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Build a Culture of Belonging

Learn how any organization can build a sense of belonging for its employees.

Brief Summary

Belonging is an employee’s sense that their unique characteristics are valued by their organization, team, and colleagues without the need to downplay their differences, or assimilate, in order to be accepted. We belong at work when we are 1. Recognized for our unique contributions; 2. Connected to our coworkers; 3. Supported in our daily work and career development and 4. Accepted while being authentically ourselves. In general, having an ally protects workers from exclusion.

In one study, 62% of respondents said belonging was more important than salary. Research also states that belonging can lead to a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% reduction in turnover risk, a 167% increase in employer net promoter score, 2X more employee raises, 18X more employee promotions, and a 75% decrease in sick days. Unfortunately, the sense of not belonging is widespread, and worse, very few people can openly express that feeling. When we think we’re the only ones who don’t fit in, the sense of isolation can be intense and counter productive in the workplace.


People with identities different from the dominant, or majority, group can feel pressured to conform and “fit in.” Research shows that white men and white women have the highest scores of belonging; Asian and Black women have the lowest. Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming what you need to be in order to be accepted.” It can lead to “covering” when we intentionally hide or choose not to reveal certain aspects of ourselves that might cause us to be seen as outsiders.

Social belonging is a fundamental human need, hardwired into our DNA. Yet, 40% of people say they feel isolated at work, and the result has been lower organizational commitment and engagement. Exclusion is damaging because it actually hurts: our brain registers the sensation in the same way as physical pain.


Improve physical health, emotional well-being, and performance and reduce stress levels by mitigating threats to a sense of belonging. Start thinking of belonging not as an actionable input like diversity, equity, or inclusion, but rather an output variable that’s affected by these initiatives. Creating a sense of belonging requires:

1. Comfort: Individuals feel comfortable and valued when treated fairly and respected by their colleagues and leaders.

2. Connection: Individuals feel that they have meaningful relationships with coworkers and teams and are connected to the organization’s goals.

3. Contribution: Individuals feel that they contribute to meaningful outcomes—understanding how their strengths help to achieve common goals.

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Proposed Actions

Valued Guidance

Implementation Plan

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