Creating a workplace where everyone feels valued, welcomed and respected is vital to an organization’s success, Keller Williams’ Julia Lashay Israel writes, and it doesn’t just happen overnight.

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Every savvy business owner recognizes that strong company culture is a competitive advantage. Benefits span from being able to recruit top talent to retaining current team members, influencing performance and increasing productivity.

But building a culture that no one wants to leave isn’t easy. Read on to learn about the core pillars of an inclusive culture and how you can leverage them as components to take your brokerage to the top.

1. Create strong mission, vision and values statements

Culture is unique to each organization, and it needs to be defined by your company’s purpose, mission, vision, and values and be aligned with your brand.

Mission, vision and values statements serve as the foundation for an organization’s culture. They convey the purpose or reason the organization exists, the direction it is going and the underlying values of the organization.

When developed and implemented in a thoughtful and deliberate manner, these statements guide the day-to-day operations of the organization, communicate to external stakeholders the core services the brokerage provides and motivate agents toward a common goal.

With these foundational attributes, people know what to expect when they choose to associate with you, and, as a leader, decision-making becomes easier as you can quickly see if your decisions fall in or out of alignment.

2. Create a sense of belonging

One of the most basic human desires on the planet is to feel like we belong. Belonging refers to a fundamental human emotional need for interpersonal relationships, affiliating, connectedness, and being part of a group or community.

Although social belonging is a fundamental human need, according to Harvard Business Review, citing Ernst and Young’s Belonging Barometer, 40 percent of people say that they feel isolated at work. This results in lower organizational commitment and engagement. U.S. businesses spend nearly $8 billion each year on diversity, equity and inclusion training and fail to address the need to feel included.

To fulfill the need of belonging, people need to have a minimum number of enduring, meaningful relationships in their lives that they value and appreciate. It’s important to feel like we’re part of a social group that embraces who we are, rather than feeling a need to hide aspects of our life and identity.

You can create a sense of belonging by:

  • Welcoming interest or affinity groups: Interest or affinity groups are groups that link people with similar backgrounds, experiences, and interests and provide a place to experience business and social inclusion and belonging.
  • Using inclusive language: Inclusive language is communication that proactively uses words, phrases and expressions that are welcoming. Where possible, avoid assumptions that may exclude people.
  • Prioritizing meaningful connections: Meaningful connections in the workplace foster an inclusive environment where diverse perspectives are valued, collaboration is enhanced, and team members feel respected and supported.

3. Build and cultivate psychologically safe environments

Psychological safety is the belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up, sharing ideas or raising questions, concerns or mistakes. Psychologically safe environments allow agents to be themselves, show up as themselves, ask questions, disagree, obtain/give feedback, and speak up if they see or hear something concerning.

Creating an open dialogue is the best asset in building an environment that helps agents feel secure, accepted and supported. Allowing your agents to bring up any issues respectfully can help address problems that they’re noticing in the company structure or culture and challenge the status quo.

They may even come up with innovative ideas to suggest a new path. This allows leadership to swiftly provide solutions. Rather than brushing issues under the rug, you and your team will be tackling them head-on to create an inclusive company culture.

4. Employ shared decision-making

Team members and agents need to feel like they belong to something they value — and that they have the power to bring about change when it’s needed.

Shared decision-making is a process that draws on the combined knowledge of many stakeholders (whether that’s members of your team or other leaders) to make smarter, more effective decisions.

While powerful, shared decision-making doesn’t have to be centered on a formal format. You can bring more of it to your organization by simply asking where you could better engage your team members for input. Because you’ve already created a psychologically safe environment, agents will feel comfortable sharing their ideas and bringing fresh perspectives.

5. Recognize and reward team members for their contributions

According to Gallup, about half of the workforce is actively seeking other jobs. The good news is that 42 percent of workers who quit last year said their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving.

Recognition is an essential part of making team members feel valued in the workplace. According to Gallup, only 23 percent of employees strongly agree that the work they do receives the right amount of recognition. But those workers who do get recognition are four times more likely to be engaged.

Team member recognition refers to all the ways an organization shows its appreciation for an agent’s contributions. You can recognize agents for a number of things like:

  • Achievements
  • Exhibiting desired behaviors
  • Going above and beyond expectations
  • Milestones such as tenure

While monetary rewards are powerful ways to support and recognize agents, small gestures can go a long way in helping promote positive workplace culture, too.

You can do simple things like:

  • Create space for peer-to-peer acknowledgment at your team meetings
  • Extend opportunities for professional development and learning
  • Make it a point to give one word of acknowledgment to someone every day

6. Be a bridge to guide people toward their goals

Just like brokers know whether their company is on track to meet its monthly, quarterly and annual goals, each agent must know whether they are on track to meet their own goals.

Help agents set goals by sitting down with each person and asking them what their goals are.

Here’s how you can also be an effective champion for someone as they journey toward their goals:

  • Discuss their values, aspirations and how they fit into the organization
  • Provide a level of accountability by consistently meeting and providing coaching
  • Make sure to place the focus on progress, not perfection

Creating a workplace culture where everyone feels valued, welcomed and respected is vital to an organization’s success, and it doesn’t just happen overnight. Understanding and adhering to your values, allowing space for authentic conversations and expressing care for the agent’s goals will take intentionality.

Workplace cultures that easily retain agents and keep businesses thriving take time — and it’s worth it.

As the head of inclusion and belonging for Keller Williams Realty International, Julia Lashay Israel advises, trains and coaches leaders, team members and agents to recognize and address diversity, equity and inclusion opportunities and challenges across the organization.

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