An inclusive workplace culture is one that effectively incorporates differences without eliminating them, and in which people flourish individually and unite as a high-performing team. It’s the magic ingredient that allows employees to thrive and grow within their roles.
Many of the organisations that recognise the value of workplace inclusivity will look to implement inclusive policies and provide training for their employees. However, one of the challenges they then come up against is how to measure the effectiveness of this and track the progress within their team.
In order to measure inclusivity, employers need to gather the right data. However, this can be difficult to come by, particularly when they start to delve deeper into the individual demographics that make up their workplace. This is particularly true for groups who are traditionally under-represented in the workplace, such as LGBT+ employees.
Yet, understanding the experiences of under-represented communities is essential for inclusive workplaces, as it highlights any strengths and blind spots of the organisation. Without it, there’s simply no way that they’ll be able to recognise the true extent of their workplace inclusivity.
Gathering LGBT+ inclusion data
The first thing employers need to consider is the geographic context of the data collection. It’s crucial that they’re aware of the legislation in the country or the state in which they’re collecting the data. This will impact the ways in which they are allowed to collect information about the LGBT+ community, and the types of information they can collect.
If an employer wants to gain an understanding of the experiences of their LGBT+ employees, they need to make this inclusive of all members of the community. Using restrictive or binary identity categories in the data collection process can very quickly signal to employees that their employer hasn’t given much consideration to the individuals they’re trying to collect this information from.
Once the employer has this data, it’s important that it’s not aggregated into one single set. Aggregating data across the community makes it much less meaningful and doesn’t give a clear picture of unique experiences across the population.
When measuring LGBT+ inclusivity, employers also need to consider what type of data they are looking for. There’s a tendency for employers to focus on extreme forms of negative behaviours, such as discrimination, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. By focusing on such explicit forms of negative behaviour, employers may be overlooking modern or implicit forms of discrimination and exclusion. Some of the most common behaviours that we often hear about from LGBT+ employees, and some of the hardest to manage, are those that are somewhat ambiguous and where the intent to harm is less overt. This could include somebody asking intrusive questions about their private life, or using incorrect gender pronouns.
Gathering data on the full spectrum of experiences will allow an employer to get a true sense of how their LGBT+ employees are being treated in the workplace, and just how included they feel.
Next employers need to consider how they’re going to collect this information. Anonymity and confidentiality are of the utmost importance, especially in the event that there's a small sample size. In some cases, there may only be one employee within an organisation who identifies with a certain LGBT+ identity. Employers need to think this through carefully and identify where anonymity might be threatened, and how employees will be protected.
When planning the method of data collection, employers should consider the different ways to do this. Surveys can be a convenient way to collect a lot of data quickly, and they can allow for anonymity, but it’s often difficult to identify what questions should be included. For this reason, some initial interviews or focus groups at the beginning of the process can be effective in identifying the behaviours or experiences to focus on.
Employers might want to consider bringing in an external party to run their data collection, as focus groups require a high degree of disclosure from participants. If the person running these groups is internal, employees may be reluctant to speak up.
Piecing it all together
Having spent the time going through the where, the who, the what and the how, organisations will be better equipped to collect meaningful data. This data will then allow them to fully understand the experiences of their LGBT+ employees, and what can be done to help create a more inclusive work environment for this community. Once such initiatives have been implemented and effectively embedded, repeating the process of gathering data will then allow employers to identify the progress that’s being made.
Ashley Williams is a business psychologist at Pearn Kandola