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3 Reasons Why Belonging Belongs In Your Organization



“Belonging is the most human, familiar, relatable and impactful driver of engagement, performance, and retention that YOU’RE NOT USING.”


There's a reason this serves as the opening line to my keynote: “RED CARPETING Your Culture With Belonging.” I am amazed that organizational culture has made great leaps in embracing vulnerability, authenticity, and inclusive leadership but has not focused as much on belonging, which can be springbpard for all three if properly cultivated.


Belonging is the low-hanging fruit we’re by-passing. If it was a TV show, it would likely win an Emmy for the “Best Show You're Not Watching.” It is familiar, and its impact is far-reaching. Most, if not all of us, are familiar with what it means to belong. Belonging is relatable in that we have at some point in our lives felt the pinch or sucker punch of being excluded or not feeling a sense of belonging. And it is impactful as we know or have read about countless examples of exclusion (like Jim Crow or apartheid laws), or from our very own lived experiences, but also from the positive impact of having friends, family or coworkers who love and accept us as we are.


During the pandemic, many leaders, brands and organizations looked to age-old engagement tools to navigate the challenges that high attrition, low morale and low productivity were presenting to their businesses. Belonging, which has often been limited almost exclusively to the diversity, equity, and inclusion dialogue and strategy was not tapped into nearly as much as it should have been. But it’s been gaining attention particularly in the context of employee engagement and retention. In fact, a 2021 report by McKinsey revealed that when employees were asked to cite the reasons they quit their jobs during the Great Resignation, these three reasons were most cited:


- I not feel valued by my organization (54%)

- I do not feel valued by my manager (52%)

- I do not feel a sense of belonging at work. (51%)

(Sources: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/great-attrition-or-great-attraction-the-choice-is-yours)



That’s over half of employees! Perhaps your workforce. Action is required. And a good place to start is to introduce leaders, brands and organizations to something I’ve coined the 3 Belonging Imperatives. The imperatives explain why cultivating a culture of belonging is a great strategic move for leaders, brands and organizations who want to inject a fresh approach to their strategies on employee and customer engagement, retention, recruitment, and of course, diversity equity and inclusion.





1. The Human Imperative


The human imperative for workplace belonging unsurprisingly, speaks to our human connection and need for belonging. The human imperative shows that:

  • Belonging is an innate, fundamental need humans have to be connected to, and welcome or accepted within a group. Much like our need for food, shelter and security, our need to belong needs filling.

  • Belonging is a deeply held and subjective feeling. What gives one person a sense of belonging likely shifts from person to person, and no one but the employee in question can objectively proclaim that we. Consequently, we do not shed that feeling or need upon entering the brick-and-mortar or virtual workplace.

  • As a need and emotion, the denial of it – for example – exclusion or ostracism – can have negative consequences. For example, experts like Naomi Eisenberger have shown that the pain of social exclusion hurts like a physical sucker punch. Why? Because both come the same neural pathways.

  • Finally, like other needs, the need for belonging motivates or shapes our behavior as we are driven to find ways to meet that need.

The Key Takeaways: Because the need to belong is a human need, emotion and motivator of human behavior, those leaders, brands and organizations that meet this need will be meeting their people’s emotional and social need.



2. The Timing Imperative

The timing imperative highlights these points about Belonging:

  • Over a 79-year lifespan, most of us will spend anywhere between 90,000 and 115,000 hours in the workplace. That translates to roughly 1/3 of our lives and the vast majority of our waking hours spent at work.

  • Consequently, it is no accident that we seek connection and acceptance in the workplace. This may well explain why there’s a bigger push for authenticity and uncovering at work – it is daunting to spend 1/3 of our lives not being ourselves.

  • Given how much time people spend at work, our wellbeing – whether physical, psychological or otherwise is impacted by the kind of workplace we’re in. In fact, numerous sources point to workplace challenges as often among the the top five or ten stressors in the human experience – alongside death of a spouse or child, divorce or relocation, and moving.

The Key Takeaway: Because we spend most of our waking hours at work over the course of a 79-year life span, and because work can create some of life’s biggest stressors, leaders, brands and organizations that can effectively cultivate a culture of belonging can make the work experience more enjoyable and fulfilling.


3. The Success Imperative

The success imperative demonstrates that cultures of belonging see success travel in both the direction of the individual and the organization, leader or brand. Specifically:

  • On Engagement: According to Qualtrics, there's a 91% correlation between an employee’s sense of belonging and level of engagement. That is, employees who feel a sense of belonging demonstrate higher engagement.

  • On Performance and Productivity: According to Better up and the Harvard Business Review, employees with a sense of belonging tend to perform 56% times better than those who do not feel a sense of belonging. They are also 77% more productive, with much lower absenteeism.

  • On Attrition: Employees with a stronger sense of belonging are 50% less likely to leave and 167% times more likely to refer others to their organization.

  • On Teamwork and Collaboration: 50% less likely 2 leave the organizations, a 77% more productive, and are less likely to self-sabotage or sabotage their team. In other words, employees with a strong sense of belonging at work feel better, do more and stay longer.

  • On Organizational Performance: Taken together, employees with a sense of belonging perform better, are more productive, collaborative, better brand ambassadors and are better team players. All of these help drive overall better company performance. More specifically, the Better Up study, in a company of 10,000 employees, the productivity level of engaged employees can result in up to a $10,000 million saving per year.

The Key Takeaway: Higher levels of belongingness translate into greater employee performance, productivity, engagement and collaboration.


As a leader brand or organization, if belonging is not at the heart of your team, brand or workplace culture today, consider this a call to action. I am inviting you to put yourself at a competitive advantage by making belonging a core part of your strategy on Employee and customer engagement, recruitment, diversity equity inclusion, and retention.


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