Over the past 16 years or so, companies and organizations in all industries have moved towards embracing, supporting, and championing LGBTQ workplace equality. Focusing on creating a safe and welcoming workplace for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual, heteroflexible, and questioning (LGBTQIA+) employees have many benefits beyond just being the right thing to do. Many studies have clearly demonstrated that companies that truly support diversity and inclusion as part of their corporate DNA thrive in many areas such as but limited to:
- Employee satisfaction and engagement
- Increased employee retention
- Higher qualified talent acquisition pool
- Increased productivity
- Improved team collaboration
- Improved employee mental health
- Reduction of absentee/sick days
- Increased brand positive LGBTQ and ally perception
- Client/customer satisfaction
- Increase in financial performance
- Shareholder value
So, supporting LGBTQIA+ employees is not just the right thing to do, it is good for business too. Here are some steps toward supporting your LGBT employees and attracting great talent candidates. Your LGBTQ employees and your clients/customers are tightly linked check out the LGBTQ Consumer and Employer Branding are Commingled article for more on that.
US Supreme Court Decision: Great Step But Still Work Remains
In July 2020, the US Supreme Court ruled that sexual orientation and gender identity are now covered under the US Equal Opportunity Employment Act for Non-Discrimination. That is cause for celebration, yet does not automatically transform all employers into workplaces that respect diversity, embrace inclusion, or have a work culture that is welcoming. In just the United States, based on other issues such as gender equality, racial equality, and sexual harassment, one can without much effort extrapolate that it may be decades before LGBT employees are fully and openly accepted in all workplaces, in all industries, and in all locations – if ever. We believe firmly in being the change and benefiting from it. Also, please keep in mind that in over 50% of the states in the US it is still legal to discriminate against LGBTQ persons in housing, finance, hate crime against LGBT persons is not criminalized, and many other issues that devalue and dehumanize the LGBT citizens. There is much work to do in the United States and countries around the world.
Your efforts to create a safe and welcoming workplace where all are treated equally with the same opportunities to contribute, grow and thrive are greatly appreciated.
Diversity, Inclusion & Welcoming
Diversity is about ensuring you have people of different backgrounds and experiences represented in the workplace. Inclusiveness takes it a step further by creating an environment where people’s differences of thought and experience are actually appreciated. Welcoming enables employees to be their authentic selves where their uniqueness may shine adding perspectives that are respected and potentially individually or collectively a business advantage.
A simple analogy is:
- Diversity is being invited to a party.
- Inclusive is while at the party, a cute person asks you to dance.
- Welcoming is dancing like you have no cares in the world and no one is watching. Dang, check out those moves!
- World-class is you inspire everyone to jump up to dance just as openly and boldly.
- Everyone raves what an amazing party it is. Selfies are snapped and shared. It goes viral on social media. Your brand becomes the hottest epic party.
Ok, in this example eventually the neighbors may call the cops to shut the party down, but in business, it attracts top talent, employee satisfaction is high, employee retention is high, customer attraction and retention are high. You and your amazing team are crushing it.
So, how to get there?
1. Authenticity and Clear Mission
Being authentic in all aspects is critical. All too often we have heard of reports by employees that their employer launched a drive to obtain an LGBT Corporate Equality rating and once obtained management support nearly vanished and previous funding dissipated to a fraction. It makes the employees feel disenfranchised and like used pawns in the corporate goal to receive external publicity. Understand that true D&I can lead to great financial rewards, but if not deeply rooted in respect, value, and authenticity, you can do harm to your brand, employee morale, and customer perception. If issues arise it can leave a damaging scare that can take years to recover from, if ever. Don’t be that kind of organization. It is not necessary. As linked above, being authentic in supporting diversity and inclusion is proven to improve the company’s financial performance for many reasons. But why is a mission necessary? Because diversity alone does not necessarily mean there is the inclusion or a welcoming work culture. A clear mission will outline the objective and measurements. The LGBT community is very savvy so if striving to attract the LGBT customer market, they care about how you treat your LGBT employees and your authentic engagement in the community.
