The Work Happiness Score and work happiness survey are now the Work Wellbeing Score and work wellbeing survey, respectively. Learn more and access our most up-to-date resources.

Imagine you’re a new hire at work. You see a group of people who are all very close, laughing, meeting, and doing exceptional work. Now imagine you only feel a part of the group if you change and conform to their standards of working, thinking, and behaving. 

This is fitting in. On the outside, the optics present themselves as a group of employees welcoming and including a new hire. Conversely, belonging is about being our authentic selves and being accepted for it without fear or judgment. 

A new hire simply belonging to a great company would look much different. Instead of changing who we are, belonging would be simply being ourselves and still being welcomed and accepted into the group.

Changing behaviours that misalign with one’s authentic self is one way for employers to see turnover, poor attraction, and ultimately less productivity. Unfortunately, this is what fitting in is like, and many people experience it daily at work. 

“True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are,” says social scientist and vulnerability researcher Dr. Brene Brown in her book Braving the Wilderness. “It requires us to be who we are.” While belonging is about someone’s own personal experience, employers can create an atmosphere that allows all employees to be their authentic selves. 

Belonging in the workplace 

Cornell University defines belonging in the workplace as “the feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group. It is when an individual can bring their authentic self to work. When employees feel like they don’t belong at work, their performance and their personal lives suffer.”

Workplace belonging can be summed up in three measurable attributes

1. Comfort

When employees are comfortable at work, they are not operating in fear or judgment and can show up as their authentic selves. 

2. Connection

When people feel connected with their colleagues, they’re more likely to feel like they belong. Thirty-six percent of employees reported that having interpersonal relationships at work indicates belonging. 

3. Contribution

When people are actively contributing to the organization, they know their contributions are valued. This can be an objective indicator of belonging in the workplace. In addition, understanding employee outputs can help employers identify potential gaps in happiness. 

When employee performance suffers, so does the company’s productivity, profitability, and overall performance—indicating that fostering a sense of belonging in the workplace is good for both employees and good for business. 

Correlation between workplace happiness and belonging

Focusing solely on diversity efforts often is not enough. Hiring a diverse workforce should be inclusive of an organization’s hiring strategy, but it should not be the sole strategy. Instead, implementing inclusion and belonging efforts will result in better wellbeing for the workforce. 

Canada proudly remains the most diverse country in the G8—yet even with this diversity, employees still report that only 11% of Canadian organizations have an inclusive workplace. 

Not surprisingly, there is a correlation between belonging and workplace happiness. Respondents surveyed in our Happiness Report identified belonging as a top reason for feeling happy and energized at work and having a sense of purpose. 

Implementing a diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DI&B) strategy will help propel your team and company goals into a more equitable and happier tomorrow.