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Building a culture of belonging

When organisations focus on a culture of belonging, they call everyone in, creating space in the conversation to build a bridge to greater empathy and inclusion.

According to the recent Global Human Capital Trends survey, belonging, along with well-being is one of the most important human issues for leaders. 79 percent of survey respondents confirm that fostering a sense of belonging in the workforce is important to their organisation’s success, and 93 percent agree that a sense of belonging drives organisational performance.

Leaders carry the culture of any organisation

The word “culture” comes from the Latin “colere”, meaning to cultivate or grow – reflecting that culture is always in motion. The simplest way to describe a workplace culture is it being the organisation’s “DNA”, representing a building block of performance, belonging and success. Each organisation’s culture is unique, but it is mainly impacted by two key elements - how individuals respond to change and how individuals interact.

Creating a culture of belonging means that employees feel as part of the group, both because of who they are and what they bring. They feel comfortable and secure stretching in new ways and speaking their minds, because they are in a safe place where they can grow without fearing exclusion or failure. When leaders demonstrate that they value all their employees equally, they position their teams to mirror the same approach, which creates a culture where everyone feels like they have a place - that they belong. On a personal level, this sense of belonging also gives employees confidence in their own talent and makes them feel like they have found their place

To build a culture of belonging, leaders need a clear understanding of what it means to belong at work. Research suggests that this includes employees connected to their co-workers being seen for their unique contributions, supported in their daily work and development, and proud of their organisational values. Modelling inclusive behaviours by being empathetic, listening to all voices and sharing personal stories about cultivating a diverse range of perspectives can help leaders to create a culture of belonging in informed, authentic ways that encompass both, their communication style and their leadership approach.

What belonging looks like

A survey of more than 19,000 Harvard Business Review readers found that one culture style that differentiates organisations is a learning-oriented culture built on flexibility, open-mindedness, and exploration. Organisations with learning-centered cultures value individuals who bring unique and varied perspectives to the table and they are in a better position to make progress in increasing diversity within the workplace. However, fostering a learning-centric culture requires leaders to walk the talk by being open to new ideas, failure, and feedback, and recognising those that think outside the box.

When employees understand how their individual contribution helps to advance goals they support and find meaningful, they will feel more engaged, more motivated, and more likely to perform at a high level. However, creating psychological safety in a workplace can be challenging and takes commitment. The reason is that it is natural for people to hold back ideas, be reluctant to ask questions, and shy away from disagreeing with their manager. But achieving high levels of performance relies on integrating the ideas and expertise of multiple people, which requires a willingness to speak openly in a timely manner.

Employees feel seen, supported, connected, and proud when they can identify with their leaders. At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills through to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at


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