LGBTQ+ Inclusive Workplaces
In the middle of a pandemic it may seem a strange time to talk about inclusive workplaces, but I disagree. It is more important than ever to be aware of the diversity of your workforce and the unique circumstances of your staff to ensure that you’re providing the right support.
The best employers understand the need to take inclusivity seriously and that staff should be able to bring their whole self to work. Inclusion drives better individual, business and organisational outcomes. A diverse workforce creates diversity of thought, action and innovation and in a competitive market your workplace and culture needs to stand out to jobseekers.
Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Trans and Other (and I mean no disrespect by failing to list all people that may fall under the “other” category. I do this simply for brevity and all comments are inclusive of anyone else that feels they fall within the other categories covered by the Q+ abbreviation) people bring value to organisations by providing a different set of experiences and perspectives.
Understanding the lived experiences of your employees is crucial to inclusion and should directly inform change in your workplace. Gender stereotypes, bullying at school or in the workplace and a lack of visible LGBT role models creates barriers, which prevent people from being themselves. Taking small steps can make a big difference to how welcome lots of individuals feel. When people feel they can be open with those around them they will perform better and can stop wasting energy hiding who they are, they will have more focus and your team will benefit overall.
So, how do you create a workplace or service that, day by day, makes a real and tangible different to the lives of LGBT people and embed an inclusive culture? Here’s some ideas:
- Develop inclusive policies and procedures. For example, in your family friendly policies don’t assume that a pregnant employee’s partner is male or that the woman in a relationship will be the primary adopter. Ensure you have a specific LGBT section in your discrimination and equality and diversity policies. Think about your dress codes and access to facilities, particularly if these are gender specific.
- Raise awareness and speak openly in the workplace about inclusion to build understanding and encourage participation. Raising awareness around key issues such as language that is or is not acceptable for staff to use can go a long way. Banter and the use of stereotypes can make people reluctant to open up and be themselves.
- Understand the full employee lifecycle and get involved in community events such as Pride, reach out to LGBT talent through networking and community groups to encourage them to apply for roles with the company.
- Ensure that at Board and Senior Management level, the leadership team is empowered to communicate strong messages of LGBT inclusion, such as statements of support on Trans Visibility day. Your senior management should role model inclusive behaviour and be encourage to talk openly and in support of LGBT communities.
- Monitor the sexual orientation and gender identity of applicants and staff, analyse that data and use it to identify areas for improvement. Ensure that questions about sexual orientation, gender and trans identity are dealt with separately giving the option for applications to self-describe rather than using strict labels.
- Work with your suppliers and clients to embed inclusive policies in your procurement process. Discuss diversity and equality policies and practices with your suppliers and contractors and work with them to improve standards of inclusion.
- Monitor the experience of your customers and service users to ensure the customer journey is as inclusive as possible.
- Aside from anything else, you have a legal duty to ensure your staff are not subjected to discrimination or harassment because of sexual orientation or gender identity. This means that you need to ensure you’re taking action against phobic abuse, taking concerns seriously when they’re raised, fully and properly investigating complaints and promoting respect.
- Provide training to all staff on your equality and diversity practices ensuring that it’s clear how to complain about or report phobic bullying. In particular, ensure that line managers and staff involved in recruitment and HR have been provided with training on how to address matters when they arise as well as how to promote an inclusive workplace in a proactive fashion. Empower your managers to take action when issues arise.