I recently joined the Holmes Murphy team as a “Fraternal Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) Doctorate Intern,” and what I’ve found is so much connection between the “business world” and what I do as part of my main profession — a student affairs professional. Allow me to explain a bit.

Creating a Supportive Environment

As a student affairs professional, it’s my responsibility to create an atmosphere that is supportive and where students feel safe — no matter who they are, where they come from, the color of their skin, their religious background, etc. My overall perspective is that, in doing this, students will know they matter, they will feel connected and cared for, and they will feel important.

As a result of establishing this type of atmosphere, students are more open to critiques, challenges, and believe it or not, receiving difficult news. This type of atmosphere on a college campus is what student affairs professionals like to call “belonging.” Depending on what your profession is, it can also be referred to as “fit” or perhaps even “culture.”

Tying Belonging to Business

Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, ‘I don’t work on a college campus and what can an atmosphere of “belonging” do for me professionally and/or socially?’ The answer to that question is A LOT! Everything we do professionally or socially is transferrable.

You see, on a college campus, student affairs professionals are referred to as the “fun people.” We create activities and events that engage students, because we want to make sure they are having the best collegiate experience possible.

Do you ever wonder how we do that? We study the behavior of our students! Think about it this way, my college/university is the business (or social group) I represent. The students on my campus are the stakeholders (your employees or clients). My job is to keep them content; so, they stay until they complete their degree requirements (your goal is retention). It’s all transferable to the business environment.

Hands cheering

Meeting the Needs of Your Stakeholders

Are you aware that as a human being, we all have basic needs that influence how we feel and ultimately our decision making? CRAZY, I know, but it’s true.

Have you ever heard of Abraham Maslow? This gentleman created what is called the Maslow Hierarchy of Need. The hierarchy focuses on understanding what people need, how people’s needs differ, and how those needs can affect a person’s behavior in good or bad ways. He identifies the hierarchy of needs as basic, psychological, and self-fulfillment needs.

Basic needs are considered to be food, water, warmth, rest, security, and safety. Psychological or social needs target the “desire to belong” — to be accepted and feel loved. Self-fulfillment needs surround achievement and fulfilling one’s potential.

Mr. Maslow believed these needs play a major role in motivating behavior. Ironically enough, there are several businesses who reference and use Maslow’s hierarchy model to understand employees, clients, and stakeholders. And yes, we use it on college campuses to understand cultures, student/people groups, and social structures.

I think we often forget the things that make us human. The things that motivate or drive us to want to pursue educational or employment opportunities, explore advancement, and gain or seek membership.

What has motivated you? What has been the “it” factor for you?

When I started my doctoral program, I had to ask myself the question above, and I had to revisit this question again when my husband died in 2019. Why in the world was I seeking a terminal degree? But the answer was easy every time — it was the people around me, and it was the atmosphere of encouragement from my cohort members, my division, my colleagues, and even some of my students. I benefited (unintentionally) from the environment that I’ve worked so hard to create for the people around me.

Purposefully Creating a Place of Belonging

It’s important to understand we all seek a place where we feel an affinity, respected, and supported — a place where you can authentically be yourself, professionally and socially.

However, when this feeling is unmet and is out of alignment, as humans we struggle to move forward, and we struggle to be productive. Simply put…we struggle! We often feel unmotivated, unsure, and lacking something we can’t put our finger on or articulate into words. That is how I felt about a lot of things when my husband died. However, the atmosphere of support, value, and connectedness was provided for me and that motivated me through my grief.

Whether you believe it or not we all have this unspoken shared commitment to each other that makes us want to work with each other socially and professionally. This only happens when our basic human needs are met.

When we focus on creating a positive atmosphere that is encouraging and purposeful (not intentional) about understanding what motivates and drives the decision and behaviors of our clients and stakeholders, as well as what motivates, inspires, and encourages our employees, it yields a great benefit.

Remember this, when you create an atmosphere of “belonging,” it requires you to be purposeful in your knowledge of understanding of human behavior. So, when you look at who belongs or fits into your social group or business, think about the environment you may or may not be creating. When you feel connected to something, you feel like you fit, like you matter, and like you belong.

Holmes Murphy places a huge focus on creating an intentional environment and culture where employees, clients, and stakeholders feel like they belong.

This is overwhelmingly obvious in their overall commitment to their purpose statement — “Caring for Your Unique Potential is Our Soul Purpose.” Thank you to Holmes Murphy and the Fraternal team for this eye-opening and informative experience! It has been a pleasure to share knowledge with an organization that has a goal to make everyone feel like they belong and can reach their fullest potential.