Tips for Strengthening Belonging Across All Levels of the Organization


The evidence is clear. What matters most to employees today is a sense of belonging. Newmeasures research shows belonging is now the #1 driver of both engagement and retention. Spending time here is a strategic investment that pays dividends in terms of engagement and productivity.

Our clients are drawn to the concept of focusing on this topic as an action item because everyone, regardless of their role or position, has an impact on creating a sense of community in the workplace. They also appreciate that belonging is not just an abstract concept; it’s something tangible that we can actively work on and improve. By prioritizing belonging, our clients recognize that they can truly move the needle on employee engagement and ultimately, business outcomes.

In this post, we outline how each level of the organization, from senior leadership to individual contributors, can impact belonging.

What Can Senior Leaders Do?

Lead by Example

Senior leaders should demonstrate inclusivity, respect, and empathy in their interactions with all employees. Their behavior sets the tone for the entire organization.

Communicate the Importance of Belonging

Executives should regularly reinforce the value of inclusion and belonging. Talk about why these factors matter to you and to the business.

Solicit and Respond to Employee Feedback

Employee voice is crucial in creating a culture of belonging at work. Employees must feel heard and accepted to experience belonging. Employee voice allows employees to be their authentic selves and feel that their ideas and contributions matter.

Bring Employees into the Inner Circle

Help people understand how their work contributes to the organization's overall mission. When employees feel connected to a larger purpose, they are more likely to feel a sense of belonging and commitment to their work. Sharing the organization's vision, values, and challenges also creates a shared understanding and a sense of unity.

Invite Dialogue

Belonging cannot exist when employees feel like no one in leadership cares about what they have to say. Belonging requires two-way communication and dialogue. Executives should actively invite open and transparent communication – whether by holding skip-level one on ones, informal coffee chats or by spending time “walking the floor” and stopping to talk with frontline employees.

What Can HR Do?

Implement Inclusive Policies and Practices

HR can set the tone by implementing policies and practices that promote fairness. This includes equitable hiring processes, opportunities for career advancement, and an environment where employees from all backgrounds feel valued and respected. HR should actively seek employee feedback to understand their concerns and use this input to shape policies and educate employees accordingly.

Facilitate Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and Inclusive Initiatives

HR can establish and support Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or affinity groups that provide a platform for employees with shared characteristics or interests. These groups foster a sense of community and belonging by allowing employees to connect with others who share similar experiences. Additionally, HR can organize inclusive initiatives such as workshops, seminars, or cultural celebrations that promote understanding and appreciation of different perspectives within the workplace.

Create a Culture of Recognition and Appreciation

HR can implement programs that recognize and celebrate employee contributions. This can include employee recognition awards, spot bonuses, or regular appreciation events. Recognizing employees for their efforts and accomplishments not only reinforces a positive work culture but also contributes to a sense of belonging. HR should also encourage managers to provide regular feedback and recognition to their teams to help underscore the importance of everyone’s role within the organization.

What Can Managers Do?

Build Strong Team Dynamics

Managers play a crucial role in building strong team dynamics. Encourage team-building activities that promote collaboration and understanding among team members. Foster an environment where diverse perspectives are appreciated so team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns.

Provide Regular Feedback and Recognition

Managers should actively provide constructive feedback and recognize the contributions of team members. Feeling valued and appreciated is a fundamental aspect of belonging. Regular feedback sessions can also create a space for open dialogue, fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

Facilitate Conversations

Managers can ensure that team meetings and discussions are inclusive and are not just a one-way dialogue. Encourage all team members to contribute and actively seek input from quieter members. Be mindful of language and cultural considerations, creating an environment where everyone feels heard and respected.

What Can Employees Do?

Welcome New Team Members

Take the initiative to warmly welcome new employees to the team. Introduce yourself, offer support, and help them get acquainted with their surroundings. By extending a friendly hand, employees can help new hires feel valued and included from day one.

Organize Team-Building Activities

Initiate team-building activities or social events to bring colleagues together outside of work tasks. This could be as simple as organizing a lunch outing, team sports, or volunteering for a charitable cause. Building camaraderie through shared experiences strengthens bonds and fosters a sense of belonging among team members.

Actively Listen, Recognize, and Support

Practice active listening and offer support to colleagues during challenging times. Whether it's lending a listening ear, providing encouragement, or offering a hand with workload, employees can create a supportive environment where everyone feels cared for. Ongoing recognition is another way to help everyone feel acknowledged and valued. Show appreciation for the contributions and achievements of others through a verbal shout out handwritten note, or team-wide acknowledgement.

We would love to hear from you to learn more about what you’ve seen that works!

Madison uses her experience in organizational science to diagnose problems and build solutions. With years of experience in applied research, Madison leverages her knowledge in research methods, design, and statistics to develop and administer assessments. She enjoys translating data for practical use and partnering with clients to create better workplaces.
Madison Hanscom, Ph.D.
Director of People Science