The modern day workplace reflects our society as a whole and in recent years a number of initiatives have sought to help promote equality for women, ethnic minorities and a number of other groups. The LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community is a growing one and perhaps the newest in regards to workplace schemes, so attitudes to them may not be quite as developed and certainly many workplaces haven’t yet made adaptations for this group not necessarily through ignorance but lack of understanding. This blog post will hopefully allow you to gain a bit more understanding and develop some ideas on how to tackle problems.
Recently The Economist’s second Pride and Prejudice London conference was held, it focuses on the business case for LGBT inclusion and issues Human Resource staff have to be aware of. The conference brought up some excellent suggestions for HR professionals to take away and use in their workplace, practices proven to have helped according to members of the LGBT community who appreciate these measures more than anyone.
Younger generations must take an active role
Younger employees are the most likely to get on board and drive your plans for better inclusion along, research has backed this statistically. 27% of 1,000 executives surveyed said young employees were the most likely group to lead their campaigns for better inclusion. In general women and younger employees believed that LGBT friendly policies would help the business all round, creating a more productive atmosphere and happier office. Milennials are more aware of the issues facing this community and have grown up in a world that is becoming more understanding of their issues, older employees could be less educated on the subject and culturally may be more traditional.
Prepare for some employees not to be on-board
Some people in your workplace may not be behind the initiative, they may not be as liberal as you would like in this aspect. Whether through conservative religious or cultural views, some staff will not be ready to accepted gay colleagues. Companies generally reflect the communities they serve and it is normally locally that changes have to happen to promote change in the micro-environment of the workplace.
In some other countries it is still illegal to be gay and in many others it is culturally looked down on, so the issues abroad are even more difficult than here in the UK, which is relatively accepting of everyone. There is no real handbook to guide you on changing people’s attitudes, you just need to stick to your values and try to encourage small changes internally. If you have offices overseas that are in non-accepting areas for homosexuality you may have to talk about equality more in general terms as trying to be too radical, too quickly is unlikely to change attitudes and could cause conflict.
Make sure your plan is clear and everyone knows the aims
In smaller workplaces it is likely that you may not even have a member of the LGBT community in your workforce, however it is still important you put precautions in place to have an action plan for their inclusion, you must have someone representing their interests within your company at any given time. When the time comes when they are directly needed then LGBT people will have someone to talk to, it is important that the values of the company in relation to this are set out clearly. It is helpful if someone at a senior level takes a high up role on this or the scheme may not carry as much weight as it needs to, executive support is extremely important if actions are to br taken seriously.
Don’t lose faith if you aren’t successful initially
Some organisations feel guilty that their programme hasn’t been successful or made very little change but it is important that success isn’t necessarily what is needed for them to continue working towards their goals, inclusion programmes need to attractive to take part in and have longer term goals that at least get everyone striving towards. It is about forward thinking and important that groups feel like they don’t have to deal with everything regarding diversity all at once. It is best to start with one aspect and then begin to build strategies gradually, eventually linking to other aspects. It is a gradual process that is effected by many issues outside of your work space, so be generous when considering the good you are doing despite tangible results.
Have small aims at the start
Small actions make a real difference. Things such as asking new staff their preferred gender pro-nouns is important in making everyone feel welcome and accepted in your workplace. Consider linked issues, for example a black employee that is also gay may have completely different experiences and feeling than one who is of a different race and gay, it is about having adaptable outlooks and methods.
You can’t have an ego and must admit that you don’t know everything about the issue of LGBT inclusion. You must learn more from those who do, which could be the employees you are trying to help. This ‘reverse-mentoring’ technique is very helpful and can improve your methods, because they won’t be perfect to start off with, particularly if this is your first time developing a strategy for inclusion. Your benefits systems may not be appropriate for LGBT employees or their families, for example insurance may not cover same sex couples. If this is the case you must get one that does and switch suppliers if they can’t do this.
It is clear that this is a very gradual issue to tackle and will take many years of small endeavours to make a really big difference, but views in society have changed dramatically and must continue to until we reach true equality. Inclusion initiatives must be encouraged and have a very important role in a business’s framework. Make sure your business isn’t stuck in the past or makes racial and sexual minorities feel like they don’t have a voice, it reflects well on your business to be forward thinking and liberal.
For advice and guidance from a UK leading specialist in Employment law, HR and Health and Safety Services, please contact HPC.