EY Study: Workers feel a sense of belonging at their workplaces, yet most are uncomfortable sharing all aspects of their identities

According to the EY Belonging Barometer 3.0, almost half (41%) of respondent workers at companies across the globe say that their workplace is where they feel the greatest sense of belonging, second to home, and yet, 75% report having felt excluded at work. It also finds that despite a backdrop of overall positive feelings of belonging within workplaces, over half of global worker respondents (56%) feel that they can’t share, or are reluctant to share, dimensions of their identity while at work for fear of it holding them back. This number is even higher for LGBTQ+ worker respondents, with 77% feeling uncomfortable sharing dimensions of their identity at work.

The results of the third iteration of the ‘Belonging Barometer’ reveal the perspectives of employed adults from various industries and organizations across the globe. In a post-COVID-19 world of evolving workplace flexibility styles and ongoing heightened economic uncertainty, adaptation to workforce shifts, and continuing headwinds, a belonging disconnect is emerging in the workplace.

To effectively combat workplace feelings of exclusion, checking in on how someone is doing, both at work and in their personal life, remains a top contributor to building a sense of belonging for 32% of respondent workers. This holds true for 39% of US respondents, consistent with the previous 2018 (38%) and 2020 (37%) Belonging Barometers.

Karyn Twaronite, EY Global Vice Chair – Diversity, Equity & Inclusiveness, says:

While it's encouraging that workers continue to feel an increased sense of belonging at work, it's clear that a disconnect has emerged with many workers globally, of all diversity dimensions, feeling excluded, actively self-editing or hiding certain dimensions of who they are at work.

For leaders looking to bridge this gap to maximize engagement, well-being, and productivity, and better enable their employees to feel free to be themselves, one-on-one check-ins still matter most”.

Enabling flexibility increases workers’ sense of belonging

Although today’s work environment has posed many challenges, it is clear that greater flexibility has contributed to workers’ sense of belonging. In fact, of workers who have noted an impact on their sense of belonging from hybrid work, ongoing disruption, or economic volatility, the top two responses show that they feel an increased sense of belonging because their organization has become more flexible and because they have been encouraged to be open about their opinions, needs, preferences, and personality.

Furthermore, 45% of respondents shared that flexible working, including autonomy in choosing hours and location, was their top motivator for instilling DE&I within their own teams. This underscores the importance for those in leadership positions to continue to integrate and offer flexible practices in today’s workplace.

Equitable pay may be the fastest route to addressing inequity; confidence in upward mobility may be wavering

An overwhelming majority of respondents acknowledge some level of inequity within their workplace; merely 6% say they have felt none. Equitable pay is cited by 40% as the top contributor to a sense of equity at work, followed by equitable performance evaluation (34%) and equitable work assignments (30%).

Workers also do not feel fully confident that their companies afford opportunities for career progression. Sixty-six percent of workers feel that there are barriers to advancement within their company, with a lack of the right resources (24%) reported as the most common obstacle, followed by lack of fair wage/salary (23%) and unequal access to opportunities (21%).

The future talent pool depends on companies prioritizing DE&I

DE&I initiatives continue to play a pivotal role in recruiting and attracting top talent. 63% of worker respondents would choose a company that prioritizes DE&I over one that does not, and 74% say their company’s prioritization of DE&I factors into their choice of where to work.

This theme is most pronounced among Gen Z and millennials, of whom 73% and 68% respectively, said they would choose a company that prioritizes DE&I over one that does not, versus 53% of Gen X and 46% of baby boomers.

Ana-Maria Voicu Domșa, Partner, Global Compliance &Reporting, Diversity & Inclusion Lead, EY Romania: “I feel that it's important for organizations to go beyond surface-level diversity efforts and prioritize the creation of inclusive cultures that nurture a genuine sense of belonging. By doing so, they can unlock the full potential of their diverse workforce, driving innovation, productivity and, ultimately, success.”

‘The question to be asked more and more is no longer what do I gain by developing DE&I programs to drive an internal diverse and inclusive culture but rather what will be the consequences and the losses for not doing so”.

About EY Romania

EY is one of the world's leading professional services firms with 365,399 employees in more than 700 offices across 150 countries, and revenues of approx. $45.4 billion in the financial year that ended on 30 June 2022. Our network is the most integrated worldwide, and its resources help us provide our clients with services allowing them to take advantage of opportunities anywhere in the world.

With a presence in Romania ever since 1992, EY provides, through its more than 900 employees in Romania and the Republic of Moldova, integrated services in assurance, tax, strategy and transactions, and consulting to clients ranging from multinationals to local companies.

Our offices are based in Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara, Iasi and Chisinau. In 2014, EY Romania joined the only global competition dedicated to entrepreneurship, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year. The winner of the national award represents Romania at the world final taking place every year in June, at Monte Carlo. The title of World Entrepreneur Of The Year is awarded in the world final. For more information, please visit: www.ey.com

About the study

The EY study includes a combined sample size of more than 5,000 globally employed adults (18–64 years of age) in the following countries: US, UK, Germany, Singapore and India. The survey was conducted in May 2023. Generations are generally defined as: Gen Z (age 18–26), Millennials (age 27–42), Gen X (age 43–58) and baby boomers (age 59–64). The study was conducted and analyzed by Big Village (formerly ENGINE), a consultative research collaborator, along with Prosek Partners.