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3 Simple Ways to Help Your Employees Feel They Belong You don't have to have a dedicated human resources or diversity team to cultivate a sense of inclusion in your business. Get started in three steps.


Think about a time you felt left out: your body's visceral response and the emotional distress that came with being excluded. It's painful.

As you sit with that, it probably doesn't surprise you that these feelings impact the workplace. Belonging can be directly tied to retention, productivity, and profitability. In fact, companies with inclusive cultures have 50% lower turnover rates.1

While you may not have a dedicated diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) team, you can take manageable, impactful steps to create a sense of belonging among your employees.

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1. Cultivate open communication, connection, and psychological safety.

Take time to talk regularly with your team to stay tapped into what and how they're doing—professionally and personally. "These are important contributors to building an environment of trust and psychological safety—one in which people feel they can bring their whole selves." says Kara Hoogensen, senior vice president of specialty benefits for Principal®. "But don't try to build communication and connection just for the sake of it." For example, sending a supportive text message if someone calls in sick or seems off in a meeting can go a long way.

Encourage employees to connect with each other, too. A lot of informal self-care at work takes place when employees share with each other how they're problem-solving on projects, feeling about the news, or spending the weekend.

Formal employee resource groups are also a good way to promote connection, community, and inclusion. While they're often based on culture or identity, employees can form groups based on any life experience such as working parents, fully remote workers, or new team members.

2. Let all employees know how much they matter.

One of the top ways employees feel valued is through appreciation and recognition.2 While free food and other social perks can help forge stronger teams, focused individual feedback is important to show employees their work is valuable to the business.

Take time to send a thank you email to an employee who went the extra mile on a project or spoke up about a business problem. Provide a space for employees to give colleagues a public shout-out. Monetary awards that match effort—bonuses, pay raises, event tickets, and gift cards—go a long way toward feeling valued, too. And the timelier the acknowledgement, the more impactful and memorable it is.

Recognition for good work also means equal opportunity for advancement. Watch out for "similarity bias" (the implicit bias all humans carry to favor people that look, sound, or act like us) and "over-privileging" managers (giving them easier, quicker steps to promotion).

3. Offer benefits and development opportunities that suit the diverse needs of your employees.

Employees feel valued—and included—when workplace benefits help them meet personal and professional goals. It's worth it to consistently review and refine what you're offering for traditional benefits such as retirement, health, and income protection insurance (disability), as well as non-traditional perks.

For example, providing an employee assistance program (EAP)—and then educating on its availability and how it can help—lets employees knows it's OK not to be OK. Flexibility signals trust in employees to create a personalized work-life fit, while childcare benefits provide them the support to do so.

Oscar Renteria, owner of Renteria Vineyard Management, a Principal® client, has seen reduced turnover after implementing several culture-focused business practices—including tailoring employee perks and development to the individual.

"Depending on an employee's need, we'll consider customizing anything for them," Renteria says. "Whether it's for their kid's education, their need to acquire a driver's license, coaching for their own personal development—if they ask for it, we'll help develop a plan."

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This content is intended to be educational in nature and is not intended to be taken as a recommendation.

Renteria Vineyard Management is not an affiliate of any company of the Principal Financial Group®. Oscar Renteria's viewpoint may not be representative of other clients' experiences.

Insurance products issued by Principal National Life Insurance Co (except in NY) and Principal Life Insurance Company®. Plan administrative services offered by Principal Life. Principal Funds, Inc. is distributed by Principal Funds Distributor, Inc. Securities offered through Principal Securities, Inc., member SIPC and/or independent broker/dealers. Referenced companies are members of the Principal Financial Group®, Des Moines, IA 50392. ©2022 Principal Financial Services, Inc.


1 "The value of belonging at work: Investing in Workplace Inclusion" BetterUp, 2020

2 Principal survey of 100 businesses (Principal customers) and 100 employees (of other businesses), February 2022.