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Embracing LGBTQ2S employees in the workplace

By Jackie Burns, Director People & Culture - Hays Americas, on June 24th 2019

Pride Month is officially underway in Canada!

This year also honours the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a violent raid at a gay bar in Greenwich Village in 1969 which resulted in the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. Today, cities around the world celebrate in solidarity with parades, social events, concerts and more. Even though we have come a long way since then, many members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and 2-Spirited (LGBTQ2S) community still experience discrimination in the workplace.

Although diversity and inclusion should be a topic across many facets and populations of a supportive work environment, this is an opportune time to consider how we can improve the LGBTQ2S experience to be an ally where everyone can be themselves at work. Here are some actions to consider:

1. Don’t believe stereotypes or make assumptions
If you think someone is part of the LGBTQ2S community, it’s very important to respect that person’s identity. If you’re unsure, refraining from using gender-specific pronouns is a good start. For instance, “partner” instead of boyfriend or girlfriend, or referring to someone by their name instead of he/she. Until they make their identity transparent to you, avoid making assumptions. Not everyone is comfortable disclosing their private life at work, so showing discretion is important when they do choose to share. It goes without say that we should treat LGBTQ2S colleagues as you would any of your colleagues and it should not affect how they experience work on a day-to-day basis.

2. Celebrate diversity
Employers can show support by acknowledging their belief and commitment to inclusivity by embracing the LGBTQ2S community. This might include starting a broader diversity and inclusion committee or specifically promoting Pride Month to show visible support to help employees feel accepted and supported at work without fear of judgement or isolation. When people feel safe at work, they are more inclined to talk about issues openly which allows a company to address problems proactively and leads to a happier and more productive workforce.

3. Avoid potential discriminatory practices
Does your employer brand appeal to a broad audience? Although your company may not be actively discriminating, your hiring practices may unwittingly discourage LGBTQ2S candidates from applying. Take time to review the wording used in your talent attraction strategies and test to see if you are using the right language and messaging. Using TextioTapRecruit, or Talvista to highlight gender-coded words and phrases and suggest gender neutral alternatives can help.

4. Attract LGBTQ2S candidates
Companies that employ a diverse workforce benefit from a variety of talent and different perspectives. Ensure that message comes across on all your employer branding channels, from career site to any social media platforms you use to promote your culture and opportunities. Your employee value proposition should also encompass benefits that meet the needs of LGBTQ2S employees and sharing authentic stories of employees in the LGBTQ2S community can also serve as a role model for other candidates and encourage them to apply. You can reach beyond your usual talent pools by partnering with LGBTQ2S employee networks and organisations in your area.

5. Implement organisation-wide diversity training
Diversity training can help leaders and employees foster a more inclusive workplace by examining and challenging our own biases. For instance, Google offers Unconscious Bias at Work training to help ensure that employees have a common understanding and language to talk about unconscious bias. Training may also include educating employees on LGBTQ2S issues and making people aware of culturally appropriate language. For instance, LinkedIn recently published an article to explain the main terms that relate to gender identity including sexual orientation, queer, and nonbinary.

6. Create a feedback-safe environment
If you want to improve the LGBTQ2S experience in the workplace, ask for feedback internally. Those who are experiencing your company culture each day have the best insights. By listening to your LGBTQ2S employees, you can determine what’s working and not working in your organization. Are your policies, training, or communication effective? Different employees will have various comfort levels when it comes to giving feedback, so it’s important not to make them feel pressured and establish an open-door policy for all employees to encourage them to speak up about any problems or issues.

Everyone benefits from diversity at the workplace
There are many benefits of creating an inclusive work environment. When individuals feel supported at work, they are more inclined to contribute to the organization which leads to lower turnover, higher team morale, improved creativity and innovation to name but a few.

By embracing your LGBTQ2S employees or peers and incorporating some of the above tips, you can help make your workplace a better place for everyone.

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