Build a Sense of Belonging in the Workplace

Do your employees feel fully accepted as members of the workplace? If not, your diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives need work. Here are three steps for HR.

Most organizations actively pursue diverse representation in their workplace, but this won’t necessarily ensure that all employees feel included. Creating a sense of belonging — an employee’s perception of acceptance within a given group — provides HR leaders with a good opportunity to reinvigorate their inclusion approach and goals. 

“Belonging is a key component of inclusion. When employees are truly included, they perceive that the organization cares for them as individuals, their authentic selves. HR can help make that happen,” says Lauren Romansky, Managing Vice President, Gartner. “That’s good for employees — and ultimately improves business performance.”

Gartner research shows that organizations with sustainable D&I initiatives demonstrate a 20% increase in inclusion, which corresponds to greater on-the-job effort and intent to stay, as well as high employee performance.

Learn more: Build a diverse and inclusive organization

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3 actions to promote belonging

For employees to feel a sense of belonging, they must believe the organization cares about them. HR leaders can take these three steps to cultivate a culture of belonging and achieve their D&I goals.

Eliminate “outsiderness”

Despite progress on D&I, many employees still feel like outsiders in the workplace — causing them to further suppress the parts of themselves that make them distinctly unique from their colleagues. Feeling like an outsider is a personally painful, negative experience, a cognitive distraction that undermines focus and performance. 

Strive for a workplace culture in which individuality is both noticed and valued. Demonstrate care for all employees and provide routine opportunities for check-ins. Workplace support, understanding and trust all reduce the likelihood of an individual feeling like an outsider.

Read more: 3 Steps to Sustainable Diversity and Inclusion Strategies

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Bring everyone on board

Seven out of 10 employees say their organization fails to inform them of opportunities to promote inclusion in their day-to-day work. To better communicate genuine support for the idea of belonging, make everyone responsible for achieving D&I goals day-to-day. 

Encourage employees to value what each person can bring to the table by caring for one another, advocating for everyone’s voice to be heard, and investing in their colleagues’ growth and development. Incorporate employee input into organizational values to show individuals they have a meaningful, equitable role in building a more inclusive workplace. 

Read more: Focus on Moments That Really Matter to Employees

Demonstrate care through benefits and initiatives

Benefits applicable to all demographic groups, such as flexible work scheduling and emotional wellness programs, signal to employees that you care about their distinct needs and demands inside and outside of work. Such signs of appreciation help drive a sense of belonging. In fact, our research shows that inclusive benefits and initiatives can increase feelings of inclusion by up to 38%. 

Initiatives such as promoting diversity in succession planning and holding celebratory events to highlight underrepresented groups (e.g., Women’s History Month) are highly effective at creating cultures of belonging. Providing employees with benefits and initiatives that honor their unique contributions to the organization demonstrates that business success is directly linked to whether or not employees feel like they are accepted by and belong in the organization.

Learn more: 

Gartner for HR clients can read 3 Ways to Cultivate Belonging in Your Workplace about research on initiatives that drive inclusion. They can also watch a video on measuring inclusion with the Gartner Inclusion Index.

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