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11 min read

Belonging in the Workplace: What Does It Mean and Why Does It Matter?

Create a Sense of Belonging in a Workplace

Human beings like to seek connection and acceptance as part of the human condition. This extends to every aspect of life, including the workplace.

There are many reasons why people may not feel as though they fit in or are accepted at work - including cultural differences, lack of diversity and inclusion initiatives or even poor management practices.

When people feel a sense of belonging at work, it boosts morale, enhances engagement and fosters a positive, inclusive environment.


Table of contents

What is Belonging in the Workplace?

Why is a Sense of Belonging at Work Important?

Scientific Research on the Value of Belonging to the Workplace

The Impact of Uncertainty About Belonging in the Workplace

Examples of Belonging in the Workplace

How to Create a Sense of Belonging in the Workplace

How DeskAlerts Helps Improve the Sense of Belonging in the Workplace


What is Belonging in the Workplace?

Belonging in the workplace is when employees feel a sense of acceptance, inclusion and support within their professional environment, When employees feel a sense of belonging in the workplace they often feel valued for their unique contributions to the company, and feel as though they are an integral part of their team. This is achieved regardless of the employee’s background, culture, perspectives or personal identity.

Fostering a sense of belonging for employees is achieved by adopting inclusive practices in the workplace like equitable growth opportunities, actively encouraging diverse voices and ensuring that safe spaces are created for open dialogue. In order to achieve this, company leadership needs to be committed to diversity and inclusion initiatives, promoting respect and understanding and actively listening so that employees feel heard.

Factors that contribute to belonging in the workplace include:

  • Having open and honest contribution
  • People feeling like they are valued team members
  • People feeling supported when it comes to adapting to organizational change
  • People feeling that they can be themselves at work
  • Believing in the company’s values and objectives.

Why is a Sense of Belonging at Work Important?

Creating a sense of belonging in the workplace for employees is important in order to build a positive, productive and thriving workplace environment. Not only do individuals benefit from having a sense of belonging, but the overall organizational performance is positively affected.

Key reasons to foster a sense of belonging in the workplace include:

  • Employees who feel they belong are more motivated to contribute their best efforts at work.
  • Belonging encourages active participation in meetings, projects and discussions which leads Employees who feel valued and included have higher levels of job satisfaction and personal fulfillment.
  • Satisfied employees are less likely to leave the organization which means reduced turnover rates and the costs associated with hiring and training new staff.
  • A sense of belonging in the workplace fosters strong teamwork and collaboration because employees feel more comfortable sharing ideas and supporting one another.
  • Belonging builds trust among team members - an essential ingredient for effective communication and problem-solving.
  • Employees who feel connected to their workplace are more focused and efficient in their tasks.
  • Belonging drives a deeper commitment to the organization’s goals and values which boosts productivity.
  • Fostering a sense of belonging in the workplace creates an inclusive environment where diversity is celebrated and respected.
  • Employees who feel they belong are less likely to experience stress and anxiety.
  • When employees feel included, they are more likely to share diverse perspectives and ideas.
  • A supportive environment encourages employees to take risks and think outside the box, leading to creative solutions.

WORKPLACE CULTURE EMPLOYEES WANT

Scientific Research on the Value of Belonging to the Workplace

The value of belonging in the workplace can be backed up by science - starting with the famous Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. This is a psychological theory proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943 that outlines a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as a pyramid.

The Hierarchy of Needs includes: physiological (basic survival), safety (security and stability), love and belonging (social connections), esteem (recognition and respect), and self-actualization (personal growth).

As human beings, the need to belong extends to every aspect of life - including the workplace. At work, this includes being able to form strong interpersonal relationships, work in teams and be embraced by a supportive culture. Employees therefore need to feel that they are accepted and are a part of the team in order to be truly engaged and satisfied,

A 2021 study from Qualtrics found that there were clear links between a sense of belonging in the workplace and employee wellbeing. They found that 78% of people who feel they belong in their organizations rated their sense of wellbeing favorably, while just 28% of those who do not feel as though they belong rated their wellbeing favorably.

