Every generation makes their mark on the world, but the last few who have entered the workspace have made more change than ever. They’ve embraced diversity instead of hiding their truths and staying fearful of the unknown. That has led to broader acceptance and support of the LGBTQ community, but some businesses still have a lot to do.
It’s easy for people to post their support or wear rainbow accessories during June, but systemic change is more difficult. No amount of acceptance makes life easier if people can’t find jobs with inclusive businesses.
Companies must strive to create this welcoming environment, so read on to learn how your company can be more LGBTQ-friendly. There’s more for workplace leaders to do to demolish the bigotry of the past, so use these tips to support current and future employees.
1. Respond to Discrimination Quickly
Management can hire people from all over the gender spectrum, but this won’t mean anything if discrimination goes unpunished in the workspace. Set up protocols for responding to bigotry in all forms, like email or verbal harassment. Employees will take pride in their work and trust their supervisors more if they know harassment won’t exist even in the shadows.
2. Publish an Inclusive Mission Statement
Think about what you want to say to LGBTQ people to let them know they’re safe when they accept a position at your company. A mission statement is an easy way to make your stance public, so craft an inclusive one and publish it on your business’s website.
After making it known to the public, review it with everyone inside the company so they know where management stands when it comes to inclusion policies and support strategies.
3. Create Employee Resource Groups
Employee resource groups (ERGs) are made up of people who work together to advance their personal or career development. In the workplace, ERGs are an excellent opportunity for LGBTQ leaders to mentor younger co-workers. They may also be a voice on behalf of employees so they feel empowered to speak up when they see a need for improvement of practices and policies.
ERGs also allow management to show it’s willing to demonstrate its beliefs and not just publish them. Endorsing these interoffice groups shows that the LGBTQ community has the full support of the company. They foster an environment that increases inclusion and acceptance, even when management changes over time.
4. Review Senior Staff
Senior staff set an example with their behavior at work. If they exhibit harassing behavior toward LGBTQ employees, it signals it’s OK for other people to do the same. Every company should review senior staff members and get feedback from employees about their past behavior regarding tolerance.
They may not have acted out and been cruel in front of the business owners or management, but lower-level workers have likely seen actions they could report anonymously. If company leaders don’t uphold acceptance, they won’t reflect the genuine care and beliefs of the business.
5. Participate in Local Initiatives
Another way to become more LGBTQ friendly is to participate in or host local events. Sponsor a float in a citywide pride parade. Donate to companies that help the LGBTQ community, who suffer from psychological distress in the face of stigma from their communities, schools and workplaces.
Company owners, in particular, can help a greater number of people because they have more revenue and resources. Investing in the LGBTQ community outside of the workplace demonstrates that the company’s mission statement and beliefs are more than just fancy words meant to look good.
6. Provide Extensive Life Insurance
Leaders have structured societies around the idea of the nuclear family for generations. It led to LGBTQ people slipping through the cracks. Review the benefits provided to employees to make sure there’s equal coverage for everyone.
Life insurance is often an issue because it uses traditional gender pronouns and titles for loved ones when the insured client passes away. Look into switching benefits as needed so you can provide life insurance for LGBTQ people along with other necessities, like health insurance.
7. Establish Gender-Neutral Office Space
Another issue that often gets overlooked by management teams is the issue of gender-specific office spaces. Male and female bathrooms are part of every building, but what happens when HR hires nonbinary, gender-fluid or transgender individuals? They need a restroom too, as well as inclusion in paperwork and presentations.
The use of gender-neutral pronouns is also helpful in changing workplace culture. Eliminating “husband” and “wife” on employee records for a term such as “partner” makes it easier for everyone to fill out paperwork as needed. It also changes the tone of interoffice presentations and reminds employees that everyone is welcome and cared for by management.
8. Lead Annual Diversity Training
Company leaders can get on board with LGBTQ inclusion in the workplace and make all the necessary changes to erase intolerance from the office, but no team stays the same forever. People get job offers with other businesses or retire, which means new leaders will replace them. Fresh hires should always recognize the tolerance and acceptance within your company by completing annual diversity training. It should be completed during their first few weeks on the job.
This kind of training is crucial for several reasons. It clarifies where management stands on harassment and what will happen to those who attempt it. It also brings to light the reality of unconscious bias that sometimes acts as the barrier to diversity. HR can decide on the frequency of diversity training and monitor which employees complete it successfully.
Encourage Employee Feedback
These tips can help any company become more LGBTQ friendly, but the situation will always change as society adapts and grows. Encourage employee feedback with leadership or HR teams, whether it’s through anonymous forms or direct comments. If there’s a successful line of communication, every employee will feel welcomed and safe in the workplace and create a more positive environment for everyone.
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