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Five ways to create a more inclusive workplace for LGBTQ+ employees

Jamie Mackenzie, Director - Sodexo Engage

According to Stonewall, almost one in five LGBTQ+ employees (18%) have been the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues in the past year.

This suggests that although strides have certainly been made over the last decade, there is still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community. In light of this, here are five key tips* to help employers create a more inclusive workplace environment this Pride month.

  1. Diverse workforce
    The first thing to consider when laying the foundations of an inclusive workplace is the level of diversity amongst staff. This is rooted in recruitment, and can be achieved through adequate training to understand the barriers faced by LGBTQ+ jobseekers, and how to practice inclusive and fair recruitment. Barriers include anything from blatant bias and discrimination which one in five LGBTQ+ jobseekers report to have experienced, to non-inclusive language in the job advert which may make people feel unwelcome before they’ve even had a chance to click apply. The best approach to overcome this is to remain neutral when advertising, and not to allow assumptions or biases to drive any decisions about candidates.

Fair consideration is equally important during internal promotion processes to ensure diversity runs through all levels of the company, not just amongst entry level employees.

  1. Role models and ‘executive champions’
    Establishing LGBTQ+ network groups, with visible role models and peers, can go a long way to making staff feel comfortable at work. It’s extremely reassuring for an employee to have somebody to look up to and instill confidence in them – particularly ‘executive champions’, who connect the network group with upper management. Seeing others expressing themselves throughout the company will encourage less confident employees to do the same.
  1. Zero-tolerance approach, at all levels
    For discrimination to be fully removed from a workplace, action must be taken at all levels and not just from the top down. While it is an employer’s responsibility to establish the LGBTQ+ friendly policies, ultimately each individual employee carries with them the moral responsibility to put it to action.

What HR professionals can do, however, is remind their staff of these policies and have procedures ready in place in the event of any issues. But with almost a quarter of lesbian, gay and bi 18-24 year olds reporting to not feeling confident enough to report homophobia to their employer, it’s clear more needs to be done in the way of coming across more welcoming. So keep up conversations around your policies and make sure all employees know how to discuss any problems with the HR team.

  1. Get the employees’ opinion
    What better way to gauge the inclusive climate of your workplace than getting feedback from your employees first hand? Anonymous surveys are a good way for employers to assess their own performance and pinpoint where action needs to be taken to enhance their inclusiveness even further. For instance getting the perspective of staff on things such as unconscious bias training sessions or the recruitment process which could improve their work experience if implemented.
  1. Gender neutral language
    More than a third (35%) of LGBTQ+ staff reported to have hidden or disguised their LGBTQ+ identity out of fear of discrimination. To help protect these employees, it would be beneficial to create a gender-neutral environment at work. For example, this includes using language such as ‘partner’ instead of husband or wife. Not only should this approach be executed in everyday conversation or over email, but neutral terms and inclusive language must be rooted in a company’s policy.

However, employers should do what they can to make sure employees’ identities are respected and encourage practices to empower them to be their whole self at work. This can be as simple as encouraging all staff to add their preferred pronouns to their email signatures.

Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage, comments: “The best employers understand all their employees should feel welcome, respected and represented at work. Whether that be race, religion or in this instance sexual orientation and gender identity, all parts of an individual’s character must be supported to ensure employees can be confident and comfortable at work.

“It goes without saying that employers and their staff alike should remain vigilant on LGBTQ+ inclusivity all year round, but Pride month is a great way to promote its importance and bring more awareness to the topic.”

Tips compiled by Sodexo Engage*

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