Perceived organizational belonging is the feeling by employees and managers that they are accepted and respected for who they are and that what they have to say enhances productivity and an employee’s intent to stay with the organization. A Temple University study identifies four OB scales Myself, Acceptance, Diversity Valued, and Connection that organizations can use to gauge OB among their people and create targeted programs to address low organizational belonging.
With many companies facing increased challenges in attracting and keeping employees, employee engagement and commitment has become even more vital to organizational success than ever before. Recent research has emphasized the positive impact of “organizational belonging” (OB) on employee satisfaction and engagement. OB is defined as “experiencing an acknowledgment of one’s talents, interests, and experiences” and finding in the organization “whole acceptance of one’s self-expression of these.”
The challenge for leaders is to measure organizational belonging. A study by Temple University’s Fox School of Business, in collaboration with IT consultancy SWK Technologies, aimed to fill the gap by developing organizational belonging metrics enabling companies to accurately gauge employee OB.
After an exhaustive review of past research on organizational belonging, the research team created a survey package that included 27 survey items to measure OB attitudes and perceptions. These survey items took the form of statements, such as:
For each statement, survey respondents would indicate their agreement based on a 6-point response scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree).
These 27 OB survey items were combined in the package with survey items about productivity, intent to stay, position level in the organization, and various demographic factors (age, gender, race, religion, political scale).
The final piece of the package was a single, open essay-type item: ““In a few sentences, please describe what it is that makes you feel that you are a part of, or belong to, this company (what factors contribute to your sense of belonging here).”
The survey package was sent to 150 employees in a business technology company and 45 employees in an accounting firm.
In analyzing the results, the researchers deleted 9 items that overlapped with others. Through further statistical analysis, the researchers were able to group the remaining 18 OB items into four categories, which became four new Organizational Belonging scales:
The researchers then explored the correlation between the four OB scales and the two outcomes: productivity and intent to stay. They found that all four OB scale items positively impacted both productivity and intent to stay, with Be Myself having the most impact on productivity and acceptance having the most impact on intent to stay.
The data did reveal some marginally significant impact of demographic variables (gender, race, religion, political scale, and age) and organizational variables (organizational tenure and position level/role) on the four OB scales. For the demographic variables, the study showed that men tended to rate higher than women on the Acceptance and Diversity Valued scales, while Christians tended to rate higher than non-Christians on the Connection scale. For organizational variables, management tended to rate higher than non-management on Be Myself and Connection.
Correlating demographic and organizational variables to outcomes, the researchers found that non-management perceived themselves as more productive and had a higher intent to stay than management.
In sum, while the four OB scales can be marginally impacted by demographic and organizational variables, the study showed that the scales were distinct metrics that can be used to measure the level of organizational belonging felt by employees and managers of an organization.
Based on the study results, the researchers drew several important conclusions that can guide organizations in measuring and improving organizational belonging among their people.
Gary Blau’s profile at Temple Fox School of Business
Daniel Goldberg’s profile at Temple Fox School of Business
Diana Kyser’s profile at SWK Technologies
Organizational Belonging: Proposing a New Scale and Its Relationship to Demographic, Organization, and Outcome. Gary Blau, Daniel Goldberg, and Diana Kyser. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health (February 2023).
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