June is Pride Month. Parades are marching with jubilance, art exhibitions are opening their doors, and every public establishment with a street view window is donning a rainbow flag. The importance of LGBTQIA+ representation is finally being addressed socially, but the need for workplace inclusivity remains prevalent in office environments. Increasing workplace LGBTQIA+ visibility and acceptance is vital. Why? Because it has a categorical effect on the way we network, grow, and succeed as a forward-thinking society.
As of 2016, 40% of LGBTQIA+ employees said they had been bullied at work because of their sexual orientation, while another 41% left their jobs for related reasons, choosing to work at other companies that were more vigilant with their discrimination policies. You read that right; almost half of the LGBTQIA+ employee population make career changes because they don’t feel safe or heard at work. Fortune 500 companies, however, have been making an impact on this specific issue, with 91% now including sexual orientation in their discrimination policies and enforcing consequences on a daily basis.
From an HR standpoint, employee recognition is an absolute must when growing and retaining your people. It’s not enough to just acknowledge milestones and achievements with promotions, titles, or a nifty salary raise. We’ve started respecting pronouns, normalizing fluidity, and emphasizing the unique differences between LGBTQIA+ subgroups, but we need to promote further understanding beyond pride month, too. Influencing workplace inclusivity and year-round equality matters, and it can be done by carrying out the following:
Kickoff a diversity and inclusion initiative: Starting a committee or creating a task force dedicated to prioritizing diversity within the company is a great year-round strategy that intuitively promotes inclusion. These committees or task forces can actively inspire a healthy company culture that advocates for equal opportunity employment and hiring practices, ensuring job accessibility to all who identify as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. Awareness activities, communication protocol, and company-wide events that guide workplace inclusivity can be implemented by such an initiative during any month of the year.
Paint your brand in rainbow colors: Paint your logo in the colors of the rainbow, and do so on more than one occasion. Uploading social media avatars, banners, and wall posts are all fantastic ways to celebrate pride, but this type of visual advocacy can be used several times throughout the year. Take your allyship a step further and print your multi-colored logo on swag that your employees can wear to Pride Parades and other local events across the seasons. This not only enhances LGBTQIA+ visibility for your people but shows consistent support for the community as an equal opportunity employer for marginalized groups seeking a workplace where they can be open and unfearful about who they are.
Host training that tackles the topic: Your company currently includes sensitivity training in its onboarding process, and that’s amazing. However, it would be taking a leap into the future world of work if you introduced an educational program that encompasses LGBTQIA+ history, art, and culture. Turn your sensitivity training into diversity coaching, offering a curriculum that surpasses the standard “harassment is wrong, don’t do it” bottom line. Discuss game-changing moments in LGBTQIA+ history, recommend LGBTQIA+ artists and influencers to follow, and tell let those who choose to open up about their own personal journeys. The goal is to curate a sense of compassion in your workplace that doesn’t dissipate over time.
Set up support services: We can’t stress this one enough. Make counseling and support services accessible to each and every one of your people. Opening up and coming out to coworkers, especially managers, can be nerve-racking, as LGBTQIA+ employees feel as if they’ll be discriminated against professionally and socially. Support in times of crisis or confrontation can be more than beneficial to your people’s psyche; it can be life-saving. Providing your LGBTQAI+ employees with an outlet for self-expression is a meaningful perk that can’t be substituted by a Casual Friday or catered lunch. Open services are also an appropriate channel for your company to gauge and assess its diverse and accepting culture, which is pertinent to year-round inclusion.
Businesses need to recognize that year-round workplace inclusivity starts with HR. To succeed in today’s landscape and grow congruently with the world of work, companies need to utilize these people leaders to the best of their abilities, allowing them to create a workplace where diversity flourishes and inclusivity is second nature. This requires them to take action and facilitate support services, task forces, and conscious awareness that openly and empathetically support the LGBTIA+ community each month of the year, even once Pride Month has ended.