Every employer needs to consider LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the workplace. Establishing and maintaining a working environment that embraces every individual and supports their lifestyle is key to attracting and retaining the best staff for each role within the organisation.
For some, though, this can feel like a minefield. How can an employer demonstrate that they will welcome people from the LGBTQ+ community with open arms? If you’re wondering how to make the workplace more LGBTQ+ inclusive, then this guide provides practical ways in which you can prove your commitment to inclusivity.
Whether you want to know about the benefits of attracting members of the LGBTQ+ community to your organisation or would like to find out why this is so important, read on to discover ways in which LGBTQ+ inclusion really can work in everyone’s favour. Plus a number of practical ways in which to show your support and commitment.
Why is LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion in the workplace important?
One of the key benefits of LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace is that employers can attract talent from every sector of society. If you want to hire the best person for the job, then it’s important to ensure no one feels excluded. An organisation where diversity is valued will be attractive to all members of society, regardless of their background or lifestyle.
Stonewall is a UK charity representing the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer, questioning and asexual (LGBTQ+) people. The charity is working tirelessly to represent the rights of this community within society, and is a leading authority on the sheer power of an inclusive workplace.
In fact the organisation is the largest of its kind in Europe. Stonewall stresses that employees must be given the right to be themselves within the working environment. The charity states that workers who feel valued, represented and respected contribute to increased productivity and real results.
In short, it’s in the best interests of both organisations and individual staff to ensure each and every employee feels welcomed, respected and represented. Inclusive workplaces will also attract applicants from the entire pool of the most talented staff.
8 ways to make the workplace more LGBTQ+ inclusive
When all employees feel able to express themselves in their own way, everyone wins. Including their colleagues and the organisation as a whole, as well as individuals who identify with the LGBTQ+ community.
If you want to attract and nurture the best talent, read on for eight simple ways in which to make your workplace more LGBTQ+ inclusive.
1. Avoid making assumptions
People can feel less free to express themselves when others make assumptions about their lifestyle, preferences or proclivities.
While understanding that everyone is different, it’s wise never to assume what makes any individual tick. If they don’t feel pigeonholed, they are more likely to share their story as and when they feel ready to. This, in turn, can further the understanding of those around them.
2. Watch your language
One of the most powerful weapons in any workplace armoury comes in the form of words. Taking care in how you address people and the words you use can make all the difference between making them feel fully accepted and causing them to feel oppressed.
Pronouns are a prime example. Allow each person to choose how they wish to be addressed before you’ve even met them, for example, by offering a range of options on application forms. Addressing someone who regards themselves as gender neutral as ‘he’ or ‘she’ instead of ‘they’ is not likely to make them feel they can express themselves fully.
Other examples to watch out for include addressing staff as ‘ladies and gentlemen’ instead of ‘all’, confusing biological sex with gender identity and male-focused terms like ‘the best man for the job’.
3. Don’t disregard other oppressed communities
Don’t forget that people may identify as belonging to another oppressed community too. A mixed race employee may feel they belong to the black community, while a woman may think they’ll have to work harder to succeed.
Disabled employees come from another community too. These groups are not mutually exclusive, which is why creating a fully inclusive workplace is so important.
4. Allow for visibility
While expecting individuals to declare themselves to all and sundry is not acceptable, a more positive approach is to display clear visual signs of inclusivity.
This could be as simple as changing the intranet homepage in support of the local Pride event, or offering staff the chance to wear lanyards that promote inclusion. While it may seem minor, moves like this can help people to feel free to be themselves.
5. Don't forget the L, G, B, T and Q plus
The LGBTQ+ community includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer, questioning and asexual people. All of whom are individuals. It can be simple to work on the assumption that it’s all about being gay and being free, but this isn’t best practice.
While being free is exactly what to aim for, there’s much more to it than being a gay man or a lesbian woman. The LGBTQ+ community is so-called for a reason, so don’t overlook those who may wish to identify as bisexual, queer, asexual, questioning or transsexual. Nor those who don’t want to belong to any category.
6. Encourage mutual acceptance
Sometimes mistakes will be made within the workplace. An employee may accidentally refer to a colleague by a pronoun other than the one they prefer, or might get mixed up regarding the difference between gender identity and sex in a biological sense.
Leaving anyone feeling isolated or defensive will not help to cultivate good working relationships. If an error is made, try to encourage everyone to be kind and to move on.
7. Don’t overburden LGBTQ+ staff
A member of staff identifying as a member of the LGBTQ+ community is one thing. Asking them to train colleagues on related matters is another. Even if they do choose to be open and communicative about their lifestyle.
If you need to train staff on LGBTQ+ inclusion, then it’s worth getting some experts in to deliver training. Check out the bloss workshop on supporting and educating staff on LGBTQ+ parenthood.
8. Support employees in their parenthood paths
Trying to conceive can be a challenging time for anyone, especially when things don’t go as smoothly as planned. Ensure that your HR team is fully trained in supporting employees who are undergoing fertility treatments in their paths to parenthood.
This is of course particularly relevant for LGBTQ+ employees. Demonstrating that your workplace has an understanding of the process and is able to provide the necessary support will in turn make the workplace a more inclusive one.
9. Make it about more than lip service
Don’t display messages about LGBTQ+ inclusivity unless you’re genuinely dedicated to the cause. Actions speak far louder than words, so be prepared to put your money where your mouth is by making a permanent and ongoing commitment to workplace inclusivity for all.
If it’s an issue close to your heart, don’t miss the article on the relationship between LGBTQ+ fertility treatments and work.
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