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By Sinakho Dhlamini, HR Content Specialist, Top Employers Institute
By Sinakho Dhlamini, HR Content Specialist, Top Employers Institute

Embracing Diversity and Improving Inclusion: Making LGBTQ+ Inclusivity a Part of Company Culture



June is Pride Month, and many organisations take the opportunity to celebrate and recognise the LGBTQ+ community throughout the month. Companies do this in a variety of ways but with many of these activities taking place primarily in June, this may make them unable to create a consistent culture of genuine inclusivity as it is a once-a-year event.

Diversity and inclusion are key priorities for businesses in 2022 to embrace and make strategic changes to cultivate these priorities in their workforce. Among certified Top Employers, 94.6% of organisations are consistently making diversity and inclusion a key business imperative. While 74% of Top Employers have an organisation-wide strategy around diversity and inclusion. These strategies show that leading organisations are embracing and making steps towards creating an inclusive and diverse workplace. While these strategies do not necessarily specify the LGBTQ+ diversity in their organisations, it is important to recognise that it is a part of their efforts.

We spoke to Tata Consultancy Services UK’s Head of Recruitment, Anshoo Kapoor, and the Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Ieva Jankelaityte, where we were fortunate to receive some insight into their initiatives to create a culture of inclusion for their LGBTQ+ employees. You can read that interview here. This article will take a more general assessment of what organisations are doing currently and what they can do to improve their policies and culture beyond June. 

The Importance of Diversity

The world of work should reflect the wider world that we live in. That includes LGBTQ+ people. That is one of the reasons why organisations have embraced Pride month. The diversity and inclusion strategies that organisations have implemented over the past few decades have been an important part of progressing the rights of LGBTQ+ people, but there is still more that businesses can do to not only support their staff but empower them at work. Companies must move beyond merely raising awareness during Pride month to create a positive and inclusive experience and they need to involve their employees in making these decisions.

Employee involvement is becoming ever more important for organisations. In the World of Work Trends Report 2022, we focused on how employers that ignore their employees need to not only engage employees but involve them. This is also required as businesses create a diverse and inclusive culture that embraces their employees in the LGBTQ+.

How Can Organisations Build a Diverse and Inclusive Culture for the LGBTQ+?

There are several initiatives and practices that businesses can do, we will touch on five things that employers can do:

Clearly Communicate a Commitment to Being an Affirming Workplace

Businesses need to establish for all their workers that the organisation is prioritising and nurturing a diverse workforce, and this needs to be inclusive of people in the LGBTQ+. Businesses can do this by being direct in their values to their employees prior to onboarding and throughout their time in the organisation. This may be done by encouraging an open dialogue across the organisation that is conducive to showing that the organisation is not only aware of issues but that they are listening.

HR Teams can also encourage a culture of listening by using anonymous surveys and, if they do not have an internal expert on these issues, they can consider hiring an external evaluator. If they bring an external evaluator into the workspace, they will be an impartial voice that could lead initiatives like focus groups and individual meetings around an organisation’s equitable practice.

As mentioned earlier, these initiatives must be done across the organisation while also empowering employees to take an active role.

Concentrate on Creating a Culture of Psychological Safety

Many of the changes that help to create an inclusive workspace for members of the LGBTQ+ rely on these employees trusting that their organisation will trust what they say while respecting their opinion. Organisations will then need to prioritise psychological safety so that employees feel able to share their opinions.

Psychological safety is created by an environment or culture of trust and respect that is created by a group, in our interest this is usually created by an organisation and the employees within. It is related directly to the absence of interpersonal fear and the absence of interpersonal fear. We explored more around this topic more in a previous Inside the Mind article that gave concrete steps for organisations to facilitate mental health at work.

Prioritise Learning across the Organisation

A part of creating a safe and inclusive environment at work for members of the LGBTQ+ is led by education. It cannot be expected that managers and employees already have the correct language around these important issues. Some may not, for example, what language is appropriate or not. As many biases are subconscious it requires learning to let go of those barriers.

That is where continuous learning for all employees is necessary. This can be facilitated by HR teams that can regularly share resources and guidelines that educate everyone to be mindful of what they say and act so that they foster acceptance within the organisation.

Create Strategies that Reflect Values

Many organisations have, and promote values, that centre on the importance of the LGBTQ+ team members but some fail to make those values into concrete strategic objectives. Top Employers, as briefly touched upon earlier, acknowledge that it is important to have organisation-wide strategies around diversity and inclusion (74% report having a strategy in place). Organisations that make concrete steps around supporting the LGBTQ+ community will see that their efforts make actionable changes.

Promote LGBTQ+ Voices

In successful and empathetic organisations employees from different backgrounds can share their diversity in a safe and inclusive space. While there are many ways that people can share their backgrounds it is critical that they are empowered by structures within the organisation. They may, for example, be encouraged to share their personal pronoun dress in a way that is comfortable for them. While this is supported by leaders in the organisation it must also be part of the company’s culture. Promoting LGBTQ+ voices does not mean making a single person into a symbolic figurehead but rather having employees from the LGBTQ+ visible as key decision makers within the organisation.

Final Thoughts

Pride is a good time to reflect on LGBTQ+ policies and awareness for organisations but Pride is a lifelong movement. It is not a once-a-year moment and top organisations will make sure to embrace this energy throughout the year.