It isn’t just employees who benefit from the sense of belonging: research has found that companies benefit too.

One study by behavioral scientists from BetterUp found that when workers feel as though they belong, companies can have a substantial boost to their bottom-line. They found high belonging was linked to a 56% increase in job performance, a 75% reduction in sick days and a 50% drop in employee turnover. They estimate that for a company with 10,000 employees, this would result in annual savings of around $52 million.

They also found benefits for the employees who received 18 times more promotions and double the raises of employees who did not feel a sense of belonging to their companies.

The Impact of Uncertainty About Belonging in the Workplace

The impact of uncertainty about belonging in the workplace can be profound and affects both employees and companies in significant ways.

Impacts for employees:

  • Mental health and wellbeing. When people don’t feel accepted or valued at work they’re more likely to experience stress, anxiety and depression.

20 EMPLOYEE WELLBEING INITIATIVES TO PUT INTO ACTION IN 2024

  • Reduced job satisfaction. Employees who feel uncertain about their place in the company often experience diminished levels of job satisfaction. They may perceive their work environment as being unwelcome or even hostile, which leads to feelings od dissatisfaction and reduced levels of engagement. Over time their passion and enthusiasm for their job can be completely eroded.

30 EMPLOYEE SATISFACTION SURVEY QUESTIONS TO ASK

  • Decreases in productivity. Employees who are preoccupied with other things are less likely to give their full attention to their tasks. When people are thinking about how they don’t belong, this can lead to lower performance.
  • Stunted professional growth.  Uncertainty about belonging in the workplace can stifle employees’ personal growth and development as they are less likely to seek out new opportunities or promotions or take on more challenging projects.

Impacts for the company:

  • Low levels of employee engagement. When employees feel uncertain about belonging they are more likely to experience low levels of engagement with their company. Engaged employees are more motivated, productive and committed to their work. When engagement drops, the company is likely to see declining performance as well as a lack of creativity and innovation.
  • Reduction in collaboration and teamwork. Employees who don’t feel accepted may withdraw from team activities, avoid contributing ideas and limit the interactions they have with their colleagues. This results in an erosion of team cohesion and can create a fragmented workforce.
  • Increases in absenteeism. Feeling uncomfortable or unwelcome in the workplace can lead to some employees being more likely to call in sick or take unscheduled time off from their jobs. This affects their productivity and also places extra burden on their colleagues who need to cover for them.
  • Higher turnover rates.  Nobody wants to stay somewhere where they feel they don’t belong, so it stands to reason that employees who are uncertain about their place in the company are more likely to leave. For companies, these higher turnover rates can be costly in both terms of recruiting and training new employees as well as the loss of corporate knowledge and experience.
  • Damage to company reputation.  Word of mouth is very powerful. When a company gets a bad reputation via its current and former employees, top talent can be deterred for applying for a position within the company. There can also be damage to customer perceptions of the company. This damage can have long-term consequences for the company’s success.
  • Legal and compliance issues. There may be serious and significant reasons why people don’t feel as though they don’t belong at work, and companies should immediately take steps to examine why this may be the case. For example if people feel excluded because of race, religion, sexual preference or gender this can amount to unlawful discrimination. Deliberately excluding other team members can also be seen as bullying or harassment. There are a range of legal consequences that may apply if this is the case, depending on the jurisdiction the company operates in.

Examples of Belonging in the Workplace

Here are several examples of belonging in the workplace which highlight the outcomes for both the company and the employee:

  1. Establishing an inclusive company culture

A tech company implements a comprehensive diversity and inclusion program that includes regular training sessions on cultural competence, employee resource groups for different demographics and company-wide celebrations and acknowledgments of various cultural holidays.

