Posted: 14 Sep. 2020 8 min. read

Purpose and belonging: From comfort to connection to contribution

In this blog post we explore the second paradox of this year’s 2020 Global Human Capital Trends report. Payal Vasudeva, Human Capital Partner, Jackie Henry, Partner and People and Purpose Lead, discuss what it means to belong in an organisation and how companies balance their tech transformations whilst engaging with the workforce at human level.

Purpose and making an impact that matters

The whole intent behind making an impact that matters is on finding personal resonance. It’s becoming increasingly important for organisations to be purpose-led is as this helps to foster a sense of belonging. For an employee, having a sense of belonging really impacts the way they ‘show up’, they are able to show up as their authentic self.

We should feel comfortable being our self at work, and we should believe that we can learn, grow and feel supported to fulfil our potential in the workplace while also feeling empowered to bring our own perspectives and abilities to a shared common purpose that unites everyone. Belonging, in fact, was the number one trend this year in the Human Capital Trends report, with 93% of responders agreeing that having a sense of belonging drives organisational performance. It was one of the highest rates of consensus that we’ve seen in a decade of the trends report!

For Deloitte our purpose is clear, we want to make an impact that matters. This purpose defines who we are and it transcends the everyday, binding us together.

Organisational initiatives – Black Lives Matter

It is very important for an organisation to be truly inclusive in order for there to be a sense of belonging for all. Black Lives Matter has served as a real awakening for the continued injustice and inequality that is so deeply ingrained in society. One’s response needs to be visible, vocal, and actionable. Everyone should take individual and collective accountability for delivering and embedding change and this sends a powerful message that we are a community, our voice will be heard and we won’t leave anyone behind. We can foster belonging and inclusion every day. Belongingness can only be driven if it is honest and authentic, is layered from the top and aligns to an organisation’s values.

After the killing of George Floyd we saw and heard the hurt and pain in our black colleagues. I felt inadequate because I really don’t understand enough about these issues and where they are coming from, so at Deloitte we ran black listening sessions, which were very powerful but also challenging. In times of crises like this, organisations need to pause and really understand what’s important to people who are being impacted. What we’ve already realised as well is that we don’t have to wait until a time of crisis to act. Black Lives Matter should be an open dialogue and a continuous journey that we are all on together.

Belonging and working from home

Many activities have come through this period of virtual working - like cooking sessions, Zoom dances, Zoom watercooler catch-ups and tea breaks, quizzes and debates. And all of this fosters a sense of community and belonging. COVID-19 overnight changed our ways of working and the longer this pandemic continues, the more organisations and individuals will start to redefine their work practises. Recent surveys have indicated that there is positive sentiment around home working and an increased desire by the workforce for greater choice and flexibility. The challenge for organisations will be in making this a seamless experience between the combination of partly physical and partly virtual working. More deliberate communication and ongoing interaction should continue to maintain a sense of community.

In the weeks and months of lockdown we listened and talked to our people about the ease of working from home, how they felt staying connected and what they thought would work for them. Leaders who supported their people in creating an appropriate working environment during lockdown created a better sense of connection and belonging within their workforce. We have certainly learnt a lot from taking honest feedback through surveys and other initiatives, and we will continue to improve this new way of working as well as our wellbeing programmes, to better support our people going forwards.

In a world of increasing political polarisation, how can organisations be purpose led?

People need to connect on their similarities rather than focusing on their differences. This pandemic has been a great equaliser on a lot of levels as each person has gone through a range of emotions as a human race through this period. While some have been more impacted than others, no one has been unaffected. People feel motivated at the highest levels when they can connect their work contributions to a greater sense of purpose, and also understand how their unique talents, strengths and contributions are making an impact on larger goals. We can increasingly be purpose-led by creating some clear connections across an individual’s jobs, team objectives, and an organisation’s mission to strengthen that purpose link.

If you don’t have clear purpose-led core to your business, you cannot stay in the game long-term. It’s so important for organisational sustainability, and is massively important to clients, customers, and the workforce. Organisations should be very clear on their purpose and should ensure their workplaces are environments where everyone can have their voices heard and have their views respected.

Integrate wellbeing into the flow of work

COVID-19 has put wellbeing at the front of centre for organisations - physical, mental, and financial security became paramount. And organisations have prioritised wellbeing and have shown a degree of humanity and transparency in their leadership styles. They have an opportunity now to fundamentally redesign work towards outcomes instead of activities, with wellbeing embedded in work design and with an increased focus on work life balance. There is also an opportunity to leverage technology to allow people to connect with each other seamlessly and focus on developing the skills that are needed to navigate the new normal, as it starts taking shape.

Having a genuine interest in each other’s wellbeing is important from an employer’s perspective. Stress, anxiety and depression can cause absences and can increase turnover. So creating a positive and motivated workforce is critical as it contributes to business performance. Wellbeing programmes should be accessible to all and this is the real key in designing work. Belonging, purpose, wellbeing and inclusion are the crucial elements and are centre of organisations as part of the journey to a new normal.

Driving wellbeing in an organisation

Wellbeing should be a collective agenda that is championed right across the organisation. It is most impactful when it is integrated and taken as responsibility by everyone, it is not just a programme for someone else to deliver on. In this new normal, wellbeing is going to be one of the key talent metrics to measure the health of a business on. It will be the differentiator for organisations coming out of COVID-19 and will impact their future sustainability.

For more Future of Work insights, check out our Humanising the Future of Work podcast

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Key contacts

Payal Vasudeva

Payal Vasudeva


Payal Vasudeva is a Human Capital Partner in Deloitte’s Financial Services practice, and leads on Future of Work in the market. She regularly engages with senior client leadership teams on the ever changing implications this has on workforce and HR. She has years of experience in architecting and deploying strategic People initiatives, and large scale transformation programmes. As a Talent practitioner she is passionate about effecting positive change to improve the way people work and live. She has worked across multiple geographies and industry sectors, with a focus on Financial Services. Her breadth of expertise spans all facets of HR transformation, Workforce strategies and Talent management, working at the intersect of business and technology. Payal also has responsibility for the internal employee value proposition of the firm as the People and Purpose lead for Human Capital Consulting. She actively champions Inclusion and her efforts have been recognised on a number of global diversity rankings. In addition, Payal holds advisory roles on various ‘not for profit’ leadership teams.

Jackie Henry

Jackie Henry

Office Senior Partner

Jackie is lead partner for Deloitte in Northern Ireland and UK people and Purpose lead for the consulting business. She has over 30 experience of supporting the transformational change of Northern Ireland, in particular within the public sector. In 2017 she was recognised with an MBE in the Queens birthday honours for her services to the Northern Ireland economy, she is chair of the Department of the Economy Skills Advisory Working Group advising on the new skills strategy for NI and she is a Visiting Professor of Ulster University. She is also a passionate advocate of diversity and inclusion.