The Value of Belonging

Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong in a certain setting? Or have you ever questioned whether you “fit" at a specific job? It’s probably safe to say that most of us have at some point—and more often than we’d like to admit. Questioning one’s sense of belonging can quickly lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness—especially when you consider the ever-growing virtual work landscape.

“The Surgeon General came out with a report within the last two weeks. The report was titled Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation and outlines five essentials for mental health and well-being,” says Jina Etienne, CPA, CEO of Etienne Consulting and expert on inclusion in the workplace. “And one of those essentials is to foster a culture of inclusion and belonging.”

According to Etienne, a sense of belonging evolves when sound, proactive practices around inclusion are in place. This equates to cultivating a workplace that provides psychological safety and promotes authenticity. And when you do, the outcome is a sense of belonging among staff, which can lead to improved performance, retaining qualified staff, and higher levels of employee productivity.

Now, let’s take a deeper dive into how inclusion and belonging go hand-in-hand. And how you can build a healthy, inclusive culture to elevate feelings of belonging across departments, roles, and individuals.

Inclusion leads to belonging

Humans are fundamentally social beings, which means the drive to belong is part of one’s DNA. When people feel connected, they thrive. And as more studies look closely at “belonging,” the data shows that organizations where employees feel a strong sense of belonging perform better.

Inclusion, in simplest terms, is defined by an environment that “values, appreciates, and welcomes employees of all backgrounds and diverse characteristics. It does not strive to ignore differences.”

Etienne believes that an inclusive workplace is one where employees feel connected, welcome, respected, and positive. And that when you have this type of culture in place, it breeds acceptance.

Belonging—the desired outcome of inclusion—is grounded in acceptance. It offers the sense that one’s “...uniqueness is accepted and even treasured by their organization and colleagues,” says Etienne. And this is key when you consider that a sense of belonging leads to reduced stress, improved motivation, and psychological safety.

Etienne provides a simple visual to distinguish between inclusion and belonging…