2. Top-level support
Ensure that LGBT employee support is a priority at the top senior management level. Have a top management staff person take the lead on LGBT employee inclusion. That person may not be LGBT themself, but an ally. This senior manager should be the LGBT employee resource group (ERG) executive sponsor. This person may be from any department. Indicate who your most senior-level employee who identifies as LGBT is on your OutBüro employer listing.
3. Take LGBT Reports of Discrimination and Harassment Seriously
Yes, in the United States it is now illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Is that enough? Do you feel that now covers you so there is no need for a company/organization non-discrimination policy based on sexual orientation or gender identity? If so, I bet your company/organization has policies covering gender, race, and religion. This is the same. I am also 99.9% sure you have a sexual harassment policy too, along with required annual training. This is no different. Your organization should have a strong non-discrimination policy in place, ensure it clearly states that it covers your recruitment and promotions. Create a communication plan to be sure all employees know what is not tolerated in the workplace. Not if, but when, homophobic bullying, discrimination, or harassment happens to acknowledge the validity of the concern raised, promptly follow procedures to investigate and take appropriate action. Ensure employees feel safe in making reports.
Have all reports reviewed by a team to reduce biases from even the HR staff. Do not assume that all human resources staff lack biases. Research and court case prove otherwise. Many discrimination lawsuits are based on the lack of action by the HR department. So take extra steps in training all HR staff and put teams in place with checks and balances instead of relying on just one gatekeeper. On your OutBüro employer listing link to your sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination policy. Make it easy for candidates to find it when researching you as a potential employer.
4. LGBT Employee Resource Group
Having an organized formal Employee Resource Group can go a long way in fostering an inclusive and welcoming work culture. It provides an opportunity to network and builds a sense of camaraderie. Many ERGs meet up during normal work hours to discuss work-related topics as well as off-hours social events to further the personal bonds that will translate into great working relationships. It is a great way to foster career development through mentoring. Encourage senior employees to mentor junior employees. If you support employee volunteering, the LGBT ERG could expand the organization’s LGBTQ community involvement by using their corporate volunteer hours in helping local LGBTQ charity nonprofit organizations and events. Encourage and support LGBT employees to participate in seminars and conferences. Encourage and support employees to participate in industry networking groups, LGBT professional associations, and to participate in content and groups on www.OutBuro.com – the LGBT professional and entrepreneur platform.
Having open and consistent dialogue with your LGBTQ employee resource group will improve employee engagement, company culture, and provide valuable information on ways to further innovate in the workplace. Create a company/Organization group on OutBüro where employees from around the globe can interact off company resources. Be an open group where prospective candidates may also join to connect with current employees, ask question, and get a great sense of you as an employer. Ask key ERG members to join the ERG Connections group on OutBüro. This is meant to be a Super Group for cross organization networking, sharing, learning and growing an LGBTQ ERG.
Show your support to the local LGBT community where you operate by providing information to employees about local events, groups, and resources. Sponsor a Pride Party, or even sponsor your LGBT ERG to participate in local Gay Pride events, have a corporate booth, use it for customer leads, and talent recruiting. Celebrate National Coming Out Day. Create a video series of employees sharing their stories of coming out personally and yet again professionally. Encourage volunteering at LGBT events throughout the year. Sponsor local organizations, from general support agencies, to those that provide needed services to the homeless, youth, seniors, persons living with compromised immune systems, students, and more. Sponsor local or national sporting leagues or teams. Sponsor the local gay men’s chorus or other cultural groups/events. Invite LGBT speakers to share their experiences with your team. There are also national and international organizations that support equality and human rights. The LGBT nonprofit sector operates on shoestring budgets and desperately could use your in-kind and financial support.
List and link to all the LGBTQ organizations and non-profits you support in whatever manner on your OutBüro Employer listing. So many companies do great things yet no one other than the benefiting organization has any clue. Show it. Tout it. It makes LGBT employees proud to work for you and it demonstrates to LGBT candidates, as well as customers, that you are involved in the community and therefore likely a super fantastic place to go to work or as a customer spend their money with.
