Beyond Lunch: 4 Ways to Fast-Track Belonging for New Employees

Coworkers shake hands and create a sense of belonging at work

Belonging at work may sound like the latest buzz word in corporate HR but consider that a recent study revealed that 88% of employees believe that increased belonging results in higher productivity. Additional research shows that increased belonging results in more motivated employees. Harvard Business Review reports that a high sense of belonging was linked to a 50% drop in turnover risk and a 75% reduction in sick days.

But most of us don’t need statistics to tell us that belonging feels good. Hearing a colleague greet us by name when we log into a virtual meeting or seeing a smile when we walk through the door can provide a happy dose of dopamine that lights up our brains in a way that matters.

It is fair to say that any employee hired during the past two-plus years has been at a disadvantage when it comes to creating connections with coworkers. Onboarding is a great time to wow new employees by introducing new technology upfront, creating an exciting onboarding schedule, and assigning a mentor. But the belonging journey does not stop there. Taking action to foster connection requires on-going attention.

While building trust and connection do take time, there are ways to fast-track connection. Inviting colleagues to lunch or dinner is a tried-and-true way to build a relationship but this requires planning and a budget.

Here are four free strategies anyone can use today to start making new employees feel like part of the team.

1. 1x1 Meetings

Creating face-to-face opportunities, whether in person or virtual, is essential for building trust and creating a sense of belonging. Many of us are familiar with virtual meetings for business but those meetings don’t necessarily help us build personal connections, especially with new employees. Take the time to invite new employees to informal meetups with the stated goal to get to know each other better. Setting a short time limit, such as 30-minutes, can help alleviate potential discomfort. If a 1x1 meeting feels a bit strained, start by inviting a small group of two or three people.

2. Recognition during meetings

One of the most underutilized strategies for building connection and belonging is verbalizing recognition in combination with saying an employee’s name. Recognizing a new employee in a group setting where stakeholders are present both amplifies their contributions and builds your immediate connection. This free and simple task is a powerful tool that can be used broadly and often.

3. Regular check-ins

Letting other people know you are thinking of them is a great way to build connection with new employees. A simple welcome email from the department manager or leader in the organization when an employee starts a new position is a classic strategy. To get even more value from this simple gesture, encourage other employees to send a welcome message sharing basic information including their name, role, and contact information.

Making a phone call to a colleague has become less common in the past decade as texting and email gained popularity. For this reason, picking up the phone makes a big impact. The benefits of making a phone call include the fact that you can be in any location and wearing athleisure!

If you are slightly tech savvy and willing to show your face, try recording a short asynchronous video using one of many platforms available these days (such as Loom or mmhmm). Asynchronous recordings can be viewed (and then deleted) at any time. The technology tends to be user-friendly so in a few minutes you can record a short personal message that will make a lasting impact.

4. Invitations and inclusion  

Veteran employees often forget how a small oversight can feel like purposeful exclusion to a new employee, especially in the early months of starting a new job. Make an effort to invite new employees, both in writing and verbally, to meetings, customer events, and even casual gatherings. Asking new employees to share their input and opinions is another no-cost way to make newcomers feel like they belong.

Conclusion: Building connection pays off

Most of us work harder when we feel personal connection and trust with our coworkers. Increased connection to others makes work a more satisfying experience. For more ideas on how to build connection and increase belonging in your organization, join this webcast featuring Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work and Brian K. Reaves, Chief Belonging, Diversity, and Equity Officer at UKG who will explore what it takes to create exceptional workplace experiences for everyone.