How employers can create an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace

BetterUp shares year-round steps companies can take to be inclusive

Pride: an important time for LGBTQ+ people and communities worldwide to celebrate their identity, visibility and equality.

Incredible progress has been made over the past few decades, empowering more and more people to be themselves without fear of discrimination. While we can be proud of the strides forward, we must recognise and understand that there is still much work to be done in many areas.

This includes the workplace. We spend a significant portion of our days at work, which greatly impacts our lives, self-esteem and wellbeing. Therefore, it is a place where everyone should feel welcome and comfortable being themselves.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. A 2018 study by LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall found that more than one-third of LGBTQ+ staff hid their sexual identities at work because they feared discrimination from colleagues and management. And this stat increased to 65% for specifically trans people, according to research by TotalJobs.

Statistics like this are cause for concern – employers have a critical role to play in addressing this situation and creating a more welcoming environment for this segment of the workforce year-round. 

So, what steps can employers take to create a more inclusive and welcoming workplace?

Open communication for everyone

Identity is deeply personal for many and can be challenging to express and share at work. It is crucial that employers create an environment where all workers feel comfortable being themselves. Developing and maintaining safe and open lines of communication with managers is the key to accomplishing this.

BetterUp research from Fall 2021 found that those who work in an environment that fosters open communication not only feel strongly connected to their co-workers (by 32%), but they also feel a greater sense of belonging to their organisation (by 15%) and perceive that their employer cares about their wellbeing by 14%).

Instilling this approach within your workforce will help develop a work environment built on compassion and care that empowers employees and fosters a sense of belonging for all staff.

This is particularly crucial now, with such a large proportion of employees working remotely or flexibly. BetterUp research indicates that hybrid and remote workers are experiencing the lowest levels of belonging in years.

Failing to foster a sense of belonging can severely hinder the LGBTQ+ employee experience. A recent LinkedIn report found that belonging is at the forefront for LGBTQ+ professionals, with a huge 75% saying it is important that they work at a company where they could feel comfortable bringing their full self to work. The report also found that over a third (36%) experience less career advancement when feeling like they don’t belong. 

This means employers and frontline managers must encourage a culture of open communication to help workers, LGBTQ+ and otherwise, reach their full potential.

Invest in education

The reality is that the majority of the workforce most likely will not identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Therefore, it is crucial employers take the time to educate their workforce on how to be an ally to the community at large.

This can start with creating a Diversity and Inclusion guidebook for existing staff and new hires with information on a range of important topics such as inclusive language, respecting gender identity, and the do’s and don’ts of allyship.

These workshops and training programmes for new and seasoned employees can positively impact company culture. Investing time and budget into improving workers’ understanding of the LGBTQ+ experience demonstrates authentic empathy and compassion towards this subset of employees.

Investing in diversity learning has financially beneficial implications as well. Research from McKinsey found a statistically significant relationship between a more diverse leadership team and better financial performance. The companies in the top quartile of gender diversity were 15% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median. Companies in the top quartile of racial/ethnic diversity and providing training on this diversity were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median. 

Additionally, beyond simply being the right thing to do from a human perspective, championing inclusivity also improves organisation loyalty and builds company reputation, allowing businesses to attract – and retain – top talent a longer term. By showing real empathy and meaningful action, management teams can cultivate a culture of compassion within workplaces to encourage staff to implement this new information and make positive changes in company culture.

Creating a psychologically safe workplace

BetterUp research shows that high psychological safety in teams is powerful for a positive employee experience and sense of belonging. It is important that business leaders realise that building an inclusive, safe environment starts from the top-down. Managers will have a major role to play through the example they set and the guidance they show their teams and direct reports.

Creating a psychologically safe workplace where workers feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their ideas is vital. BetterUp research has shown that people within underrepresented groups experience 27% less psychological safety within the workplace. As a result, business leaders should also aim to encourage open, safe communication within their internal structures.

Providing managers resources like 1:1 coaching to discuss these important topics and better empower direct contributors is an impactful start to creating and instilling a psychologically safe workplace. 

Taking these steps will help support LGBTQ+ workers as they navigate showing their true identities at work and also encourage everyone to feel comfortable as their authentic selves.

Celebrating and acknowledging the LGBTQ+ community during Pride month is important, but year-round action from business leaders is the best way to support and empower LGBTQ+ workers.

By Omar Dawood, President of BetterUp Care at BetterUp.

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