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6 Min Read

How to Create a Sense of Belonging in the Workplace

Claire Beveridge

Close your eyes and imagine working somewhere that made you feel uneasy, uncomfortable, and like you couldn’t be yourself. How long do you think you’d stay at that company? Probably not very long. That’s why businesses of all sizes need to foster a sense of belonging in the workplace to help employees feel like they can be their authentic selves, belong to a shared community, and feel supported, which impacts the bottom line. 

Not sure what a sense of belonging is or how to include it in your business? Read on because we’re about to dive deep into exactly what fostering a sense of belonging does for a company and how you can create a deep sense of belonging in your organization.

What is a sense of belonging in the workplace?

Creating a sense of belonging in the workplace means creating a place where employees feel accepted for who they are and are respected by their employers and coworkers. Belonging means to be a part of something, and the emotional need is listed explicitly in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a key motivator for human existence. 

It’s been widely acknowledged that a diverse workforce equals a happy workforce, but creating a sense of belonging in the workplace cranks things up a notch. 

According to Harvard Business Review, if workers feel like they belong at a company, this will substantially impact the bottom line, and the stats don’t lie. Their research shows that “high belonging is linked to a whopping 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days. For a 10,000-person company, this would result in annual savings of more than $52 million.”

Not a bad saving for making people feel like they’re part of a team and belong. Feeling more ready to create a culture that prioritizes belonging in the workplace? Here’s what you need to know. 

Show employee appreciation and recognition

When an employee feels appreciated and recognized for their contributions, this shows them they’re valued, which helps to create a sense of belonging and fosters team camaraderie. 

One easy and effective way to show employee appreciation is to ensure that your company has robust employee appreciation and recognition programs in place. These could include more formal ideas like regular one-to-ones, flexible working arrangements, and performance management plans, and/or more ad-hoc initiatives such as free team lunches, summer Friday afternoons off work, or team awards. 

Make sure you don’t focus purely on actions, though. Find time to have meaningful conversations with employees — even a simple “hello, how are you doing?” can make a huge difference to employees’ feelings of belonging and helps to foster a culture of inclusivity. 

When new employees start with your company, go out of your way to make them feel welcome and like they’re part of a team. We’re talking more than a box of donuts and a welcome email. Instead, take them out for lunch, introduce them to different departments, learn more about their likes and dislikes, ask them how they like to communicate and show them that they’re working for a company that cares about employee wellbeing

Practice open and honest communication

Good communication is the cornerstone of a successful business. Without openness and transparency, businesses lack trust and potentially open themselves up to an “us vs. them” company culture. This can lead to team members feeling unsafe to open up about their experience working at your company and hinder their ability to feel like they belong at work. 

Use inclusive language to create a sense of belonging and ensure all employees feel seen and respected. For example, introduce yourself with pronouns and stop using the term ‘guys’ to address everyone in the room. Also, make sure you talk in plain, jargon-free language that’s accessible to everyone and avoid idioms that can be confusing for neurodivergent folks in the workplace.

Create support networks

A report by McKinsey found that 54% of employees who left their job in the past six months didn’t feel valued by their organization, and 51% said they lacked a sense of belonging. Additionally, 46% said the desire to work with people who trust and care for each other is another reason to quit. 

This proves that employees want stronger, more meaningful work relationships, a sense of connection, and to be seen. Creating supportive relationships and networks is integral to building that sense of belonging. 

To help create a sense of community and belonging in the workplace, businesses need to provide support beyond offering mental health benefits — which are a great step in the right direction! But companies need to go further to foster feelings of belonging, and many businesses introduce internal support systems and networks to help employees feel more at home. 

For example, improving team bonding helps to mitigate feelings of isolation and being an ‘outsider.’ So hold regular team meetings and activities to help keep employees motivated and engaged and allow them to foster deeper working relationships and connections that help employees feel like they belong.

Welcome employees who start common interest groups. In our remote-first world, this could be as simple as having a dedicated Slack channel for relevant hobbies, for example, #livemusic, #cycling, or #dungeonsanddragons. Creating a sense of belonging and community will encourage employees to be their authentic selves — which is all good as long as they know how to set boundaries between their personal and work life.

Get leadership buy-in

Creating a sense of belonging is tough when it’s not baked into your company culture, and that starts from the top down. You must get continued buy-in from all members of your leadership team to help foster a sense of belonging. Don’t create a toxic environment that centers around office politics and poor management, and ensure that leaders don’t show favoritism — both of these elements will kill employee belonging and engagement. 

However you decide to create a sense of belonging in the workplace, make sure it comes from a place of accountability. For example, draft up a diversity, equity and inclusion statement that showcases your commitment to building a diverse workforce and encourages folks from all backgrounds to apply to work together at your company. You never know who they might bond with to create a valuable sense of belonging.