June is Pride month, a chance for members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies to celebrate their identities, accomplishments, and reflect on the struggle for equality. Various events are held during Pride month as a way of recognising the influence LGBTQ+ people have had around the world.
LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace is fast becoming a priority for organisations of all sizes across the UK. LGBTQ+ inclusion is so important for making sure everyone feels safe and comfortable at work, which is of course the primary reason for implementing inclusion strategies. However, LGBTQ+ inclusion also offers a distinct competitive advantage for organisations in terms of productivity and profitability. A study in the US by Out Now found that the US economy could save $9 billion annually if organisations implemented more effective inclusion policies for their LGBTQ+ staff. This is partially attributed to avoiding costs from stress and ill-health associated with LGBTQ+ staff who face discrimination at work.
With all this in mind, it’s no surprise that so many organisations make efforts to support the LGBTQ+ community during Pride month, which is certainly a positive. However, Glassdoor research found a third of UK employees (36%) said companies only appear to support LGBT+ employees throughout Pride month, and that support for LGBTQ+ communities “stops at Pride”. It’s now more important than ever for companies to ensure that any gestures they make to support LGBTQ+ employees during Pride month must be backed up by real understanding, and efforts should be for the long-term.
The aim of HR teams should be to become a true ally who recognises the needs of LGBTQ+ employees and aims to create an atmosphere in which staff and colleagues can explore their differences safely and with understanding. The Glassdoor study showed that effective allyship could be lacking in UK businesses, as a quarter (26%) of non-LGBT+ employees said they would not feel comfortable calling someone out for their negative views or actions towards LGBT+ people at work. A fifth (22%) of non-LGBT+ workers added that they did not feel educated enough or equipped with the proper knowledge and skills to be an ally in the workplace.
Pride month offers HR an opportunity for good LGBTQ+ allyship: it is an opportunity for companies to capitalise on the awareness created by Pride. However, any activity should also be sustainable, and a genuine effort made to embed them into company culture on an ongoing basis.
So how can HR teams put into place long-term measures that will genuinely support LGBTQ+ employees?
1. Review your LGBTQ+ inclusion policies
As a first step, all companies should have LGBTQ+ policies in place: these are essential for setting the guidelines on how to be more inclusive and avoid discrimination. HR teams should ensure that LGBTQ+ inclusion forms a core part of the company’s Equality and Diversity policy.
HR teams should also ensure that all general company policies are LGBTQ+ inclusive. For example, policies on parental leave, adoption, and pensions should all be reviewed to ensure they are inclusive for LGBTQ+ employees.
2. Provide suitable training
Of course, there’s no point having inclusion policies in place if your employees don’t know about them. Educating all staff on these policies is key to creating positive, lasting change in your organisation.
HR teams should offer LGBTQ+ training in the workplace. Training helps ensure your policies are heard and understood across the organisation, and helps to create a culture of inclusion for the long-term.
Your HR software may be able to help with this. Some HRIS software includes a training management system which will allow HR teams to add courses, report on the progress of attendees, collect feedback from the employees who have attended the course which can then be made into reports. If you are unsure whether your HR software has this capability, or you need help in using it, a HRIS consultant such as Phase 3 can help.
3. Form a team of LGBTQ+ allies
HR teams should explore the possibility of forming a community of non-LGBTQ+ employees within the workplace who can act as ambassadors across the business and provide a source of support for LGBTQ+ colleagues. Ideal allies are people who are passionate about or interested in LGBTQ+ rights.
4. Encourage education and discussion
The Glassdoor study found that the most effective method of showing allyship to LGBTQ+ colleagues was for employees to educate themselves in their spare time about gender identity, sexuality and bias – 68% of respondents said this was effective to LGBTQ+ employees. With this in mind, HR teams should encourage all employees to educate themselves of LGBTQ+ inclusion issues as a way of creating a stronger understanding between colleagues.
Discussing experiences is also crucial to fostering a sense of understanding in the workplace. The Glassdoor research found that when LGBTQ+ employees were invited to speak and share their experiences, it proved to be very effective, with 67% of respondents feeling it had a positive impact. Similarly, discussing gender identity and sexuality in the workplace was considered to be an effective approach by 65% of respondents. This all implies that HR teams should be doing all they can to encourage open discussion as a way to create a more understanding and supportive workplace culture.
5. Incorporate the use of gender-neutral language and pronouns
Gender-neutral language avoids bias towards a particular gender. HR teams should consider taking steps to incorporate the use of gender-neutral language in the workplace. For example, a simple way to do this is by using ‘they’ instead of ‘he/she’ in contracts and other company documentation.
HR teams may also consider rolling out the use of pronouns across their organisation. The idea behind stating your pronouns (she/her, he/him, they/them, she/they or he/they) shows that someone’s gender is not automatically assumed, and creates a safer space for non-binary people to share their own pronouns. Companies can incorporate the use of pronouns into day-to-day routine by adding pronouns to email signatures, social media profiles, and stating them in meetings.
How Phase 3 can support your organisation in being a LGBTQ+ inclusive employer
If you’re looking for ideas and advice on how to become a more inclusive employer, Phase 3 can help. As HR professionals, we can advise on the ways that HR software can help you achieve your aims more efficiently and effectively, as well as providing all the necessary training your teams will need. Please contact us today for a no-obligation chat.