What is True Belonging?

At Employee Fanatix, our mission is simple: to equip organizations with the intelligence they need to improve the quality of work-life for their employees. We’re continually inspired by our vision to help caring leaders shine by putting people at the heart of everything they do while empowering employees with the knowledge that their voice is valued and needed.

But the very core of what I do can be boiled down into one idea: true belonging. Diversity & inclusion, employee engagement, executive coaching, and all the other organizational development areas I specialize in connecting back to the idea of belonging, or the sense of being fully accepted and embraced as a team member. When you belong at work, you feel empowered to bring new ideas to the table, engage on a more meaningful level, and build robust interpersonal connections.

What does true belonging feel like? It’s hard to articulate, but you simply know it when you feel it.

A while back, my daughter was just starting high school. We had chosen a racially diverse school, as we thought she would feel most included if she were surrounded by peers who had similar identities. A few weeks in, however, she realized she felt woefully out of place and not truly included in any significant way. It just wasn’t a good fit, and the school made little effort to make it one. Ultimately, my husband and I supported my daughter in her decision to transfer schools, and she ended up choosing a school that was far less diverse than the first one. In fact, there were only a handful of students of color. But it became immediately clear that the ethos of the school was one of inclusion, as they completely embraced my daughter and her full potential. She knew she truly belonged.

It touches my heart to see the impact of inclusive cultures, especially since I can relate firsthand to my daughter’s feelings of exclusion. I’m the product of an interracial and interfaith marriage; my mom is white and Jewish and my dad is black and Christian. Growing up, my family was explicitly excluded from any family gatherings hosted by my maternal grandparents. I felt like the literal black sheep of my family. But navigating these complex dynamics eventually instilled in me the skills I needed to excel as a leader and CEO, and the perspective to identify cultures of true belonging.

My daughter’s experience serves as a reminder that creating an atmosphere of belonging doesn’t mean filling an employee diversity quota—just because you get underrepresented talent through the door doesn’t mean you have the infrastructure and culture-building acumen to keep them there. When it comes to the workplace, it’s obviously important that our workforce is diverse and accurately representative of our constituents. But it’s more important to foster an inclusive culture where that demographic diversity has the space to flourish and thrive. Not only is true belonging better for the well-being of individual employees, but it’s critical for business drivers, as well. A study found that an increased sense of belonging is linked to a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days. With data like that, the value of leading with your heart can’t be ignored. I argue we need to focus less on diversity and more on belonging, or in other words, less on the numbers and more on the people.


Heather Younger
Heather Younger
Heather Younger gets it. As a best-selling author, international TEDx speaker, podcast host, facilitator, and Forbes Coaches Council coach, she has earned her reputation as “The Employee Whisperer”. Her experiences as a CEO, entrepreneur, manager, attorney, writer, coach, listener, speaker, collaborator and mother all lend themselves to a laser-focused clarity into what makes employees of organizations and companies – large and small - tick. Heather has facilitated more than 150 workshops, reaching +100 employers and their employees. Her motivation and philosophy have reached more than 20,000 attendees at her speaking engagements on large and small stages. Companies have charted their future course based on her leading more than 100 focus groups. In addition, she has helped companies see double-digit employee engagement score increases through the implementation of her laws and philosophies. She has driven results in a multitude of industries, including banking, oil & gas, construction, energy, and federal and local government. Heather brings a tenacious and inspirational outlook to issues plaguing the workforces of today. Her book “The 7 Intuitive Laws of Employee Loyalty” hit the Forbes Must-Read list and is a go-to source for HR professionals seeking insight into their organization's dynamics. Heather’s writing can also be found on her blog at EmployeFanatix, as well as articles in Forbes, Huffington Post, Thrive Global, American Express Open Forum, and more. Coupled with her Leadership with Heart podcast, weekly videos, and employer newsletters, Heather stays connected to organizations long after she leaves the stage or conference roomWhen all the emails are returned and the mic is turned off, and Heather acts as co-manager of her busy household in Aurora, Colorado with her husband, where they oversee their four children.

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  1. Emotional attachment to the company for which you work is a great strength that comes from feeling safe within the group, it finds nourishment in the sharing of values, symbols, ideals and is expressed in productive attitudes and behaviors. each worker needs to feel emotionally and physically safe and accepted within the “team”, before being able to progress and reach their full potential, maximum satisfaction and productivity.
    this emotional perception is not a contractual issue (I am hired by this company, so …) but rather a psychological aspect. No manager of any company will ever be able to force someone to “belong”; however, it will be up to him to create the conditions that will make the collaborators feel involved, increase the sharing of the corporate culture and therefore the attachment to the shirt.
    It is not easy to establish a direct relationship between a sense of belonging and the actions to be taken; however, I believe it is essential, first of all, to concretely assess the real climate. In other words, determine the gap that exists between employees’ expectations and the reality they experience, the gap between what top management believes they have achieved in terms of sharing the corporate culture and the actual level of acceptance by the staff.
    Ultimately, a work group linked by a strong sense of belonging is a group where everyone feels psychologically safe, listened to and respected; where each member has the opportunity to freely express what he thinks and no one is afraid to make important decisions; where anyone has the opportunity to train and develop their skills, putting their talent at the service of everyone, in a climate of professional and personal self-realization.