Paula Darch

Using Your Intranet to Foster a Sense of Belonging

Renowned researcher and author, Brené Brown, highlights why a sense of belonging is so important by stating that “belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us.” In fact, every human has a need to belong, and belonging is a potent force at work, improving productivity, employee tenure and wellbeing. However, with one in five employees feeling lonely at work, exacerbated by more people remote and hybrid working, leaders need to focus on how to nurture belonging, especially at a distance. John Nicklin, MD of Sorce, believes that company-wide intranets have a crucial role to play here, and explains how they can strengthen connections and help foster a culture of acceptance and understanding.

Why is a sense of belonging so important?

Everyone wants to feel that they are part of something important and meaningful, and that they have an important role to play. They also want to feel that they “belong” and not just “fit in” with author Brené Brown stating that the former is being allowed to be your authentic self, whereas “fitting in” is adapting how you are in order to be accepted.

A workplace where everyone feels connected and accepted is vital for getting the best out of people. And by building a close-knit workplace community, this delivers bottom-line results with a strong sense of belonging linked to a 56 percent increase in job performance, a 50 percent drop in turnover risk, and a 75 percent reduction in sick days.

How can the intranet nurture belonging at a distance?

Clearly, when the workforce is scattered – some working in the office, others splitting their time between the office and home, and some full-time remote working, nurturing a sense of belonging comes with its challenges. However it’s perfectly possible to provide every employee with a feeling of being part of a caring workplace community. You just need the right technological platform, such as a modern intranet, and an understanding from the leadership team that investing time and effort into strengthening belonging is key.

A modern intranet is light years’ away from intranets of the past, which served as people directories and a means for pushing out ‘company announcements’. They are now living and breathing entities that are fully-interactive, helping to nurture a sense of belonging in the following ways:

Linking everyone to organisational purpose – The intranet can help employees to feel part of something bigger than themselves – a meaningful cause and vision. Take Lego, for example, it’s purpose is “To inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow” while Coca-Cola’s purpose is “Refresh the world. Make a difference.”  Whatever the purpose, it must be communicated and reinforced throughout the intranet – on the home page, across the news sections, in blogs, on podcasts, when highlighting charitable initiatives, and so on.

Providing transparency that grows trust – Honesty and openness are closely linked with nurturing belonging, as you will never feel comfortable in a company that is secretive and evasive. By using the intranet to keep everyone quickly and easily updated with the same information at the same time, this prevents misinformation and confusion. Using the intranet as an open platform for discussion, including allowing employees to have direct access to the leadership team, perhaps through monthly webinars/Q&As, also creates a culture of transparency and trust.

Strengthening workplace relationships – The intranet should be used to nurture collaboration and social interactions between peers, as a sense of belonging requires feelings of camaraderie. So as well as bringing people together in a pure work context, such as enabling teammates to feedback on project plans and documents, the intranet must also become a social hub in which colleagues can share birthday messages, recipe ideas and film recommendations. Some organisations even run a ‘pet of the week’ column and encourage working parents to share parenting advice, all with the intention of strengthening bonds and keeping the ‘human’ in hybrid working.  

Everyone is included – As Ania Krasniewska, Group Vice President at Gartner says, “Belonging is a key component of inclusion. When employees are truly included, they perceive that the organisation cares for them as individuals — their authentic selves.” The intranet must play a crucial role in supporting inclusion, which means ensuring everyone can access the intranet, not just those with a laptop. So field workers must be able to access it on their mobile phones and quickly and easily upload content and give feedback. And every employee must feel a part of the discussions, which means shining lights on underrepresented groups, perhaps celebrating occasions such as Black History Month, PRIDE and International Women’s Day by running themed podcasts, inviting blogs from minority groups and highlighting what the company is doing to be more inclusive.

Everyone is given a voice and is allowed to use it – It’s important to encourage employees to value what each person can bring to the table, advocating for everyone’s voice to be heard. The intranet provides an invaluable platform for discussions, opinions and feedback, so long as individuals across all departments and locations are invited to contribute their thoughts. Organisations that encourage everyone, from the warehouse operatives through to the top sales people, to have a voice, will have the greatest chance of nurturing belonging.

Appreciation becomes embedded – People need to feel valued and appreciated on a daily basis, which means recognising those who make a difference, in both small and large ways. The intranet is an important tool for giving and receiving staff recognition – spotlighting employees who should be praised, while allowing employees to nominate colleagues who they feel have gone ‘above and beyond’. Often the connections sparked by peer-to-peer appreciation can evolve into powerful working partnerships and friendships. 

True belonging doesn’t just ‘happen’

A feeling of true belonging doesn’t just ‘happen’ when you join a company (and is even harder to achieve if hybrid or remote working). Belonging is wrapped-up in feeling accepted, understood and a part of a caring community. And it must be carefully cultivated. To achieve this at a distance requires a central, agile IT platform such as an intranet that reinforces workplace culture; brings people together; and ensures everyone is included, given a voice and connected to the same meaningful purpose.


Paula Darch

Paula is our marketing whizz and is passionate about intranet engagement and getting the most out of your intranet software.