- A sense of belonging for all employees is crucial amid the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide calls for racial and social justice, according to the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI). A report released June 22 analyzed a survey of 3,711 college-educated professionals and found employees with a higher sense of belonging are more likely to be engaged, stay at their company for more than two years and recommend it to others.
- The Power of Belonging: What It Is and Why It Matters in Today's Workplace found that white male respondents had the highest belonging scores and white women had the second highest scores. Asian women surveyed had the least sense of belonging, scoring just below Black women. Almost one third (32%) of Black employees, 23% of Asian employees and 15% of Latinx employees said they have felt out of place at work because of their race or ethnicity, the report stated. Baby boomers had a relatively high belonging score, while millennials and members of Generation X scored slightly lower. The LGBTQ belonging score "is higher than may be expected," which "may speak to recent gains in the LGBTQ movement in U.S. society," CTI said.
- Respondents with high belonging scores are more likely to have senior leaders they share commonalities with and who serve as role models, the report said. Diversifying top leadership and embedding diversity and inclusion (D&I) priorities into succession plans can help increase belonging, according to CTI. HR can incentivize leaders to support D&I "by embedding the right expectations into criteria for leadership, selection, promotion and compensation," the report suggested.
Creating a sense of belonging allows employees to bring their authentic selves, experts say, and research shows it's also good for business. "High belonging was linked to a whopping 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days," according to researchers behind a recent BetterUp study.
Research also suggests that during the pandemic, companies that prioritize belonging and inclusion may emerge better than before. "[Inclusion and diversity] is a powerful enabler of business performance," McKinsey & Company said in a May 19 report. "Companies whose leaders welcome diverse talents and include multiple perspectives are likely to emerge from the crisis stronger."
A lack of belonging can increase the likelihood of negative business outcomes, according to CTI. Respondents in the lowest quartile of belonging scores in its survey were more than four times more likely to say they were "stalled" in their careers, compared to those in the highest quartile. CTI conducted its survey of more than 3,000 employees in February, the same month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised companies to begin to prepare for telework to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
CTI conducted a follow-up survey in May, which found differences in experiences across racial groups. Black professionals were more than five times as likely to have lost a family member to COVID-19 compared to their white colleagues (11% versus 2%), and Latinx employees were four times as likely (8% versus 2%).
At this point in time, employees are paying attention to how companies respond to both the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 and greater calls for racial equality in society and in the workplace following the May 25 killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by Minneapolis police.
"Companies are being called upon to dismantle bias within their organizations, and that means they need to look inward at their corporate cultures to understand what makes it so hard for certain groups to advance," Lanaya Irvin, president of CTI, said in a statement; "Belonging will become increasingly relevant" in the aftermath of a pandemic, economic disruption and social unrest.