Belonging is a fundamental human need that organizations and HR departments have long prioritized.

But despite the widespread recognition of belonging as a crucial part of the workplace, it remains a deeply personal experience. So, how do we measure belonging?

While diversity looks at the makeup of the workforce, equity addresses barriers to access, and inclusion embraces diversity (DEI), belonging delves into a more elusive realm. Belonging asks “Do all employees feel valued, connected, and empowered to be their true selves at work?” In other words, belonging is about how people perceive your inclusion efforts. Unlike DEI, belonging is a bit more abstract and subjective, making it challenging to quantify. Yet, its impact on the workforce – and its absence – can be felt.

  • A study by McKinsey & Co revealed that over half of employees who recently left their jobs did not feel appreciated by their organization (54%) or their managers (52%) or lacked a sense of belonging (51%).
  • According to research conducted by BetterUp, if workers feel like they belong, companies reap substantial bottom-line benefits. High belonging was linked to an impressive 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days. For a 10,000-person company, this would result in annual savings of more than $52M.

When employees feel a sense of belonging it allows them to forge meaningful connections, freely express themselves and operate with genuine authenticity. This nurturing environment fosters the essential psychological safety employees need to take risks, share ideas and contribute without the fear of facing criticism or exclusion.

But achieving this outcome requires a plan for measuring specific belonging initiatives. As the old adage goes, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Without clear metrics around belonging, you won’t know if your culture is evolving for the better.

3 Ways to Assess for Belonging

Measuring belonging may present challenges, but it is not an impossible task. Here are 3 ways to measure progress towards belonging at work:

1. Take employee pulse checks
June is Pride Month, a time to celebrate and recognize the LGBTQ2+ community. June is also National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day, a time to honour the rich history and resilience of the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities. But while this month is an essential time to highlight these equity-deserving groups, fostering a sense of belonging among colleagues should be an ongoing commitment, not just a temporary effort. Essentially, sporadic and superficial gestures that many organizations label as “DEI work” can result in tokenism and hinder true progress towards belonging.  

That’s where regular check-ins come in – which has proven to be a powerful tool in gauging a sense of belonging. Harvard Business Review even discovered that 39% of respondents feel the strongest sense of belonging when their colleagues regularly check in with them, both on a personal and professional level.

2. Use a standardized assessment tools & surveys
Consider using a standardized questionnaire that captures the nuanced aspects of workplace belonging. By consistently reporting on the findings of these surveys and assessment tools, you can pinpoint strengths, trends and areas for improvement company-wide.

As a skilled HR professional, you can also attend HRPA events and tap into the wealth of knowledge and insights provided by DEI experts on tracking belonging. The HRPA also has a number of webinars, events and resources on belonging. Explore the valuable resources available, including the Culture of Belonging resource and insights from Feminuity.

3. Conduct stay interviews
Stay interviews are invaluable for understanding why employees stay and what drives them away. When used effectively, these conversations can enhance your team’s ability to retain talent. Through these dialogues, you will obtain a deeper understanding of whether team members feel appreciated, acknowledged and aligned with the organization. Most importantly, you can more accurately capture their sense of belonging.

It is crucial to implement meaningful changes based on employee input. Neglecting to do so will devalue the process and leave your team demotivated.

Bottom-line: To truly understand and improve belonging in the workplace, we need both qualitative and quantitative data to measure progress effectively. By prioritizing belonging and taking steps to measure it, we can work towards cultivating a healthy and functioning workplace where every individual feels valued and included.