As human beings we have a basic need for being part of a system. In the context of Maslow’s hierarchy, given that the physiological and safety needs are being met, love and belonging provides the basis of the next level need. From the moment of our birth we are part of a family and then this evolves into neighborhoods, friends, school mates, church affiliations, sports teams, etc. All of these directly or indirectly provide a feeling that others care and that we are part of something bigger than just ourselves. It’s called community.
Some of the characteristics that emanate from this sense of community are commitment, trust, motivation, teamwork, being valued and the list goes on. This sounds very familiar with the aspirations of many workplace organizations but to describe them as communities and refer to it as love and belonging might seem a strange vernacular.
One of the fundamental differences between the types of communities mentioned initially and the workplace is that in the latter people are financially “compensated”. The word compensation is described in the Webster Dictionary as “something given or received as an equivalent for services, debt, loss, injury”. So implicit in this is that you are sacrificing something, perhaps your time, skills, talent, etc in exchange for money or some tangible reward. But this doesn’t build community in the workplace; it’s just the price of entry.
So here comes the rub. Going back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, compensation is part of the basic fundamental physiological need; it’s what allows us to survive: it helps to provide shelter as well as feed and cloth our families. However, much more can be achieved by also addressing the next level need – creating a highly engaged environment aka, a community. That’s what Zappos and Google do; they have transformed their organizations into their own unique communities where employees feel a sense of love and belonging, even though these words are perhaps not used. As a result turnover is low, productivity is high, innovation is outstanding, customer service is king and profits continue to soar.