This blogpost is part of the “Belonging is a mindset” blog series derived from my academic research on ‘internal communication and belonging in the virtual workplace’ for the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. The data from this study was collected from new hires who started their jobs in the middle of the pandemic and internal communication practitioners. This blogpost is part of the findings and results section.
Data shows that there are four elements that can make belongingness in the virtual workplace a possibility. It also shows that when the tangible structures of an organisation are eliminated, as we have experienced during the pandemic, those working virtually will have to overcompensate in other ways. Belonging in the virtual workplace setting is no longer about a place but about what makes up that place for individuals. It is about identification with the organisation itself and its people, mattering, being seen, and feeling cared for.
Employee interviews have shown that new hires need a supportive human network when starting a job. How can IC help?
New hires in the virtual workplace have a hard time making connections with colleagues and know the informal rules of the organisation especially when their line managers fail to onboard them properly. This shows that managers can benefit from training on how to onboard employees, inform them on organisational goals, and include them to be able to reach these goals.
Give them a buddy
Part of the onboarding process could be an organisation-wide buddy system and mentorship programme which internal communication can set up by creating a group of employee advocates where to pick employee buddies or mentors to pair with new employees.
Let ambassadors step in
Since advocates are also employees, new employees can relate and would not be afraid to ask questions while advocates give them a peek at the culture of the organisation. In return, this programme makes employee advocates feel important which gives new and current employees a sense of belongingness in their workplaces.
Employee ambassadorship is usually connected with employer branding and is IC territory (Backhaus 2018). By creating employee advocates who are willing to introduce the organisation to new employees, relationships beyond the core team can also be stimulated. This can put an end to silos and managers being the single hub to which new employees connect and identify.
The role of mentorship in creating a sense of belonging has also been studied and found to be related (Vinales 2015) since this provides new hires someone to copy on how they should act in their new workplaces (Filstad 2004).
In the next blogpost, let’s take a deep dive into teaming events and IC’s role in it.
- You will find a full list of references here.