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Belonging at work: recommendations for practice

This blogpost is part of the “Belonging is a mindset” blog series derived from my academic research on ‘internal communication and belonging in the virtual workplace’ for the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. The data from this study was collected from new hires who started their jobs in the middle of the pandemic and internal communication practitioners. This blogpost is part of the conclusions and recommendations section.

Recommendations for practice

In addition to the information under ‘IC strategies that work’, IC professionals are encouraged to explore the following opportunities in promoting a sense of belongingness in the current virtual, later hybrid, workplace.

Assess workplace belonging

Every internal communication programme starts with a baseline. It is therefore useful for IC professionals to determine where their workplaces are in terms of a sense of belongingness before they aim to improve or strengthen it. To make sure that belongingness for new hires is taken on board, IC can conduct an initial survey to design a programme that can lead a transformation. They can do this via a questionnaire or random focus groups in the organisation.

To cover all aspects of belongingness, IC teams can use the framework suggested by Allen et al. (2021) and the questions from House (2021) and Men (2016) from page 183. The data that IC collects from this survey will be a good start to developing a programme. Likewise, they can use their baseline to evaluate how far they have come at a later stage in their programme or how much they still need to do to reach the organisation’s goal when it comes to belongingness.

Align on organisational onboarding

While IC’s relationship with line managers has not proven so successful in the last decades, they still consider each other peers as does HR, and can develop a new relationship to design belongingness in the virtual workplace. It can make onboarding a matter of organisational identification and lead the practice in the workplace especially for new hires. This is an opportunity for IC to introduce the organisation to them in a manner that is aligned with the organisation’s external image, internal culture, and future ambitions. This creates mutual understanding between the organisation and new hires and facilitates employee involvement.

Organisational onboarding keeps IC close to employees and opens the lines of communication. It is an opportunity for IC to understand new hires better for future communications. This makes it easier to hear their voices, listen to their needs and advocate for change when necessary.

Advocate for change

Being the position that takes care of organisational communication, internal communication has access to leadership like no other while having the ear of employees. This gives IC immense power to make employee voices heard and tended to by leadership through an active feedback loop.

Internal communication teams can hold regular pulse surveys or informal employee check-ins to inquire about the level of belongingness in their workplaces and record which causes connections and disconnects. The data that they can derive from these check-ins can be used as conversation starters with leadership. IC can feed its findings back to leadership to let them know if there are employee needs they should consider. If they see that change is necessary, IC should advocate for this. This gives IC a strategic position in the organisation while fulfilling its role of creating a positive workplace culture.

When employee needs are recognised and looked at, employees feel valued, empowered and are most likely to stay loyal to their workplaces. This has positive business implications.

Next up

In the next blogpost, I will write some recommendations for future research.


  • You will find a full list of references here.
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