How To Create an LGBTQ-inclusive Workplace Environment.
Every person should be able to live their most authentic life both inside and outside the workplace. Not only does every employee deserve a safe working environment, but it encourages productivity! An Oxford study in 2019 showed that employees who are happy at work are 13% more productive.
However, according to Stonewall, more than a third of LGBT staff (35 per cent) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination. With this in mind, to create a welcoming, happier and LGBTQ inclusive workplace, why not think about ways you can change that without just relying on HR.
Ask yourself why people may not feel safe being “out” in the workplace, look at what your leadership team looks like, are there LGBTQ+ people sitting at decision making levels? If you would like to find out how you small changes can make your workplace more welcoming and inclusive, read on…
The average working week is approximately 39 hours, which is a huge amount of time to spend in one place or with certain people. Therefore, it’s vitally important that those working are made to feel welcome and comfortable.
Regardless of whether you’re office-based or remote working, private sector or public, a big corporation, an organisation or a local charity, a barista or a surgeon, it is everyone’s responsibility to create a safe environment where everyone feels included.
Assess How LGBTQ-Inclusive Your Workplace Really Is!
At Stonewall, they run two indices to help asses progress on LGBT inclusion in the workplace. A UK-based index and a Global index. Taking part enables staff to express what their workplace do well and, equally, what they need to work on.
The index also offers the rare opportunity to see performance in comparison to other sectors and/or regions!
Regular Workplace Training
Keeping up-to-date with a community is vital if you wish to remain a welcoming and safe workplace for staff who are from those communities. For example, language that was once acceptable ten years ago may not be acceptable to say now. The same with any flags you’re using and other logos.
If you’re interested in keeping staff educated on matters that affect a community, make sure you invest in a decent course and hire a trainer or educator from that community (don’t ask current employees to educate!)
Tip: Make sure it’s also accessible by offering virtual training as well as in-person training.
Update forms and databases
Acknowledging how many LGBTQ+ remain in the closet within the workplace, why not make them feel more comfortable by making sure databases and forms offer a range of titles and pronouns.
Pre-COVID, a lot of businesses fell short when it came to things such as flexible or remote working – stating that changes cost too much. But when the pandemic hit, and businesses risked shutting down, they were all too quick to change their stance. Value staff the same way you value your business and you’ll create a happier working environment.
Tip: Thinking outside of the box, making forms more inclusive when speaking to clients and customers as well means you’re opening yourself to more business from LGBTQ+ communities.
Setup an LGBT+ Staff Network
Similar to a Union, staff networks can have a huge amount of influence in achieving an LGBTQ inclusive workplace. If done correctly, they also offer a safe space for staff to talk about their experiences in the work place as well as meet other staff members from that community.
Staff Networks, however, must be lead by those from within that community. Of course, allies should be welcomed, but it must always prioritise the community it is serving.
Tip: Unless your network is tiny, why not assign ‘leads’ so that everyone’s voice is heard. For example a Trans* lead or someone in charge of charity work. This way, your network is more intersectional and doesn’t put pressure onto one person.
Watch Your Language!
Language matters. It’s the difference between people feeling seen, protected and included and people feeling alienated and “othered”.
Instead of starting an email with “Dear Sir / Madam” why not start it with “Good Morning” . Use terms such as ‘team’, ‘customers’, ‘everyone’, ‘clients’, and ‘person’, instead of gendered language such as ‘chairman’ or assuming someone’s gender in the first place.
Tip: Although you don’t want to assume your workplace isn’t safe, in the event of a hate-related workplace incident, make reporting hate incidents easy (and safe) for staff. Think about how staff can report incidents, and whether it needs to be anonymised in the first instance.
Update Inclusion Policies and Mission Statements
Whilst the rainbow lanyards and welcoming workplace environment is a great start, your HR documentation and policies will show your true colours if they’re not in keeping with your front of house behaviour.
What does your maternity policy look like? Do non-gestinational parents get the same amount of leave as those on paternity leave? Is language gendered with lots of “he / she” instead of “they”?
Tip: Make your mission statement as visible as your testimonies. You should be proud of what you stand for. You don’t know who’s going to be looking!
Make Allyship Visible
These days, it is incredibly easy to show your allyship as a company. From rainbow lanyards to pronouns on staff badges, there are so many different ways to be a proud ally. Does your stock imagery reflect your workplace, for example?
Don’t forget though, inclusion starts at the top of any organisation or business, therefore it’s incredibly important that any workplace champions and visible support starts from leadership level.
Tip: During Pride month, why not raise money in the staff canteen for LGBTQ charities. On your website, promote what makes your workplace inclusive and celebrate LGBTQ staff all year round.
Adapt email signatures
Regardless of whether you have an all-singing, all-dancing signature with logos galore and links to the charities you support, if it’s restrictive and doesn’t allow staff express who they are to the people they’re talking to, then what does that say about your brand?
Allow staff to input their pronouns, for example, and make sure that it allows staff to change their photo or their pronouns regularly.
Tip: Don’t restrict yourself by making a one-off design that can’t be later edited. Just like phone numbers, people change, therefore things like signatures need to be adaptable at a moments notice.
Avoid performative allyship
Regardless of whether you’re an independent business or a big corporation, make sure your allyship and solidarity to LGBTQ+ staff happens all year round. Don’t treat staff like seasonal decorations during Pride month, only to limit their access to opportunities the remaining 11 months of the year.
Make sure products are LGBT inclusive before the prompt of Pride month and always ask for feedback to show that your work is on-going. If staff feel comfortable to offer feedback, you’re doing a great job, but make sure you process that feedback and update staff regularly.
Tip: Don’t wait for LGBTQ+ staff to offer feedback, regularly approach champions or leaders within staff networks and ask whether there’s anything that could be improved on.