This month, cities and municipalities around the world will honor Pride Month with opportunities to learn about and celebrate the impact LGBTQ+ individuals have had on our country and local and national communities. Workshops, events, parades, and more not only serve as a celebration but also ways to raise awareness of issues facing the community. Many companies choose to complement their region’s activities with their own activities. And while some companies have made significant progress towards building a diverse and inclusive culture, workplace harassment and discrimination are still common issues that LGBTQ+ employees face every day. Unfortunately, most of these incidents still go unreported due to fear of backlash or retaliation. As a result, companies need to continue to promote workplace inclusiveness, and the companies that have been slow to adopt new policies can use this month to start an internal conversation and identify ways they can take action.
The key to building an LGBTQ+ inclusive office is to integrate it in every aspect of your company culture. Remember, creating a diverse and inclusive organization isn't the responsibility of HR alone. True culture change starts with company executives and is consistently reinforced by mid-level managers until it becomes adopted by all employees across the company. If you're looking to create a diverse, accepting workplace, consider these 6 ways to promote LGBTQ+ inclusion across your organization.
Building an inclusive office means creating an environment where everyone feels safe and comfortable. To achieve such an environment, it's important for organizations to have clear anti-discrimination policies that apply to both sexual orientation and gender orientation. These policies should always be consistently enforced. All employee complaints should be taken seriously and investigated as soon as possible, and it's also a good idea to consider learning de-escalation techniques to help resolve internal conflict.
One of the best ways to promote an inclusive workplace is to promote internal LGBTQ+ networking opportunities that allow employees to establish connections with colleagues across the company. Try establishing an internal mentorship program or host workplace events and activities. Employees that form solid relationships with colleagues are more likely to stick around long term.
Additionally, it's important to remember that it's not the responsibility of LGBTQ+ employees to educate their colleagues on workplace respect. As a result, you may want to consider holding internal workshops or bringing in a third-party educator who has experience promoting inclusion in the workplace.
One way for employers to really show employees that they want to make a difference is by actively participating in community events. Sponsoring LGBTQ+ activities or simply encouraging employees to celebrate Pride Month are great ways to show support. Keep in mind, building an inclusive culture doesn't just happen in the office.
The first step every company should take towards building an inclusive culture is listening to your employees. Take the time to understand the needs, wants, and perspectives of LGBTQ+ employees in your office. Employers should never assume that they understand the challenges that LGBTQ+ people face, and as a result, should make it a point to always keep learning. Holding forums or working diversity sessions are a good way to show your employees that you're committed towards building an inclusive culture.
Creating a benefits package that addresses the unique needs of the LGBTQ+ community is incredibly important. Consider implementing a standardized parental leave program with equal leave for all new parents, regardless of their role. Be sure to update your policy's language to use the word "parental" as a substitute for "maternity" and "paternity". Providing resources for transitioning employees, such as coaching or counseling, is also important. You may also consider adjusting medical plans and leave policies to help further support your employees through a gender transition.
Once you've established an inclusive workplace culture, it'll be easier to attract LGBTQ+ employees to your company. Make sure to provide both internal and external recruiters with collateral that reflects your organization's values and commitment to diversity. When hiring for new roles, be sure to actively recruit from seeking out LGBTQ+ programs at universities and within the community.
Creating an inclusive workplace isn't always easy, but doing so is important both for your employee's well-being and for your company's success. A diverse culture ultimately leads to happier employees, which in turn, leads to higher engagement and increased productivity. Diversity inspires creativity, promotes teamwork, and generates an environment where multiple perspectives and ideas can flourish.
By updating your organization's policies, educating your employees, and demonstrating your support of the LGBTQ+ community, you'll be on the right path towards creating a happier and healthier workplace.
Heidi Souerwine, CMP, is the Executive Director of ASAP and manages content strategy for ASAP and its portfolio of products, including the APC, EA Summit, EA Ignite, and PACE. Prior to moving to Maine and joining the ASAP team in 2017, she spent 15 years in Washington, DC managing training and events from 10 – 10,000 attendees for international membership associations, non-profits, and the federal government. Heidi is passionate about needs-based program development, purposeful event design, and cultivating active community and engagement.