June is pride month, the perfect time to talk about inclusion in the workplace. Let’s start with reason to celebrate; over the past decade, organizations have made significant strides in championing diversity in the workplace, increasing representation, and developing equitable HR policies and benefits for LGBTQ employees.
Celebrating pride with your workforce is a year-round activity and doesn’t need to be limited to pride month in June. Prioritizing LGBTQ inclusion and creating programs to support diversity in your organization are important ways to support employees, but embracing diversity and inclusion as an employer also can make you more attractive to LGBTQ candidates. Plus, diverse perspectives drive innovation and creativity and foster a belief among employees that their opinions matter, which encourages them to give their best effort. Also, for companies looking to attract more Gen Z candidates, it is is particularly compelling to have your hiring brand positively associated with LGBTQ causes.
Companies that create an inclusive, supportive environment will also strengthen their reputation and their employer brand. People who feel secure in their workplace, supported by policies that engender acceptance and positivity tend to be more loyal, more focused on their jobs, and less distracted and stressed. In addition, this means that the organization will function better across the board, with greater efficiency and, hopefully, better profits.
Here are three ways HR can create cultures of inclusion and more positive workplaces, where everyone is free to be themselves.
The best way to make someone comfortable is to demonstrate that you have an inclusive environment overall. HR can help non-binary employees feel comfortable sharing their pronouns and gender identity by asking all employees to add their pronouns to their email signature, LinkedIn, or company profile. When making introductions at the beginning of a meeting, ask everyone to go around their room and state their pronouns. Move away from the idea that you can look at someone and know their pronouns and instead ask people how they identify.
HR is the outlet for employee concerns, but many instances of harassment or intolerance towards LGBTQ employees go unreported. Employees either think nothing will be done or worse, that they’ll suffer a career setback because they spoke up. The message that employees are receiving is that the company doesn’t care. This feeling can ring true in even the best workplaces, so HR needs to go the extra mile to let employees know they can and should speak up.
HR teams know how to collect data on everything from productivity to engagement to employee satisfaction—and of course, inclusion. HR can send out employee surveys and ask people to rate both the company’s DEI performance and to rate their managers’ inclusion efforts. Creating a culture of inclusion starts at the top, but managers play a crucial role. They have the closest interactions with employees and therefore set the tone for team behavior and are in the best position to intervene if any toxic behavior is exposed. HR should also train managers on how to drive inclusion and on different intervention methods. As with any survey, be transparent with employees about the results and any solutions to address them.
LGBTQ employees are not strangers to hostility or micro-aggressions in the workplace. Many are closeted at work out of fear of how others will treat them or that they’ll suffer a professional setback.
Concealing gender identity or sexual orientation can be exhausting, demoralizing, and suffocating. For all employees to be healthy, happy, and productive, we need to erase the fear and replace it with freedom. Create the kind of workplace where everyone is free to come as they are, and celebrate your employees for the diversity they bring.
It is important to remember hiring a diverse workforce is meaningless if your employees don’t feel free to bring their authentic selves to work. Creating a company culture where everyone feels included is the only way to ensure your diversity efforts have a real impact.
Article adapted from SHRM.