Businesses have been increasingly more proactive in implementing initiatives and programmes that support LGBTQ+ communities within their organisation. These are having a positive impact in creating an inclusive workplace, with more companies becoming vocal around awareness days and events, challenging stereotypes and advocating for LGBTQ+ inclusive workforces.
Despite the progress that has been made to create such a culture in many businesses, we know there are still members of the LGBTQ+ community who don’t feel able to bring their full selves to work. Addressing this issue falls on all of us as colleagues, peers, team leaders, managers and leaders, to make sure that our everyday actions and behaviours are collectively fostering a business that is inclusive to all its people.
But for those businesses that are just starting out on this journey, as with other facets of diversity, there isn’t a one size fits all approach to ensuring the workplace is somewhere all LGBTQ+ employees can be their authentic selves. In some cases, firm-wide inclusive policies can significantly improve workplace culture and encourage positive behaviours; in others, the intended impact doesn’t always trickle down to individual teams, business units or departments, limiting the effect across the whole company, and requiring tailored efforts to tackle this.
Ultimately however, there are some key fundamental steps we can all take to create an environment where differences are valued and supported; where all your employees are able to thrive and achieve their full potential; and where LGBTQ+ individuals can confidently share their identity with colleagues without concern and feel accepted as part of the workforce.
To start with, there are three actions people managers and teams can take to do their part in leading by example and encouraging others to be supportive of LGBTQ+ colleagues during Pride and all other months of the year – educate yourself, develop inclusive leadership and proactively engage. Pride month provides a great opportunity to focus minds so that efforts to support this community can be prevalent every day going forward.
There are many ways we can educate ourselves on the LGBTQ+ community – whether that’s gaining a stronger understanding of the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ colleagues, becoming familiar with the different identities within the community, or making yourself aware of the legislation that is being challenged to repress rights around the world. There is so much to learn, and taking action to better inform ourselves is a start to having a real impact on our workplace.
Without realising it, unintended comments or behaviours can discourage LGBTQ+ peers from being themselves at work. The efforts we put into making ourselves more aware will translate into our everyday interactions and help ensure those around us feel supported.
Leveraging resources within an organisation, pursuing self-learning, becoming an ally and taking the time to get to know LGBTQ+ colleagues are just a few of the ways we can expand our knowledge.
Develop an inclusive leadership expectation
Inclusion should be an expectation not a luxury. Managers and team leaders need to embed a culture where inclusion is seen and acted on as part of the day to day job role. Whether that’s linking inclusive behaviour to performance, reinforcing the link between inclusion and stronger teams, identifying ways to monitor inclusive actions throughout the year – it must be an expectation on all employees at all times.
Doing so can help get the best out of your team and enable them to achieve their full potential. It can help boost morale, strengthen your workforce and importantly, get the best ideas and output from your people.
Proactively engage with LGBTQ+ networks, initiatives and events
There’s a huge opportunity to enhance your awareness and ability to be an advocate and ally by engaging with corporate initiatives and employee networks. Reaching out to networks, HR or talent teams, volunteering for or taking part in diversity events and awareness days and being inquisitive about what the wider business is doing to support LGBTQ+ individuals can go a long way in influencing your day to day interactions and building your knowledge.
Is there an opportunity to sponsor a network, join a planning committee, or provide support for an event? Can you help spread the word about an initiative or raise awareness of an issue the LGBTQ+ community is facing? As managers, you can proactively share actions you’re taking to engage in these areas with your wider team, highlighting different ways they could volunteer their time and get involved with different initiatives in the business.
The onus is on all of us
The business case is clear. Not only is creating a diverse and inclusive environment the right thing to do, as many employers look to rebuild and recover from the pandemic, they will need a strong workforce in place which can adapt to the evolving business landscape and help achieve a green economic recovery. Crucial to achieving this is ensuring that all employees feel included; this will enable all of us to bring their best ideas and best versions of ourselves to work.
To see this in action and to foster a diverse workplace, the responsibility is on all of us to educate ourselves and engage with our colleagues, integrate ourselves and our teams in diversity events and programmes, and be an advocate and ally for underrepresented groups within the business. This shouldn’t be seen as optional – being inclusive is a critical part of all our job descriptions.
Natalie Edwards is chief diversity officer at National Grid