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June 15, 2023

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Diversity and inclusion

Pride Month: Five ways to create an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace

As Pride festivities get underway for 2023, Health@Work highlights the ways in which a workplace can build an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace that celebrates diversity, cultivates equality, and allows employees to work at their best.

Building an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace takes more than a rainbow profile picture – it requires a genuine commitment to understanding, accepting, and supporting individuals of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities across your organisation.

Unfortunately, the workplace can still be difficult for members of the LGBTQ+ community to navigate.

Credit: Alamy Sotck

Recent research shows that around 68% of LGBT employees reporting hearing negative slurs, jokes, or comments about their identity at work, while over 40% of LGBTQ candidates say that they would avoid a company that demonstrated a lack of diversity.

Research even shows that inclusive workplaces with a diverse workforce are more desirable by today’s recruitment candidates, with younger generations in particular looking for employers who actively and meaningfully engage with their social responsibilities.

In fact, the diversity of experiences offered by inclusive workplaces have also been shown to actively boost employee engagement, increase teamwork potential, and improve creativity.

1. Cultivate psychological safety

In the workplace, a culture of psychological safety provides a safe environment where employees feel safe to take risks, express their ideas, and be themselves without fear of embarrassment, judgment, or backlash. A climate of mutual respect and open communication allows all employees to feel accepted, supported, and valued – regardless of their background or identity.

While cultivating psychological safety benefits all employees, it can be particularly meaningful when building an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace.

By promoting an open-door policy for discussing and disclosing personal concerns, your workplace becomes a safe space for individuals to express their feelings without fear of retaliation or unfair treatment. In addition, embedding psychological safety into your company culture leads to a workplace where LGBTQ workers can feel safe to disclose their identities at work – allowing them to live and work as their best, authentic selves.

2. Encourage employee involvement in workplace inclusion

No matter what your policies or statements are, at its heart workplace inclusion is about the people within your organisation. So, when it comes to building a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ employees, that’s where you need to start!

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are invaluable for building a community and providing support to LGBTQ+ employees. An ERG is a voluntary group of colleagues who share similar characteristics or identities, promoting networking and collaboration among your workplace communities. By encouraging the formation of an LGBTQ+ employee resource group within your workplace, you can provide an opportunity for employees to offer their support, feedback, and knowledge to both their colleagues and employer.

Don’t forget too that for many LGBTQ+ people, allies (people who don’t themselves identify as part of the LGBTQ community, but support their LGBTQ+ friends and colleagues), are integral to everyday support. Highlighting allies to act as role models within your workforce can present opportunities for your employees to get involved with inclusive practice, provide an effective support system for their team members, and make a strong statement about your workplace inclusion practices.

3. Establish an inclusive workplace culture

Company culture is the key indicator to your both existing and prospective employees of your workplace’s dedication to inclusivity and diversity. That culture of encouraging and celebrating LGBTQ+ diversity starts from the top – with your leadership team! Encourage managers to take leadership roles within a culture of open dialogue and understanding – where all employees are not only respected and included, but can learn from and grow alongside their colleagues.

Inclusive language is key when building a diverse, welcoming workplace culture, as well as remaining mindful of potentially uncomfortable topics such as gendered uniforms, bathrooms, and home lives. Why not get your newly-formed LGBTQ+ employee resource groups together to come up with a new ‘inclusive language guide’ for your company that benefits your customers as well as your employees?

4. Implement official workplace inclusion policies

Establishing and cultivating a thriving culture of workplace inclusion doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why formal policies still play a critical role in shaping the workplace environment. As such, it’s vital that your organisation has rigorous non-discrimination and anti-harassment company policies in place that explicitly protect your employees from discrimination and prejudice at work. This can also include reviewing your whistleblowing procedures, safeguarding policies, and Equality & Diversity statements.

You may also want to consider reviewing the inclusivity of your existing employee policies and benefits. Does your employee benefits scheme include improved access to diverse healthcare needs like fertility treatment and menopause support? Perhaps your maternity and parental leave policy documents could benefit from an inclusive language review, or your office could designate a gender-neutral bathroom (rather than reallocating resources for disabled colleagues!). Introducing, reviewing, and updating policies and practices for improved LGBTQ+ inclusion is a clear and purposeful statement that your organisation is committed to protecting the rights and dignity of its LGBTQ+ employees.

5. Provide diversity & inclusion training

Data shows that around 60% of employers in the UK offer some form of diversity training to their management team – but what about the rest of your workforce? While inclusive workplace practice often requires a top-down strategic approach, encouraging understanding and awareness of cultural and individual diversity is key to a healthy, inclusive workplace.

Diversity & inclusion training is among the most direct ways to foster empathy and awareness of LGBTQ+ issues among your workforce. When approaching your workplace inclusion training sessions, consider how you can educate employees about different identities and the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in today’s society. This can include encouraging employees and managers alike to examine their unconscious bias, engage with LGBTQ+ history and culture, and acknowledge the impact of language and behaviour on others. This directly promotes a more inclusive culture that both safeguards your employees and improves team collaboration.

This article was first published by Health@Work.

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