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How to Foster Belonging in the Workforce

Here are 10 things to know about increasing a sense of belonging at work.

Key points

  • A sense of belonging often goes hand-in-hand with increased commitment and motivation in the workforce.
  • But despite their best efforts, many employers fall short on fostering belonging in their organization.
  • Understanding how employees feel and offering opportunities for them to build connections is key to increasing a sense of belonging at work.
Source: Thirdman/Pexels

Even if you have worked hard at diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) at your business, you still may be falling short of making your employees feel a sense of belonging. This can be particularly challenging in hybrid work environments where some employees are in person, and others are virtual.

According to Cornell University, belonging has a strong correlation to commitment and motivation in the workforce, creating a sense of pride and leading to greater employee retention. In addition, belonging leads to enhanced worker engagement in a company, especially among employees who are historically underserved. Data further suggests that the most successful approach to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce is to focus on creating a workplace that makes people feel they belong. Without belonging, even a diverse workforce will disconnect, disengage, and leave your organization.

While definitions of belonging can differ, according to Dr. Miller, BiasSync’s Chief Learning Officer & Organizational Strategist, “What’s important to understand is that organizational belonging conveys a sense of safety and purpose that allows employees to connect with one another, express their uniqueness, and have [a] meaningful impact.”

10 steps you can take to increase a sense of belonging in your organization:

Here are some suggestions to help you make positive changes.

1. Research:

The best place to start is by identifying how your employees are currently feeling about their sense of belonging at your organization. BiasSync’s Inclusivity Survey includes belonging and can help organizations understand its relationship to other related factors, like voice and connection.

2. Social interaction:

Studies clearly show that interpersonal interaction among employees creates a greater sense of belonging. Employees from diverse backgrounds tend to shift opinions and even stereotypes of others when they spend extended time together.

3. Create groups across silos:

Too often, employees spend most of their time working within their specific function within a company. This makes increased social interaction more difficult, especially among a wider and more diverse segment of your employee base. Find opportunities for projects across verticals to have employees spend more interpersonal time across the organization.

4. Find face-to-face opportunities:

While it can be difficult to meet face-to-face in the current work environment, finding ways to do so, even if it’s just in a social setting, can promote belonging and have a lasting impact.

5. Trust:

Belonging comes from an environment of trust amongst peers, subordinates, and managers. A great way to create trust is by establishing a mentor program, especially for employees that are historically underserved. Coach mentors and managers to have productive one-on-one meetings where employees feel they can give honest feedback; have mentors discuss engagement surveys with mentees.

6. Transparency:

Communicate to your employees your intent to create a sense of belonging in your organization. Let them know your plans for conducting surveys, gathering data, and offering training sessions, so they know you are taking action.

7. Storytelling:

Encourage your employees to share their personal stories around DEIA and belonging. Have executive management participate in these experiences, as it encourages a culture of empathy and demonstrates commitment.

8. Solicit employee input:

Ask your employees how you might better create a feeling of belonging. Listen to their ideas and execute them when appropriate.

9. Practice reflexivity:

Reflexivity is the ability to examine one’s own beliefs and assumptions. When this is done within the workplace, employees can better understand themselves and each other. Through surfacing these insights, employees engage in work product that is more meaningful and, as a result, feel a higher sense of contribution.

10. Share the company’s vision for belonging:

Creating a vision and goals for belonging is an important first step to showing your employees you are serious about addressing this important issue. Continue to take steps to make the vision a reality over time through concrete action.


A sense of belonging in the workforce has never been so important due to the rapidly changing nature of our workforce. In order to ensure that our new diverse workforce is productive, content, and loyal, it is critical to foster a sense of belonging for all.

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