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Belonging – seven tips to achieve higher employee engagement

Elias Axelsson Björklund
Elias works as a Marketing Project Manager at Questback and has worked with marketing in HR and Customer-tech since 2017 after studies from Stockholm University.
7 min read
Employee Experience
Belonging – seven tips to achieve higher employee engagement

The need for belonging is a very important part of our nature and most people can not make a difference between private and professional relationships. This means that most of us need to feel like we belong with our group of colleagues, just as much as with our friends and family. This feeling that you belong is directly connected to productivity, profitability and engagement.

So, what can an organization do to help its employees have better relationships at work? There are quite a few methods you could use to actively create an environment where the employees have the right conditions to bond with their colleagues. Below, you will find seven tips on how to create a winning team of over-achievers with strong bonds.

1: Meet everyone’s basic psychological needs

To be able to perform our daily tasks, we all need to meet some basic physical needs: get enough sleep, eat enough, stay hydrated and exercise. But to achieve higher productivity with higher engagement levels, we need to have a strong feeling of belonging to the group of people we’re working with and the organization. To get this feeling, we need more than our basic needs to be fulfilled, we also need to have psychological needs to feel:

  1. A sense of community
  2. Safe
  3. Challenged
  4. Recognized
  5. Like we are an important part of the team

Neglecting our physical needs can affect the quality of our life while ignoring our psychological needs can lead to us getting restless, easily annoyed, grumpy and poor team players. This, in turn, will have huge negative effects on our engagement. Ignoring your employee’s psychological needs will more often than not lead to them underperforming and looking for opportunities to go work elsewhere without discussing the move with their current employer. This is why every organization should actively work to meet their employees’ psychological needs, not only for higher engagement, but also to retain their overachievers within the company.

Source: Leda bra eller leda bäst

2: The importance of having a best friend at work

There is a major difference between liking your colleagues and having a true friend at work. A strong friendship creates a sense of trust between two or more people and we tend to be more open with and share our creative ideas with our friends, often leading to innovative ways of solving problems that occur.

A survey by Gallup shows that a major difference between highly successful teams and average performers was that the individuals in successful teams had stronger emotional bonds to one another and felt like they really knew their colleagues and liked them, a lot more than the average teams.

Organizations with a higher number of strong relationships have a higher level of trust within the workforce, put more effort into informing colleagues when handing over a task and help each other more when one or more people struggle at work. As a manager, you should do your best to bring to light how each member of your team contributes to reaching your combined goals and not just make a note of the star performers. One way to make this easier is to have common goals for smaller groups and celebrate their success as a group when they achieve their goals. This way, you create an environment in which the members of the group help each other when someone is having issues while also getting to know each other better organically.

Source: Gallup

3: Regular team-building exercises

A group of colleagues that feel like a team will generally work harder to achieve their common goals and will put in that little extra effort to contribute to the team. This means that team-building exercises are a great tool for you to create more engagement. Unfortunately, most organizations limit their team-building focus to end-of-year holiday events or when kicking off a new project. As a leader of a team, there are so many more things you can do to create a strong sense of being a team among your employees.

A few ideas for team building activities:

1: Encourage and finance an amateur sports team for your employees to join together.

2: Create a mentorship program – Give the senior employees a chance to groom and teach new arrivals.

3: Encourage common interest groups, e.g. a book club, museum-goers club or a group where employees share recipes and cook together.

4: Help the local area get better – together

It’s pretty hard to see and believe the work one’s own organization is doing to make a positive impact on the environment or local area, even with major promises and reports of actual progress. A way around this is to organize a half or full day where your employees actively do environmental or volunteer work in the local area. This will make it a lot easier to believe that the organization is making a difference since each employee will physically be participating.

Examples of activities:

  1. A day of volunteering – A full day where your employees can choose to volunteer locally.
  2. Offer pro bono products or services to some of the less fortunate organizations in your local area and let the employees deliver/be part of the work.
  3. Help clean up local parks or forests.
  4. Start a fund for one of your local non-profit organizations.
  5. Take part in an environmental group challenge.

5: My boss cares about me, as a person

Basically every employee wants to feel like more than just an employee number or a cog in a machine that is easily replaceable.It is when we feel important and appreciated by our bosses that most of us care more about our work. Our willingness to share potentially innovative ideas with our managers and our trust toward the organization grows as we feel like management actually cares about us as a person.

The survey by Gallup shows that teams of employees that feel appreciated at work perform a lot better than the ones who feel ignored by management. It’s basic human nature really – all humans unknowingly try to be part of a group and a culture where we feel like we belong and that we can trust. This is even more important when something is wrong. If we feel like we are important to our bosses, we tend to be more willing to talk about a mistake or an issue at work, because we know that we will be met with respect and understanding. This directly affects our engagement at work as we know that a small mistake is not going to lead to huge consequences.

Globally, only 4 out of 10 people feel like their boss truly cares about them as individuals. An 8% raise of that number would lead to 46% fewer accidents at work and absence from work would go down by 41%.

Source: Gallup

6: Feeling proud of your colleague’s achievements

Most people, when asked, feel like they perform really well at work but if you instead ask how their colleagues are performing, the responses aren’t as positive. A good manager needs to be very clear about what is expected of their employees and what counts as a great performance at their particular company. They should also draw focus to examples of great achievements within the group, when someone is performing well. It’s also helpful if the manager explains just how these great achievements affect the entire organization. These small things will create a sense of pride within the workforce, not just for your own achievements, but the employees will feel proud of their colleagues as well.


If you can change the mentality of “I’m a great employee, everyone else is barely doing anything”, the respect and trust between the employees will see huge positive changes and this will directly affect your turnover in staff, profitability and customer satisfaction.

Source: Gallup

7: Measure, measure again and follow up

When you start to incorporate some of the methods above, for instance, the mentorship program or the volunteer days, it will be important to know how these changes affect the employees and how they feel about them. The changes might be a huge success immediately or you might need to make small adjustments according to the employees’ feedback. This is where the psychological needs of your employees, that we mentioned earlier, are important to keep in mind. Does everyone feel like they are part of the new changes? Are they getting the recognition they feel like they deserve? Are the changes not the issue, but they have other complaints or comments on the organization as a whole?

To measure the success of your changes and to get valuable feedback from your employees, you should regularly check in with your workers and follow up on any issues or feedback you get. A huge part in measuring changes is to have the employees take a survey before any potential changes and then again after changes have been implemented. You can create a survey in a few minutes with a free trial here and use this tool to get real, honest feedback from your employees, every month, every quarter or after every activity you organize.


Once you have successfully met the psychological needs of your employees, you are well on your way to getting higher engagement from each individual. The closest boss or manager is usually the one person that has the biggest effect on each employee and this person has to be honestly interested in each employee while actively trying to create an environment where colleagues can create strong relationships with one another. This can be done through team-building exercises or by participating in activities to help out in the local area together. Should you also be able to make your employees feel a sense of pride when their colleagues succeed, you will have created a true Team.


Guide for high employee engagement

Find the 4 driving forces of engagement split up into 33 solid methods that you can use to be a better leader and raise your team’s performance.

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