6. Support LGBT Entrepreneurs
Sponsor the local LGBT chamber of commerce. Encourage LGBTQ employees to get involved to represent the company in the LGBTQ Chamber. If and where possible allow the employee to mentor small business owners. Sponsor LGBT founded startups – with funds, product/services discount or as in-kind sponsorship to help the small business grow. Add LGBT friendly procurement policies and actively seek products and services by LGBTQ owned businesses. Consider providing a workshop on how to do business with your company, the steps to becoming an approved small business vendor, if NGLCC certification is required or what other factors may help them secure a vendor agreement with you. The NGLCC has an LGBT certified business accreditation. That is great, but it is far from representing all LGBTQ business due to many factors. In your supplier diversity program certainly include NGLCC accredited LGBTQ suppliers, but be open to non-accredited ones too who as a startup not yet meet some of the accreditation requirements such as years in business with positive cash flow. Consider the merits of the business and found and advise them on how best to move forward.
List and link to all the organizations you support of LGBTQ owned business in whatever manner on your OutBüro Employer listing. So many companies do great things yet no one other than the benefiting organization has any clue. Show it. Tout it. It makes LGBT employees proud to work for you and it demonstrates to LGBT candidates that you are involved in the community and therefore likely a super fantastic place to go to work.
7. LGBT Inclusive Employee Surveys
On your periodic employee surveys allow the option for employees to anonymously identify as LGBTQ and ask specific questions regarding their experiences and feedback. Do not assume everyone will be open. Did you know that a recent study found that a whopping 29% of Americans under 30 years old identify as “heteroflexible”? So how you treat you open full out loud and proud LGBTQ employees has a much larger base than most assume and more than you will like ever truly exactly know.
8. LGBT Employer Rating/Reviews
Just like the employer reviews on Glassdoor.com, Indeed.com, Monster.com, and others, OutBüro (https://www.OutBuro.com) offers LGBTQ employees the ability to anonymously rate/review the current and recent past employers. Employers are strongly advised to claim their listing if already present or proactively add your employer listing. It is important to engage with reviews as you would on any other platform. It is advised to make all employees aware that you are participating in OutBüro. You may use the opportunity to reinforce your open and safe reporting policy while welcoming ratings/reviews on OutBüro. Such ratings/reviews can be a great source of insights as potential candidates seek information about you as an employer before applying. Check this article out: Company Reviews – Good for Companies and Their LGBTQ Employees
OutBüro logged in users may leave comments or questions on your OutBüro Employer listing or in groups. It is an opportunity to engage with potential candidates and customer. It should not be left ignored.
9. LGBTQ Competency Training
Having ongoing LGBTQ awareness training is important to fostering an inclusive and welcoming work environment. The content should be progressive and continual. If you don’t already, consider adding corporate notable figures and society historical figures to company communications regularly. It may feature persons who helped shape the company in the past or present. Feature diverse employees. The thing about LGBTQ employees is that unlike age, race, or gender, all, for the most part, are typically apparent. Being LGBTQ is not always as apparent and therefore if your culture is welcoming and the employee is okay with it, clearly state the employee’s LGBTQ identity along with all the great stuff they are doing within and for the company/organization.
This creates awareness as well as clearly demonstrates to all employees that the company/organization values the contributions of its employees including LGBTQ employees. Depending on the size of the company, I normally recommend featuring an employee once a week. Creating a video interview or video story is most ideal. For those features that are LGBTQ employees, you now have LGBTQ employer branding content. Share all via your YouTube channel. For LGBTQ features, add them to your OutBüro Employer listing too. This is a morale booster for other LGBTQ employees as well as a clear message that discrimination and/or harassment is not tolerated here. I recommend coupling this and/or other creative ideas with traditional training. It is a message however that reinforces the training provided and I consider it to be a micro lesson.
How about regular games that could become a tournament? Foster employee engagement activity where you can use an online quiz/survey tool to create a trivia knowledge game. Be creative and make it your own. Invite all staff to submit questions to be included. Heck, you might grow it into being quarter Family Feud like shows. Live Stream it to all offices, post on social media. Show what an inclusive, wicked smart team and fun culture you have. The point here is that LGBT biases, like others, are learned from a young age and deeply engrained. Creating new habits, and un-programing those deeply held biases take effort, energy, and but it can be fun and engaging.
Do you need help? We are happy to assist you and/or make recommendations to D&I consultant around the globe.
