We spend a large percentage of our week at work. So imagine how it may feel to hide or shy away from revealing your true self in the workplace. Unfortunately, many members of the LGBT+ community change their national behaviours, avoid conversation which may reveal personal detail and feel excluded from social activities due to their sexuality or gender identity. This simply isn’t good enough. It’s time for employers to take responsibility and do more to encourage diversity and inclusion within the workplace.
Businesses may strive towards developing an workplace that encourages equal opportunity. But, unfortunately, being “equal” isn’t always the answer. Employers must recognise the systemic inequalities of being an LGBT+ person in the workplace, and understand that this can often prevent minority groups from accessing opportunities. Employers should, instead, focus on achieving equity. This means there should be additional support structures and opportunities in place to ensure LGBT+ people within the business are given what they need in order to have the same chance of success.
The best way to connect with the LGBT+ community and provide the support needed is to develop effective staff equality networks. This will help to highlight key areas of development, allowing senior leaders to gather real insight from LGBT+ employees. These groups also provide a great support network for minority groups within the business. It’s also recommended to work with external network groups and LGBT+ charities. Collaborate with them on activities and events, so you are able to share best practice and further widen your business’s knowledge.
Aim to steer your business activity towards events that will make a genuine difference to company culture. But remember there is always room to run fun awareness campaigns or fundraisers within the workplace to raise awareness of LGBT+ issues. These activities will break down barriers and encourage effective communication between team members. Don’t forget to involve LGBT+ community members at every stage to ensure your company’s activity is authentic and genuine.
It’s important to ask yourself what measures have been put in place to support LGBT+ colleagues and candidates. Do interview panels include a diverse representation of your workforce? Would an LGBT+ person feel comfortable discussing additional support measures and, if not, why? Listen to your employees and implement measures they would find helpful.
Ensure training and development opportunities are available for everyone within the business. Put structures in place to allow people to apply for the training courses they would find beneficial, to make sure everyone has the equal chance to progress and develop within the business. Don’t leave the responsibility entirely to management. Instead, create a workplace culture that actively encourages personal and professional development. This will give individuals the confidence to seek opportunities to grow themselves.
Implementing additional wellbeing measures are also key to encouraging diversity and inclusion. Not only do wellbeing seminars and training sessions educate and inform staff on key issues, they provide a platform for shared experience. The whole company can come together to enjoy wellbeing activities such as fitness classes and mindfulness sessions. Being aware of our own mental health and the wellbeing of those around us encourages us all to be more empathetic, better listeners and more understanding colleagues.
Many businesses offer an Employee Assistance Programme to encourage employees to seek the help they need. Free counselling sessions are an important part of some of these programmes. Often the cost of counselling can be prohibitive, and thus those who could benefit from the service don’t have access to valuable support. By taking financial consideration out of the decision to seek help from a counsellor, businesses can support colleagues who would like to speak to a professional about their problems.
Though it’s always beneficial to encourage colleagues and managers in particular to practice active listening, sometimes people don’t always want to open up to the people they work with. We know that LGBT+ members are more likely to suffer from mental health and low life satisfaction, so providing access to counselling sessions is a particularly strong benefit for the LGBT+ community within your workplace.
Businesses can work with external wellbeing providers to help deliver a full programme of wellbeing services, specifically designed to encourage all colleagues to get involved. But it’s also a great idea to invite external speakers and LGBT+ advocates to give seminars and further raise awareness. It’s more important than ever not to hide away from tough subject matters. Encourage all employees to be an ally and address their own unconscious bias. Your workplace culture will thank you for it.
Andy Romero-Birkbeck, Founder & Director – We are Wellbeing Ltd