Belonging – the power of inclusivity

By Dr. Marianne de Pierres

Updated on 19th June 2024

4 minute read
Table of Contents
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Research tells us that a sense of belonging is the key ingredient in maintaining a relatively stable workplace. Find out why it’s so important, and how we nurture a “belonging” environment that prioritises inclusivity…

Now that the training wheels are off on our ability to radically pivot, what are the ways can we counter polarities, disconnection, and distance caused by constant disruption? And within our organisations, how do we use our new skills to foster employee alignment when the world is in constant flux?

Studies indicate that the key influence in keeping employees engaged is having a sense of belonging. And it’s predicted that this marker will not only increase but will significantly reshape the employee experience. This deep need to belong is affected by several factors, including:

  • Changing generational expectations
  • Competition for talent
  • Rate of change within organisations
  • Power of social media to affect an organisation’s reputation


What is a Sense of Belonging?  

So, what does a sense of belonging mean, and what does it look like today? Decades ago, psychologist, Carl Rogers, described belonging as “a unique and subjective experience that relates to a yearning for connection with others, the need for positive regard, and the desire for interpersonal connection.” Belonging, in this sense, is not about participation, but relies on our own perception of the quality of our relationships.

Those perceptions and feelings have their biochemical origin in the production of oxytocin, often referred to as the “love” or “conforming” hormone, which helps us build trust, empathy, and cooperation. When we feel we belong, oxytocin levels increase, and so we are stimulated to conform to our group’s norms.

2020 surveys from Deloitte revealed that 25% of respondents identified comfort as the biggest driver of belonging; 31% percent said that it was a sense connection; and 44% felt they felt they belonged when they were contributing and being valued for it. These attributes are interconnected and mutually sustaining.

Comfort encompasses the notion of diversity and inclusion and a person’s belief that they will be treated fairly, with respect, and encouraged to have a voice. Many organisations have already made significant steps towards fostering this kind of workplace, supported by legislative changes, and an awakened cultural understanding of injustices and biases.

Connection, in this instance, relates to feeling part of both their team and the larger system they work within, and is best expressed by the desire to build a community at work.

Contribution strongly links an individual’s contributions in their role, to their sense that they are allied with their organisation’s purpose and values.

Where in the past employees have sought both comfort and connection at work to feel engaged, this has now evolved into needing to feel aligned and able to meaningfully impact their organisation’s intentions, directions, and actions.

Enacting the Belonging Factors

While recognising the “belonging factor” is an important step for leaders, enacting it is how we move forward. Here are some suggestions for building upon what workplace studies have shown us is so important.

  • Be strategic, timely, and specific with employee recognition – consider “how” your employee is most comfortable receiving positive feedback and use specificity to make it authentic.
  • Conduct a STAY interview – we all know about Exit interviews, but more organisations are dipping into STAY interviews. Stay interviews explore what will keep an employee at an organisation and can therefore help address turnover issues and replace employee satisfaction surveys. Use this process to commit to positive, actionable changes. [vi]
  • Encourage job crafting – job crafting is an active and positive way for your employee to reach their potential within the broader parameters of their role. Use your newfound flexible mindset to make this possible.
  • Be a leader whose employees feel they can ask for help – show that you value your people by contributing to their holistic well-being. The leading cause of struggle in Australian workplaces in 2020 was mental health, and more than half of those surveyed named loneliness as the reason (lack of a sense of connection or belonging).
  • Prioritise confidentiality – an employee’s comfort is often tied to being able to express their vulnerability. Show them that they are in a psychologically safe environment that they can invest in.
  • Review Pay structures – 20% of turnover is attributed to financial stress. Understand the needs of your workforce. It might be more useful to your employees to be paid on-demand.
Dr. Marianne de Pierres
Content Creator

While every effort has been made to provide valuable, useful information in this publication, this organisation and any related suppliers or associated companies accept no responsibility or any form of liability from reliance upon or use of its contents. Any suggestions should be considered carefully within your own particular circumstances, as they are intended as general information only.

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