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Analyst Insight

Workplace Belonging – Leverage the Five Pillars

Updated on January 5, 2022

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Topics Covered:

Belonging and DEI

The past two years have brought enormous challenges and changes — new ways of working, distance from colleagues, and opportunities to find new ways to drive success. None of us were prepared for this watershed experience and HR leaders have been on the frontline of this constant tsunami of change.

You have likely seen belonging at work become increasingly a topic of conversation for HR and business leaders. ‘Belonging’ ranked at the top of the Deloitte 2020 Global Human Capital Trends survey, with 79% of organisations considering it important for their success. There is a significant amount of academic research into belonging, showing that employees who feel a sense of belonging at work have higher overall work engagement. Why is employee engagement important? It’s because these employees are more likely to experience greater job satisfaction, better mental health and higher levels of productivity.

The Achievers Workforce Institute strive to advance academic knowledge and understanding with our in-depth and robust research reports. To that end, we built on secondary research to develop a belonging model and tested that model with a survey to more than 3,500 employees around the world.

That research forms the foundation of the Achievers Workforce Institute 2021 Culture Report on Belonging at Work.

The business case for belonging at work

Belonging is a key driver of individual employee performance and organisational success. People with a strong sense of belonging are twice as likely to be engaged — and they’re also twice as likely to be productive, resilient, satisfied, and committed.

Our research confirmed our hypothesis that belonging is a key factor to foster inside your organisation because when people feel a strong sense of belonging, they are also far more likely to be happy, healthy, and productive employees at work.

On the other hand, people with a low sense of belonging are only a quarter as likely to say that they’re engaged and they express much lower levels of commitment, enthusiasm, productivity, and resilience. Poor engagement also affects employee retention.

We know that there are many employees in the workplace today that are truly struggling, with the challenges of remote employee engagement becoming an HR priority in many organisations’ employee engagement strategies. But we believe that by building and fostering an experience of belonging we have the opportunity to improve employee morale and help them become thriving, productive, happy team members once again.

Building a culture of belonging

But it wasn’t enough for us to say “this matters”. We also needed to answer the question “how do we get there?”

That’s where the five pillars of belonging come in. They highlight the importance of employee recognition. When your employees feel welcomed, known, included, supported, and connected, then you can be confident they feel a strong sense of belonging in the workplace. Many of the HR tools and programs you already have in place are supporting one or more of these pillars. In fact, these pillars offer a clear framework for assessing HR technology and training by ensuring it aligns with at least one pillar.

Leveraging the five pillars of belonging at work

How can you activate each pillar to ensure your employees feel that strong sense of belonging at work that will enable positive business outcomes? Recognition should be integral to each stage of the employee life cycle.


“Introduced to, and incorporated within, the organisational culture and community”

  1. Consistently implement thoughtful, structured organisational onboarding
  2. Provide introduction to unique organisational culture
  3. Invite to culture and team building events and activities

Recognition action: Send a personalised recognition to new employees or team members on their first day of work.


“Understood, motivated, and celebrated as an individual”

  1. Use and integrate culture, values, or personality testing
  2. Customise style of meetings, coaching etc. to support unique wiring
  3. Encourage social events to create personal connections, both in person and online

Recognition action: Regularly recognise employees in line with their own personal values and interests. Implement employee recognition for years of service.


“Valued and accepted without reservation”

  1. Regularly gather employee feedback via pulse survey questions and share results at the team level
  2. Encourage a wide variety of social clubs or events and ensure everyone is invited
  3. Introduce and support Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to serve all employees

Recognition action: Recognise behaviours that promote a diversity of input and perspective.


“Consistently and meaningfully nurtured and developed”

  1. Encourage regular, meaningful manager contact
  2. Empower managers to provide coaching to meet specific employee needs
  3. Ensure employees have the development and resources they need to succeed in their role

Recognition action: Recognise employees for working toward growth and development goals.


“Developing and maintaining relationships across a diverse population”

  1. Prioritise the development of a diverse employee body
  2. Facilitate cross-functional relationship building
  3. Use connection tools to break down silos across function, location, and level

Recognition action: Recognise actions that bring people together across business and demographic lines.

Learn more about belonging at work

Belonging is the next frontier for HR and business leaders. If you can foster a strong sense of belonging at work you will see engagement, productivity, and turnover improve.

Business leaders have the challenge and opportunity right now to invest in their employees’ sense of belonging, to not only drive business results but also to have happier, healthier employees. This research is intended to guide you on your journey, changing organisational culture by leveraging DEI and the pillars of belonging, to create a brighter future for all your employees and your business.

Learn more about belonging at work by downloading the 2021 Culture Report on Belonging at Work today.



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