Consequence for the company:  By building an inclusive culture, the company benefits from higher levels of innovation and creativity among employees. It can leverage the diverse perspectives within the team to deliver unique solutions to complex problems, giving the company a competitive edge in its field. The company is also likely to see improved employee retention rates and lower costs associated with recruitment and turnover.

Consequence for the employee: An inclusive company culture will help to make employees feel respected and valued for their unique perspectives and backgrounds. This in turn leads to increased morale and job satisfaction and ultimately boosted productivity.

  1. Use of open communication channels

A marketing firm has begun using open communication channels that allow its employees at all levels to share ideas and feedback directly with those in management. They hold regular town hall meetings, deploy surveys and provide anonymous suggestion boxes so that everyone’s voice can be heard..

Consequence for the company: This approach fosters a culture of trust and transparency within the company, and leads to higher levels of engagement among employees. The company benefits from innovative ideas that improve processes and boost client satisfaction. The open communication channels have also assisted to both identify and address potential issues early so that larger problems can be prevented down the track.

Consequence for the employee: The company’s employees feel both valued and empowered because they know that their opinions matter. With this sense of belonging, their commitment to the company and their roles is enhanced and they are more likely to take initiative and make proactive contributions to the workplace

  1. Recognition and reward programs

A retail chain introduces a recognition and reward program aimed at acknowledging employee achievements and contributions. Employees are regularly recognized in their team meetings, in company-wide newsletters and through an employee of the month program.

Consequence for the company: The recognition program leads to an increase in employee engagement and morale, with staff more motivated to perform at their best. This leads to improved customer service and higher sales.

Consequence for the employee: The recognition program helps employees to feel appreciated and valued for all their hard work and dedication, fostering a sense of belonging and loyalty to the company. It encourages them to continually strive towards excellence in the knowledge that their efforts will be recognized.

  1. Lack of diversity and inclusion initiatives

A financial services company has failed to introduce any diversity and inclusion initiatives. The workforce has no employee resource groups or support systems for minority employees, and overall is quite homogenous. This lack of diversity contributes to a company culture where certain groups feel undervalued and excluded.

Consequence for the company: Without effective diversity and inclusion initiatives in place, the company faces high turnover rates among its minority employees who don’t feel a sense of belonging. The constant turnover leads to increases in recruitment and training costs, while the lack of diverse perspectives hinders innovation.

Consequence for the employee: Minority employees within the company feel unsupported and isolated with decreased job satisfaction and engagement as a result. These staff members are less likely to participate in team activities or share their ideas. Over time they may experience increased stress and lower productivity, ultimately making the decisio to leave the company for one that provides a more inclusive environment.

How to Create a Sense of Belonging in the Workplace

When it comes to creating a sense of belonging in the workplace, you need to get the basics right, according to Thivia Mogan, XM Scientist at Qualtrics.

“Treating employees with respect, taking action on their feedback and recognising their contributions are ways to show employees that they matter. We cannot expect employees to be well, let alone thrive, in a toxic workplace,” she said.

Steps to help create a more inclusive workplace that helps employees feel a sense of belonging include:

  1. Create a culture of inclusion within the organization

Ensure you’re structuring your teams in ways that nurture better connections between co-workers so that employees can bond and become allies for one another.

This includes making sure all your tools and resources are accessible to everyone and information is shared freely and transparently.

  1. Recognize staff contributions

Regularly acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of both individuals and teams, and recognize their achievements. This helps them to feel appreciated for the work they do to ensure the company’s success.

  1. Corporate social responsibility initiatives

Corporate social responsibility initiatives are a company’s efforts to create a positive impact on the world. This can play a major role in fostering a sense of belonging, as employees who resonate with the company’s CSR aims will feel they are a good “fit” with the company.

  1. Communicate regularly and openly

Having effective internal communication plans in place will help you to ensure that employees receive the information they need to do their jobs well, and to keep them connected to what is happening across the company. It’s important that they understand what is happening and how they fit into the bigger picture of delivering the company’s goals.