10. Offer LGBT-Friendly Benefits
For job seekers, today, inclusive benefits packages and non-discrimination clauses are some of the most important considerations when researching potential employers. In studies, it was found that having LGBTQ benefits also is important to young heterosexual job seekers. Overall job seekers want to feel they are working for an employer who is fair, socially, and environmentally responsible. Not being so can cost you in by reducing your chances of attracting top talent.
Be sure not to unintentionally exclude LGBTQ families and transgender individuals. Offer equal benefits to all employees, regardless of their sexual orientation, including parental leave, adoption leave, and time off to take care of dependants. Gendered language can cause parental benefits to unintentionally exclude LGBTQ families. Make your benefits inclusive of all employees by being conscious of what words you use in your coverage and favoring gender-neutral terms. it is the right thing to do for all employees as it is gender equality focused too. Today, in opposite-gender relationships, it is not uncommon for the male to be the child care provider while the female works.
- Sexual orientation non-discrimination
- Gender Identity non-discrimination
- Domestic partner benefits
- Transgender inclusive health benefits
11. Foster a Gender-Neutral Environment
Create a gender-neutral environment by making some simple changes such as establishing unisex toilets and using gender-neutral language, like ‘partner’ instead of husband or wife, and asking all employees to list their preferred pronouns on email sinatur blocks and employee directory listings.
12. Keep Track, Evaluate, & Improve
Celebrate your successes and monitor your progress by tracking things such as the number of employee grievances naturally with details of the type, persons involved, location, department, and such. No matter how small or outcome, track it. This could lead to identifying trends over time that need to be addressed. Of course, as in all employee training, track D&I training by course completed inclusive of LGBT competency training. If legally able track who is an out self-identified LGBTQ employee and when they publically came out. The more that comes out is a direct relation to the success of the organization in creating a safe and welcoming space. Tract ERG involvement likewise. If active participation falls or doesn’t attract employees to participate, why? Do they not feel safe? Is the ERG doing things that are attractive to employees? How does it compare with other company ERGs? Have you networked with other company LGBT ERG leaders with strong employee participation to gain insights on how to be effective?
13. Support Transgender Employees
As transgender visibility within the LGBTQ community has increased over the past few years, it has become clear that transgender people face a unique set of experiences and challenges. Learn what steps to take after an employee comes out as transgender to create a supportive and encouraging environment. Human Resource is an important player in assisting transgender employees during the complex and lengthy process of transitioning. We recommend special training from trainers who are themselves, transgender. We are happy to connect your organization with outstanding transgender coaches.
14. Post your own LGBT focused company and employee content
Increase your employer brand awareness with LGBTQ professionals. With an OutBüro Employer Listing subscription, the organization may post content directly to our blog as an author. We’d strongly recommend the content be LGBT professional life-related in some way. Perhaps it’s articles about what local, regional or national LGBT related events the organization has sponsored. Or maybe articles and videos featuring LGBT employees or customers. The article will list the authorized person/person as the author in an author bio box that will link all other past submissions posted.
If there have been negative reviews/ratings, an article might address what the organization is doing or has done to improve. It’s also a great way to feature what activities and such the organization’s LGBTQ employee resource group is doing on a monthly or quarterly basis. So many possibilities for your organization to be proactive. Some of this may be in the form of press releases. All submissions will be reviewed for approval before going live to ensure it’s appropriate for our audience and in line with the goals of OutBüro.
15. Bonus Tip – Strategic Talent Acquition: Recruiting LGBTQ Candidates
This topic has been mentioned in numerous articles here on OutBüro. It is a topic that wide and deep thus we have dedicated a full article to it. Please refer to the Strategic Talent Acquisition: Recruiting LGBTQ Candidates article for more. Will link once completed later this week.
Be sure to check out these additional resources and search OutBüro for other related topics of interest to you. Please place questions and desired article/video suggestions in the comments. We are happy to add suggested topics to our content calendar that fit our broad focus. You are also welcome to post via the activity stream, articles, and more. This is your community. Jump in.
OutBüro is a growing valuable tool for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer professionals for networking and as passive or active job seekers. OutBüro is here to help you to demonstrate all the great things you do to support your LGBTQ employees and attract LGBT talent as candidates to join your team.