11 Jun 2020  /  by:

By Karen Zygun, People Practices Leader 

  /  1 minute

Belonging in our new normal(s)

Prior to COVID-19, a sense of belonging, the experience of being accepted and included by those around you, and its correlation to employee engagement was a top priority for our credit unions. Our rich history of community first lends itself to belongingThen the pandemic began and a shift ensued: many of us are working remotely and have an increased reliance on technology. More of us are experiencing heightened stress levelsmoral fatigue, uncertainty and longer hours. This places an employee’s need for belonging even further to the forefront.  

To achieve belonging, we must go beyond promoting respect and fairness for all employeesTo achieve a real and authentic sense of belonging, individuals must feel both a connection with their team and colleagues, and importantly, a contribution to team or organizational goals.   

Two factors that contribute significantly to belonging: 

  • Culture 
  • Leadership 


Organizational culture is the set of values, beliefs and behaviours that shape how work gets done. There are likely aspects of your current culture that foster belonging. Now is the time to emphasize and role model those aspects. 

But its also time to begin to transform. Its important to identify the net new traits and behaviours that you are looking for during this period to foster belonging.   


Leadership has taken a bigger role in belonging during this pandemic. The quality at which leaders communicate candidly, empathize, remove obstacles for productivity, create resilience and connect their teams remotely are key factors of employee belonging.   

What is at the center of all this? Trust. We need to create trust not just by our words but by our actions. The best analogy I heard is that we need to keep our trust batteries fully charged. If we don’t, our relationships will disintegrate, and our efforts won’t be effective. Leaders are key to getting us to our new sustainable workforce and we need to help them get there. 

What can help 

Research has shown that 79 per cent of organizations say fostering a sense of belonging is important or very important over the next 12 to 18 months, but only 13 per cent say they are very ready to address this trend (Deloitte 2020 Global Human Capital Trends). Possible actions, in order of ease to implement are: 

  • Pointed pulse surveys to gather pertinent, actionable information  in addition to, not instead of annual surveys. 
  • Out of the box engagement tactics  engineer the social connections that resonate with your teams. 
  • Leadership assessments/training – help your leaders understand where they are today and identify opportunities and training for improvement. 
  • Recruiting and Onboarding –  Purposely help candidates and new employees understand how they are connected to their team and the organization, and how their role will contribute to success. 
  • Organizational Agility  consider this framework to address many aspects of belonging i.e. Shared Vision and Focus, Cohesive Community, Shared and Servant Leadership, etc.   

Central 1’s People Solutions team has provided human resources consulting services to Canadian credit unions and financial institutions for almost 30 years. Our team’s consulting solutions are tailored to organization of all sizes to address complex, market driven issues including: 

  • Check-In Surveys that address leadership, communication and relationships during this time of uncertainty. A free version is available and includes summary results and verbatim comments.  Further customization is available upon request. 
  • Leadership assessments to identify strengths to leverage and opportunities to improve. 
  • Culture Workshops – purposeful definition of desired cultural traits and a deep dive on the processes, structure and tools that support or inhibit achieving them. 
  • Organizational agility – Central 1 is implementing this framework themselves and can share the learning and benefits. 

If youre interested in exploring this topic and want to take some steps to enhance belonging in your organization, let’s talk!