INTERNAL COMMUNICATION SYSTEM SOFTWARE

  1. Make employees feel welcome from the very beginning

Having good onboarding processes in place will help your new hires feel like they belong from the very start. Your onboarding should include a thorough introduction to the company, their team and all the things that make you a unique employer.

IT ONBOARDING CHECKLIST FOR NEW HIRES

  1. Provide ongoing support

Support comes in many different forms from ongoing training and development to mentorship programs through to employee assistance programs. By providing these types of support initiatives to your staff, they will understand you are investing in them and want to see the succeed.

  1. Create safe spaces for employees

Establish forums and support groups where employees can feel safe to share and discuss concerns and experiences without fear of judgment. These can be both social groups as well as professional forums.

  1. Enable the sharing of unique contributions

One of the most effective communication tools you can use to create a culture of belonging is storytelling. By encouraging people to share their personal stories and talk about who they are, you provide an important way for others to hear lost and marginalized voices.

  1. Address any issues promptly

It is important to act quickly to address any incidents of discrimination or exclusion when they arise and are brought to management’s attention. A failure to act quickly will lead to resentments festering and affected employees losing trust and faith in the company. By acting quickly, the company demonstrates a commitment to maintaining a safe and respectful workplace for all employees.

  1. Ask for feedback

By regularly seeking and acting on employee feedback you can demonstrate to your staff that their opinions matter and can actively contribute to driving positive change within the company.

BEST EMPLOYEE FEEDBACK TOOLS TO USE IN 2024

How DeskAlerts Helps Improve the Sense of Belonging in the Workplace

Create a Sense of Belonging in a Workplace_2

An effective way to create a sense of belonging in the workplace for employees is by using DeskAlerts - a comprehensive internal communication software system. DeskAlerts is designed to ensure that important information reaches every employee quickly and effectively, no matter where they are located or what they are doing.

DeskAlerts deploys notifications to desktops, laptops, phones and tablets in a variety of ways including through pop-up notifications, scrolling tickers, screensavers, wallpapers and digital signage. It also has features such as surveys, polls and quizzes and mobile notifications so that you can find innovative ways to cut through digital noise and ensure your employees are informed.

Some of the ways you can use DeskAlerts to create a sense of belonging in the workplace include:

  • Communicating your company’s values, mission and culture through continuous reinforcement. Sending regular alerts about the company’s activity in community service initiatives can help employees to feel proud of the company they work for.
  • Provide recognition instantly. Recognition is a powerful motivator and key to creating a sense of belonging. Managers can use DeskAlerts to send personalized messages of appreciation and recognition to employees for their contributions and achievements.

25 THANK YOU MESSAGE SAMPLES FOR EMPLOYEES

  • Provide employees with personalized content. You can use DeskAlerts to celebrate employee anniversaries, birthdays or other important milestones to further foster a connection with them and show that they are valued.
  • Send updates in real time. You can inform staff about new projects, policy changes or upcoming events in real time so that they feel connected, included and engaged with what is happening within the company. DeskAlerts is a powerful tool that ensures employees receive the same information simultaneously.
  • Conduct interactive polls and surveys. The DeskAlerts surveys, polls and quizzes module lets you get instant feedback from employees - giving them a powerful voice in the decision making process.
  • Support employee wellbeing initiatives. DeskAlerts helps you to support your employees’ mental and physical well-being in a number of ways. You can send tips on stress management and promote wellness programs or use digital signage to send reminders on topics such as remembering to take regular breaks. You can also use the surveys feature to get instant information about the health and well-being of your workforce at any point in time, such as during a crisis.

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Creating a culture where employees feel included and valued is important if you want your company to attract and retain top talent and to be productive at the same time. Remember, your employees are your biggest asset so you need to look after them. If you’re looking to improve your company culture and build a workplace that promotes employee inclusion, consider whether or not you have the right tools for the job. Get in touch with our experts today for a free demonstration of DeskAlerts and find out how it can assist you to promote inclusion and belonging in your company.

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