide intranets have a crucial role to play.
Every human has a need to belong, and belonging is a potent force at work, improving productivity, employee tenure and wellbeing. However, when the workforce is scattered, nurturing a sense of belonging comes with its challenges, and some may even question whether it’s possible.
In fact, every employee, regardless of whether they’re office or home-based, can be made to feel part of a caring workplace community. You just need the right technological platform, such as a modern intranet, and an understanding from the leadership team that investing time and effort into strengthening belonging is key.
So why is an intranet such a powerful enabler of ‘community’?
To start with, it links everyone to organisational purpose, helping employees to feel part of a meaningful cause and vision. Whatever the purpose, it can be communicated and reinforced throughout the intranet – on the home page, across the news sections, in blogs, on podcasts, when highlighting charitable initiatives, and so on.
The intranet also supports transparency which is key to growing trust. By using the intranet to keep everyone quickly and easily updated with the same information at the same time, this avoids misinformation and confusion. And a culture of transparency is further supported by having an open platform for discussion, including allowing employees to have direct access to the leadership team, perhaps through monthly webinars or Q&As.
Strengthening workplace relationships is just as possible at a distance as it is face-to-face with the intranet a facilitator of collaboration and social interactions. After all, a sense of belonging requires feelings of camaraderie. So the intranet can become a social hub in which colleagues can share birthday messages, recipe ideas and film recommendations, all with the intention of strengthening bonds and keeping the ‘human’ in hybrid working.
And when people feel valued and appreciated on a daily basis, these bonds are further strengthened. The intranet is an important tool for giving and receiving staff recognition, with the connections sparked by peer-to-peer appreciation often evolving into powerful working partnerships and friendships.
However, all this is only possible if everyone is given access to the intranet, not just those with a laptop. So field workers must be able to easily upload content and give feedback on their mobile phones. And every employee must feel a part of the discussions, which means shining lights on underrepresented groups, perhaps inviting blogs from minority groups and highlighting what the company is doing to be more inclusive.
Ultimately, everyone must be given a voice and be allowed to use it, encouraging employees to value what each person can bring to the table and advocating for everyone’s voice to be heard. The intranet provides an invaluable platform for discussions, opinions and feedback, and organisations that encourage everyone – from the warehouse operatives through to the top sales people – to have a voice, will have the greatest chance of nurturing belonging.
A feeling of true belonging doesn’t just ‘happen’ when you join a company (and is even harder to achieve if hybrid or remote working). Belonging is wrapped-up in feeling accepted, understood and a part of a caring community. And it must be carefully cultivated. To achieve this at a distance requires a central, agile IT platform such as an intranet that reinforces workplace culture; brings people together; and ensures everyone is included, given a voice and connected to the same meaningful purpose.