The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “welcoming” with terms such as comforting, inviting, desirable, hospitable, kindly and personable. If you’ve ever walked into a party where you don’t know anyone and after about an hour, you realized you didn’t want to leave, you either met an old friend that you really like or there’s a good chance the host did a great job at making you feel welcome.
The power of feeling welcome
Organizations have the power to do the same thing. Smart organizations realize that their most valuable resource is their staff, so they invest in a work culture that makes every employee feel welcome.
We’re using the example of a house party here but it’s easy to see how these “welcoming” behaviours easily transfer to a welcoming work culture. Whether you’re welcoming new employees to your workplace culture, or you’ve recently updated your culture and you’re helping employees to adapt to the changes, these tips will help to ensure that you’re creating a culture that says, “you’re welcome here.”
Six welcoming tips
1. Positivity: Who wants to be at a party where everyone looks disappointed and unhappy? A warm smile and accepting attitude can go a long way to making someone feel good about being there. Find ways to encourage friendliness and laughter in your workplace. As stated in a Forbes.com article entitled, How to Create a Positive Workplace Culture, by Dr. Pragya Agarwal, “A positive workplace culture improves teamwork, raises the morale, increases productivity and efficiency, and enhances retention of the workforce.”
2. Being prepared. Who doesn’t feel welcome when they arrive at a party and someone says, “Hi! Great to see you! What can I get you? We have these kinds of drinks and this kind of food over here and there’s plenty of different places you can sit and many different people to meet. Let me show you around.” That kind of introduction says, “We’re glad you’re here. We don’t want you to be lacking anything and you matter to us.” Employees enjoy the same treatment. Let them know that you care about their comfort. Provide them with all of the tools and resources they need to get started and/or to do their work. The best organizations study the needs of new employees so they’re sure to give them every single thing they can use on day one. Plus, they make sure that all of the material is easy-to-understand and brief. The result: your organization sends a clear message that they are professional and employees can count on them to be supportive and to do the right thing. That’s an unforgettable message.
3. Offer a mentor/guide: Would you stay at a party if you’re sitting alone? Probably not. Everyone feels less isolated when they’re introduced to other people at the party and they have at least one person who’s there to help or chat with them if they need it. Welcoming cultures ensure that all staff know that there is always someone who is there for them if they have any questions or feedback or if they just need support regarding their work. As stated by Ron Carucci in a Harvard Business Review article called, To Retain New Hires, Spend More Time Onboarding Them, “Recent research reveals that 40% of adults report feeling lonely. This sense of isolation is amplified for new hires — who often feel like a stranger in a foreign land — and can increase their chances of leaving a job. Building relationships during their first year can help new hires feel less isolated and more confident.”
4. Being seen: Never underestimate the power of attention. When employees don’t feel seen, they cannot feel a sense of belonging. Show genuine interest in each employee’s work and personal experience in your workplace. Ask them which tasks give them the greatest satisfaction and what skills and abilities they would like to develop. Then, give them those experiences and training. They’ll never forget your investment in their workplace happiness, and they’ll pay you back ten-fold. As stated in an Inc.com article called, Want a Happier Workplace? Studies Say the Best Companies Do These 5 Things Every Single Day, by Marcel Schwantes, “What you’ll find in most happy organizations is a high commitment to growing their employees.”
5. Inform and include: When employees are excluded from meetings and not informed about workplace goals and strategies, it’s the equivalent of everyone whispering to each other at a party and one person being left out. Employees feel unimportant to the organization. To boost a sense of belonging, keep employees informed. Invite them to meetings and be sure to give them background information so they don’t feel as though they’re jumping in mid-stream without a paddle. Summarize what’s happened so far in plain language. Show them through your actions that you understand their “new” experience and you’re going to help to reduce the anxiety.
6. Being heard: Encourage feedback and ideas. Even if some ideas may not fit right away, show employees through active listening that you welcome their ongoing feedback and you want more. This tells them that they are valued for who they are and what they bring to the table and that’s huge. As stated in a Deloitte.com article called, Becoming Irresisitable: A New Model for Employee Engagement, by Josh Bersin,“Psychologist Daniel Pink writes that people are driven by “autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Individuals crave work that lets them leave a unique fingerprint on a finished product.” If employees are shown that their ideas and comments are considered in business decisions it gives them a great sense of belonging.
The benefits of belonging
When staff feel welcomed and valued in the workplace, it’s like rocket fuel: It can inspire them to achieve great things and that’s a win-win for the everyone.
As stated in a Psychologytoday.com article called, Feeling Understood Even More Important Than Feeling Loved by Leon F.Seltzer, Ph.D., “Feeling understood connects you to others, allowing you to feel welcome. Also, “If you feel understood, you’re not groping your way in the darkness. With others’ respectful willingness to recognize you and your intentions, you’re empowered to attempt, and accomplish, things that you otherwise might not be driven to do.”