We Belong Together

To belong or not to belong? That is the question for 2022.

As the competition for talent intensifies, how can your organization create a true sense of belonging in the post-pandemic world?

Never has “belonging” been so front and center in the fight for talent, whether that is its attraction, development or its retention.

As organizations in all four corners of the globe experience attrition rates on an unprecedented scale, there can be little doubt, our expectations of the global corporate workplace have changed since the onset of the pandemic:

  • Where and how we work
  • How we expect to work
  • What we want out of work
  • How we experience “value” at work

The organizations that will survive and thrive are those that acknowledge this shift in approach and embrace the need to actively create a culture—in the new asynchronous workplace—where their people feel appreciated with an affinity to their employer. In other words, where they “belong.” Conversely, those that ignore the shift in human expectation will continue to lose headcount.


Pre-pandemic, workplaces didn’t need to work so hard to “stick” their people to them and a sense of “belonging” was easier to create. Culture, to some extent, existed by default by physical interaction. Now, with hybrid work models and people still nervous about their health and finances, the dilution risk to those embedded cultures is acute. Unimpeded, it can lead to individuals opting out as we have seen in sharp focus, cross-sector, throughout 2021.

“Belonging” was not such a “thing” pre-pandemic—now, in my view, it is everything. But is there a panacea—a magic ingredient?

There is a practical way to tackle this. The power, authenticity and innovation of the individuals that make up “the successful team” is harnessed in a workplace that proactively shifts its focus toward “Psychological Safety” (or PS). I am talking about the creation of “Speak up, Listen up” cultures where employees are heard and, in turn, feel that sense of “belonging” and, ultimately, loyalty.

Organizations must be introspective and honest, asking “do we have a PS culture where our people, of whatever seniority and whether office-based or working in the virtual world, feel they have the ability to speak candidly to each other without fear of reprisal? Whether that is to proffer a new and innovative idea or, most importantly at this moment in history, to stand up and say when someone notices a negative behavior or isn’t feeling valued?”

The next overriding question is, “will that person be listened to”? This lies at the heart of the various I&D initiatives of the financial regulators across the globe. Regulators are cognizant that PS is the next frontier in I&D and accountability for it is intrinsically linked to the inclusive workplace.

Make no mistake, creating a PS workplace takes active effort from the very top. This is change culture where leaders need to (re)set the tone. Populations need to know and believe that it is not only major incidents that will be confronted but also “microbehaviors”—indignities and comments that can lead people to feel excluded. Often unintentional and hard to spot, these small actions can cause individuals to feel isolated, the opposite of “belonging.” We are fallible humans; there will always be odd incidents. PS can be maintained if there is proper accountability for actions taken.

If you haven’t already undertaken a survey of whether your people feel heard, here is a quick-fire temperature-check exercise:

  • If someone makes a mistake, will it be held against them?
  • Is it safe to take a risk in this team?
  • Can team members bring up problems and ask for help and receive it?
  • Do people in this team sometimes reject others for being “different” or deliberately act in a way that undermines efforts?

This is by no way exhaustive but is a base indicator of the level of PS and, in turn, “belonging.”


There can be no doubt, our values and expectations of our workplaces are very different than they were 24 months ago, and employees are “voting with their feet” in an unprecedented manner. Organizations, now more than ever, need to adapt and evolve to nurture their greatest asset, their people—the focus on “belonging” should be at the very top of the list. To belong or not to belong? In my opinion, this isn’t even a question in 2022. It’s a necessity.

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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