The basic human need for a sense of belonging drives individuals to yearn for it in all areas of their lives, including at home, school, and work. While fitting in or assimilation may seem like a solution, it often requires individuals to deny aspects of themselves or conceal their core identities to meet the expectations, preferences, and values of others. This is not only costly but can also be psychologically fatal.
Creating a true sense of belonging at work means establishing authentic, positive connections with coworkers and supervisors based on the reality of one’s truth. It involves feeling seen and celebrated for one’s unique contributions to the team and organization, as well as being supported in daily work and being proud of the employing organization’s vision, mission, and values.
Workplace belonging is defined as the emotional connection employees feel towards the company. It reflects how appreciated, included, respected, and supported employees feel by others in the work environment. Workplace belonging is strongly correlated with equitable pay, meaningful work, and diversity.
Belonging is a core dimension of successful businesses and linked to operational excellence. It imbues workers with loyalty, trust, and a shared sense of purpose that makes them operate as a cohesive team. Cohesive teams perform with greater efficiency, higher quality, and fewer defects. Belonging builds a company culture of respect, collaboration, collegiality, and fun.
Belonging is fundamental to psychological well-being and organizational health. Companies must prioritize the creation of workplace belonging since it leads to an emotionally invested workforce, improved corporate culture, better collaboration, and optimal productivity.
To create conditions for workplace belonging, companies should make it a priority, encourage collaboration, involve everyone, and celebrate accomplishments. They should also establish clear, equitable pathways for advancement, promotion, and hire, prioritize diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) as a KPI, and provide regular check-ins, professional development opportunities, and mentoring/coaching sessions to provide growth-minded feedback that connects staff with leaders and guides their professional journey.
Belonging is necessary for employees to enjoy positive relationships, work/life balance, high levels of productivity, and intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Employers also benefit since it correlates with job satisfaction, less burnout, low staff turnover, better performance metrics, and increased profitability.
Terrell Lamont Strayhorn is a Professor of Higher Education and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies at Illinois State University. He is also a Visiting Scholar and Director of the Center for the Study of Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) at Virginia Union University. Additionally, he is the CEO and Founder of Do Good Work Consulting Group. Dr. Strayhorn has authored 12 books and over 250 peer-reviewed journal articles, chapters, reports, and other publications. He is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur, Thrive Global, HubPages, and more. Dr. Strayhorn is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated.