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Area 5.1: Fostering belonging and connection at 84.51°

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At 84.51°, we value the power of connection and fostering a sense of belonging among our teammates. Area 51—our annual company offsite event—reflects those values and is an integral part of our company culture, offering associates the opportunity to make connections, learn, and share fun experiences. To further enhance the experience, we introduced a spring virtual edition, which we dubbed Area 5.1, alongside our traditional in-person event in the fall. Read on for key takeaways of Area 5.1 where we explored the importance of cultivating a culture of belonging.

Nurturing connections

84.51° President and CEO Milen Mahadevan took us on a journey back to our 2022 Area 51 event, emphasizing the significance of intentional connections. Through icebreakers (monthly chats between associates from different parts of the organization who are randomly paired through an app) and the FORD (Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams) format for starting conversations, we have been strengthening our connections and forging deeper relationships. Milen reminded us to continue nurturing these connections by showing up as our authentic selves at work. This, he emphasized, is the key to creating a sense of belonging—a central theme of Area 5.1: You Belong Here.

Cultivating belonging

Patrice Borders, a Cincinnati-native and expert in helping companies foster a culture of belonging, was our guest speaker. She challenged us to reflect on whether our behaviors were shaping a culture of BeLONGING, where individuals feel safe to express their true personalities and vulnerabilities. Patrice emphasized the importance of belonging at work, as it impacts retention, productivity, and employee happiness. And she shared seven keys to emotional intelligence; tools that each of us can use to help those around us—and ourselves—feel included, like staying present, giving people the gift of your full attention and your silence, and being open to other perspectives and incompatible opinions. These keys empower everyone to unlock a culture of belonging where everyone feels included, respected, and heard for who they uniquely are.

Taking responsibility

Milen encouraged us to reflect on our individual roles in cultivating belonging within the organization. He presented several thought-provoking questions:

  • Are you welcoming new hires?

  • Are you connecting with people outside your team?

  • Are you actively including every voice?

  • Are you participating in Icebreaker?

  • Are you participating in volunteer efforts—whether that’s Degrees of Giving or skills-based volunteering?

  • Are you part of a people-led group?

  • Are you sharing more of your authentic self?

Milen emphasized that belonging is not something we can merely implement or institute; it must come from each of us and all of us collectively. Only by actively engaging in these actions can we create an environment where everyone truly belongs, leading to enhanced collaboration, innovation, and personal fulfillment. Together, we will continue to nurture a culture of belonging, making 84.51° an exceptional place to work.

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