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How HR can support the LGBT+ community in the workplace

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LGBT+ history month every year celebrates the achievements of the LGBT+ community while helping raise awareness of and combat the prejudice the community still faces.

Promoting a diverse, inclusive and fair workplace is of course on the agenda all year round and is an ongoing process whether it’s to improve or maintain a fair working environment.

For HR however, it presents an important opportunity. Many of the world’s biggest companies have taken the opportunity as part of LGBT+ history month to educate, inspire and amplify the voices of their employees around LGBT+ history, diversity and inclusion.

So, what are the current challenges?

 

How the LGBT+ community feel in the workplace

According to CIPD’s ‘Inclusion at work: perspectives on LGBT+ working lives’ report, 40% of LGBT+ workers have experienced workplace conflict compared to heterosexual employees (29%).

Accenture research showed that even in what they considered to be the most progressive countries, only 41% were open about their sexuality.

The findings from each of these reports highlights that there’s still lots of work to be done.

Even for companies with the best efforts and intentions, it’s important to recognise that there are still challenges. The findings also show how important it is to get the right feedback from your employees in order to tackle key issues in the workplace.

So, how can HR and organisations tackle these issues?

 

Start from day one

A great place to start is at the very beginning when an employee first joins the company. Set out your attitude and commitment to diversity, inclusion and equality from day one.

Create an Equality Policy, setting out the standards the company sets when it comes to creating a fair workplace and what the company is striving for.

Include training sessions and workshops as part of an employee’s induction that help educate new starters. Educate not just on the policies and processes the company has in place but some of the challenges that the LGBT+ community and other individuals can face in the workplace.

It could be that new starters have received similar education in the past or are fully aware of these challenges, however providing this training at the outset helps demonstrate a clear commitment to equality, diversity and inclusivity.

 

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Invite speakers

Stories are powerful. LGBT+ history is full of stories that can educate and inspire and stories are best told by those who’ve lived through them.

Invite someone in from outside the company to talk about their challenges and experiences with your team.

It’s not always easy to put yourself in someone else’s shoes but hearing real stories can help people resonate with and understand the challenges and the meaning behind creating an inclusive and equal workplace.

 

Work with charities

Charities like Stonewall work with organisations to help create inclusive workplaces and educate staff.

Charities like these have worked with companies of all shapes and sizes and can support in creating internal processes and cultures that promote diversity and inclusion.

These experts can help tackle some of the common challenges companies face and seeking expert advice is one of the best ways a company can become more diverse and inclusive.

 

Create open forums and communication channels

Amplifying the voice of your LGBT+ community is an important way to tackle diversity and equality challenges in the workplace.

Give LGBT+ employees a chance to speak to board members and managers in an open forum about what’s good but more importantly about what could change in the workplace to make it fairer and more inclusive.

Also encourage LGBT+ employees to share stories and history through internal social channels to help educate and inspire colleagues.

The more stories are heard and the more LGBT+ voices are amplified through the company, the greater understanding everyone at the company will have on equality and inclusivity challenges faced by the LGBT+ community in the workplace which will help tackle those challenges head on.

 

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Education

Providing education in the workplace around the challenges the LGBT+ community face isn’t always about removing certain opinions or beliefs but helping employees better understand how their colleagues feel and how they can help create a more inclusive working environment for them.

It’s not just about creating a more inclusive workplace either, but creating an environment for LGBT+ customers, whether in store or over the phone, in which they feel more comfortable.

As mentioned, this can be done through partnering with a charity like Stonewall or by promoting online resources through the company intranet or internal social channels.

It could be education on use of the right language or encouraging allyship. Knowledge really is power, and employees will welcome a way to make the working environment a better one for all!

 

LGBT+ virtual events

Remember, LGBT+ history month isn’t just a time for education but for celebration.

It could be a celebration of how the company has improved in making the workplace more inclusive if employee feedback indicates this. It could also be a celebration of how the LGBT+ community have changed the workplace for the better and how they’ve helped make it fairer and more inclusive.

For the time being, these events will most likely be virtual due to the pandemic. But COVID can’t stop you celebrating all the amazing and inspiring achievements of the LGBT+ community both in and outside the workplace over the years!

 

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We spend a large portion of our lives at work, and so creating a fair and equal workplace for everyone is incredibly important.

Employers play a huge role in the wider society in promoting diversity and inclusion. Companies have an opportunity to educate and inspire and help give those who feel they’re unfairly treated a voice in order to create a fairer and more inclusive society.

LGBT+ history month presents a great opportunity for companies to make real change in the workplace! With the help of employees, charities and online resources, any company can combat the challenges the LGBT+ community face in the workplace head on!