The LGBTQAI+ community has long struggled with discrimination and bias, both in and out of the workplace. Even today, members of this community often experience challenges when it comes to coming out at work. In fact, studies have shown that nearly half of LGBTQAI+ employees are not out to their coworkers and bosses, fearing negative consequences such as harassment, discrimination, and even termination. As a result, creating a supportive and inclusive environment for LGBTQAI+ employees is crucial to fostering a positive workplace culture.
Benefits from creating an inclusive LGBTQAI+ environment
Creating an inclusive work environment that embraces LGBTQAI+ employees is an inclusive environment for everyone and has several benefits, including:
- Improved productivity and employee retention: Employees who feel supported and included in the workplace are more likely to be engaged and motivated, leading to increased productivity and reduced turnover.
- A diverse and innovative workplace: Embracing diversity and inclusion leads to a more diverse and innovative workforce, which can lead to new perspectives, ideas, and solutions.
- Improved company reputation: Companies that prioritise diversity and inclusion are viewed more positively by employees, customers, and the public.
- Access to a broader talent pool: Embracing diversity and inclusion allows companies to attract and retain talented employees from a wider range of backgrounds and experiences.
- Compliance with legal requirements: In many countries, including Portugal, companies are required to have policies in place to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Let’s explore five ways employers can support the LGBTQAI+ community in the workplace.
1. Treat LGBTQAI+ employees with dignity and respect
The first and most important step towards creating an inclusive workplace is to treat all employees with dignity and respect, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other aspect of their identity. This means avoiding stereotyping or making assumptions about employees based on their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Companies should also make an effort to use inclusive language and avoid discriminatory language, such as using gendered pronouns or making jokes at the expense of LGBTQAI+ people. In addition, companies should make sure that all employees are aware of the company’s anti-discrimination policies and the consequences of violating those policies.
2. Opportunities for inclusive communication
Inclusive communication is an essential component of creating a supportive workplace for LGBTQAI+ employees. Providing opportunities for open and honest communication can help create a sense of belonging and psychological safety, which are crucial for employees to feel comfortable enough to be themselves at work. This can lead to improved mental health and well-being, increased productivity and engagement, and a more positive workplace culture overall.
Companies can take various steps to facilitate inclusive communication, such as organising listening sessions, providing feedback mechanisms, and offering LGBTQAI+ employee resource groups. These initiatives can help create a culture of respect and inclusion, where everyone’s voice is heard and valued. By creating a safe and confidential space for LGBTQAI+ employees to share their experiences and concerns, companies can show their commitment to creating an inclusive workplace where everyone can thrive. Moreover, by taking action to address any issues raised during these communication initiatives, companies can demonstrate their willingness to make meaningful changes that benefit their LGBTQAI+ employees.
3. Make LGBTQAI+ inclusion visible in your organisation
Companies can also make LGBTQAI+ inclusion visible in the workplace by taking steps such as creating an LGBTQAI+ employee resource group or including LGBTQAI+ representation in marketing and advertising materials. This can help to create a more welcoming and supportive environment for LGBTQAI+ employees and demonstrate the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
In addition, companies can offer benefits such as healthcare coverage for gender-affirming treatments and surgeries, and policies that allow for employees to use their preferred names and pronouns. These policies and benefits can help to create a more inclusive workplace culture and improve the overall well-being of LGBTQAI+ employees.
4. Set policies to create an inclusive and supportive workplace
Companies should establish policies and procedures that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and should provide clear guidelines for reporting and addressing instances of discrimination or harassment. These policies should be communicated to all employees, and training should be provided to ensure that everyone is aware of their rights and responsibilities.
Companies should also consider implementing policies that support LGBTQAI+ employees, such as offering gender-neutral restrooms, providing health insurance coverage for gender-affirming care, and offering paid leave for gender transition. These policies not only demonstrate a commitment to inclusion and diversity but also provide concrete support to employees who may be navigating challenging personal circumstances.
5. Offer training on LGBTQAI+ awareness
Offering training on LGBTQAI+ awareness can help educate employees and create a more inclusive workplace. This training can cover a range of topics, including the experiences of LGBTQAI+ individuals, appropriate language and terminology, and strategies for being an ally to LGBTQAI+ colleagues. Training can be offered through in-person workshops, online courses, or other formats that are accessible to all employees.
In addition to providing training to all employees, companies should also consider offering specialised training to managers and HR professionals. This training can provide guidance on how to handle sensitive issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, such as responding to reports of discrimination or harassment, and supporting employees through gender transition.
Creating a workplace that is truly inclusive and supportive of LGBTQAI+ employees requires a concerted effort from employers. By following the steps above, companies can help create a workplace where all employees feel valued and supported.
Not only is this the right thing to do from an ethical standpoint, but it also makes good business sense. Research has consistently shown that companies with diverse and inclusive workforces outperform their less inclusive peers in a variety of measures, including employee satisfaction, innovation, and financial performance.
By taking steps to create a more inclusive workplace, companies can not only support their LGBTQAI+ employees but also create a more productive and successful organisation for everyone. It is time for employers to step up and take action to create a workplace where everyone can bring their full selves to work, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.