Over the last decade, organisations in all sectors have made huge strides in supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees and creating an inclusive workplace.
Big British brands like Barclays have established programmes such as Barclays' Spectrum, designed to support LGBT people within a huge corporation. And it turns out that the MI5 is good at more than training secret service. This year, it was named one of the top employers for LGBT equality.
Data from Glassdoor shows one in three hiring decision makers anticipated increased investment in diversity and inclusion measures. "Companies are urgently interested in making sure that they understand and support our community," says Erin Uritus, CEO of LGBTQ workplace advocacy non-profit Out and Equal.
The evidence is clear: companies that embrace LGBT policies outperform their competitors. Diversity helps draw top talent and foster innovation, and people perform significantly better when they can be themselves at work.
However, many LGBT people in the UK still choose not to disclose their sexuality at work. And many more Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) senior executives have not come out at the office.
Fear of homophobia, exclusion, being passed over for promotions and job interviews are still very real for many LGBT people. In fact, gay and lesbian job seekers are 5% less likely to be offered a job interview than heterosexual applicants with comparable skills and experience.
So, what can businesses do to demolish career barriers, reduce workplace discrimination, and better support employees who identify as LGBT in the workplace?
1. Develop a Clear Mission for Supporting LGBT in the Workplace
Communicate a clear mission to all of your employees, including managers and senior staff, through education and diversity training about your inclusion policies and strategies for supporting LGBT employees.
2. Take LGBT Discrimination Seriously
Establish a strong anti-discrimination policy in your recruitment & promotion practices, and be sure all employees know what is not tolerated in the workplace, and in cases of homophobic bullying, promptly recognise the problem and take action.
3. Develop Support Programmes for LGBT Employees
Mentoring, employee networking groups, seminars, and conferences all go a long way in becoming a more inclusive place to work for LGBT employees. You can also support employees with measures such as climate surveys, LGBTQ competency trainings, and employee resource groups (ERG).
PRO TIP: Many successful ERGs have an executive champion, a leader in the organisation who connects an ERG to upper management, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Having open and consistent dialogue with your LGBTQ resource group will improve employee engagement, company culture and provide valuable information on ways to further innovate in the workplace.
4. Promote Allies of LGBT People
Drive initiatives to promote the allies of LGBT employees, who can act as support networks to LGBT employees and help champion the message that diversity is part of your organisation's mission.
5. Get Support from Senior Staff
Gain the support from the very top and promote senior staff champions, who can help implement diversity initiatives, mentor junior LGBT colleagues, and act as sponsors of employee network groups.
6. Support the Local LGBT Community
Show your support the local LGBT community by providing information to employees about local events and groups, sponsor a Pride Party, celebrate National Coming Out Day, encourage volunteering at LGBT events like Pride Month, and invite speakers to share their experiences.
7. Offer LGBT-Friendly Benefits
Benefits packages and non-discrimination clauses are some of the most important considerations for job seekers, yet can 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.
Remember, 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 favouring gender-neutral terms.
8. Foster a Gender-Neutral Environment
Create a gender-neutral environment by making bold changes such as establishing unisex toilets and using gender-neutral language, like 'partner' instead of husband or wife.
9. Keep Track of Success
Celebrate your successes and monitor your progress by tracking things such as number of employee grievances, completion rates of diversity training, LGBT hires and promotions, and how many new employees have come out.
[RELATED: Employee Satisfaction Surveys]
10. 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.
PRO TIP: HR is an important player in assisting transitioning employees. Gender and workplace inclusion organisation the Argo Collective and LGBT charity Stonewall suggest training the HR team to be educated allies so they are prepared to adequately support transgender employees.