How to foster a sense of belonging at work (and why it matters)

Many people speak about the importance of fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion at work – but what does this actually mean to jobseekers and employees, and why does it matter?

  • Three in ten individuals believe that being yourself at work is linked to their job satisfaction and workplace happiness 
  • 32% of workers feel they can’t be their true selves at work 
  • Only 19% of employees think that having a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policy shows that an employer is actually diverse 

Our goal at is simple – we want to help people find a job that they will truly love, and in turn, help them Love Mondays. Through research, we’ve found that a huge part of loving your job is being able to be your authentic self. We’re here to share tips on how you can provide an environment which allows employees to do just that.

Vacancies are down and applications are booming

The UK economy has had its fair share of ups and downs in the last few months. With the news of redundancies in some industries, more people going after fewer jobs, increasing interest rates, and uncertainty due to the cost of living crisis, both businesses and jobseekers have been proceeding with caution. 

Data on* reveals a decline in the number of vacancies, while applications have steadily increased each month since February. In comparison to June 2022, the number of jobs posted decreased by 12% year-on-year and applications jumped up by 38%. Not only does this signal an end to the candidate-driven market we’ve been navigating for the past few years, but it also raises recession alarm bells and concerns for the prospects of the UK economy

This scenario highlights that candidates are becoming seemingly restless. So much so that approximately 4.2 million workers, or one in seven individuals, are expected to seek new employment within the next six months in the hunt for higher pay and improved benefits. 

For employers, this is bittersweet. While there are more candidates out there looking to apply for your roles, there’s also the risk of losing top-performing staff to businesses who can offer candidates what they need – more enticing working conditions. Therefore employers must focus on tactics to retain their top-performing employees, whilst fostering a favourable environment that people will want to join. 

The importance of workplace belonging 

Inclusion and belonging are integral to a business’s success, even though they are much more challenging to measure than diversity and equity. Put simply, inclusion is a behaviour, and belonging is a feeling or outcome of that behaviour. An inclusive environment is one where employees from all backgrounds feel accepted and are treated fairly. But, a sense of workplace belonging goes one step further. It’s about feeling accepted for who you are, and connected to the role you have and the work you do. 

A culture of belonging comes as a result of your efforts to create an inclusive environment. It helps to nurture a positive work environment and contributes to overall job satisfaction. In fact, in a recent survey** we found that a majority (60%) of individuals believe that being able to be yourself at work is linked to their job satisfaction and workplace happiness.  And, we know that happy and satisfied employees are not only more likely to stay with an organisation but are a great asset when it comes to attracting new talent. 

While over two-thirds (68%) of those surveyed said they always or very often feel as if they can be their true selves at work, 32% responded that they only feel this way sometimes, rarely or never. The worry here is that when employees cannot be their authentic selves, it hinders open communication, collaboration, and productivity as employees may spend more time focussing on being someone else than on checking tasks off their to-do lists.

When individuals were asked about the barriers preventing them from being themselves at work, a fear of being seen as unprofessional (29%) was cited as the primary obstacle. This fear stems from concerns about how their actions, ideas, or personal traits may be perceived in the workplace. Additionally, 27% expressed a fear of offending someone and 22% mentioned worrying about their colleagues’ opinions. 

On a more positive note, those that always or very often feel that they can be their true selves at work reported remarkable benefits. Over a third (37%) said that they feel more relaxed at work, almost three in ten (29%) said they derive greater enjoyment from work, and just under a quarter (23%) of people said they feel more confident in themselves and their abilities. 

And the benefits don’t stop there. Businesses that expressed*** that they have an organisation where people feel free to be themselves reported improved employee engagement (41%), a better company culture (38%) and 31% reported improvements to their retention rates.

So how can you create a culture of inclusion and belonging?

Now that we understand the importance of inclusion and belonging, and the impact that cultivating a sense of belonging can have on business and employees, let’s explore how you can foster one.

We asked jobseekers and employees what demonstrates that an employer is inclusive – and it’s no surprise that it goes beyond just having a diversity, equity and inclusion policy. Here are the top initiatives that show an employer is inclusive:

1. Open communication and collaboration among all employees 

It’s important to create an environment where employees’ opinions, feedback and ideas are met with open ears. Moreover, a sense of belonging is created when employees can see and feel that their voices are making an impact. 

2. Building and maintaining a diverse workforce 

Diversity is an important pillar of inclusion. A sense of inclusion is fostered when employees can see themselves represented within the workforce and identify with their colleagues. However, this can be a chicken and egg situation – if diversity attracts diversity, it can be hard to take the first steps in becoming a diverse employer. 

3. Cultivating a respectful work environment for diverse identities and creating a sense of belonging 

Creating a workplace in which people are accepted for who they are is essential for fostering a sense of belonging. Ensure that you have provisions in place, such as prayer rooms, flexible working hours and listening groups, to support and educate all employees. 

4. Inclusive hiring practices for equal opportunities

True inclusion is allowing everyone to have access to the same opportunities. On top of this, interviewing and hiring a diverse set of individuals will help to ensure you hire talented individuals who are the right fit for your company. Make sure that your hiring processes are inclusive, such as having a mixed panel of interviewers and alleviating bias from your processes.  

5. Leadership commitment to inclusivity 

Senior leadership teams should lead by example when it comes to creating an inclusive workplace. Not only should your leadership team itself be diverse, but members should be actively invested in company initiatives to promote inclusivity.  

However, as mentioned previously, belonging is a feeling that emerges from creating an inclusive environment. You need to provide people with the opportunity to not only have a seat at the table but also have a voice that matters in the conversation and decision-making happening

Fortunately, our research revealed that businesses have taken steps such as regularly asking for employee feedback (40%), conducting regular DE&I training (32%), creating employee engagement groups (31%), and running DE&I events throughout the year (25%) to promote a culture of belonging and help their employees to feel valued and heard. Ensure that your business is on top of these practices to make sure that you are giving your employees opportunities to be heard and feel included.

Where do we go from here? 

There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to creating a sense of belonging at work and it’s best to adopt a test and learn attitude. You should ask employees for feedback, be open to their responses, and truly act on the advice and opinions that they provide. Inclusion and belonging is not a tick-box exercise, and you won’t achieve it overnight. Being transparent about the steps you are taking to improve your organisation should help to create an understanding environment where people feel safe to be themselves. 

What works for your business and your employees will differ between organisations but it’s especially important to prioritise inclusivity and belonging in today’s job market. Creating an inclusive environment that employees truly value and would find hard to leave is key and will aid your attraction strategy beyond measure. After all, a culture that speaks for itself and a satisfied workforce that acts as brand advocates is priceless when it comes to talent acquisition.


*Applications and jobs posted on between 1 June 2022 and 30 June 2023.

**This online survey was conducted by Atomik Research and consisted of 2,004 adults in the UK. This survey took place between 13 – 16 June 2023. Atomik Research is an independent creative market research agency that employs MRS-certified researchers and abides to MRS code.

***This online survey was conducted by Atomik Research and consisted of 253 employees with hiring responsibilities in the UK. The research fieldwork took place between 13 – 16 June 2023.