You’ve begun taking steps to ensure that your hiring processes attract and support prospective LGBTQ+ hires, now you want to retain these employees. What are some ways you can foster a culture that promotes LGBTQ+ employees, ensures their safety, and helps with employee satisfaction and retention?
Creating a culture of allyship and support will allow all employees to feel safe and included at work. LGBTQ+ employees need workplaces that reflect their values, offer inclusive benefits and want to belong to a company with authentic culture. According to research from Deloitte, 82% of LGBT+ employees believe allyship helps them be out at work.
Here are some initiatives to help improve your environment and create a culture that is appealing and safe for LGBTQ+ employees:
Build Employee Resource Groups
Employee resource groups (ERGs) allow groups of people within an identity to meet, connect, and talk about their identities and possible initiatives they can see implemented at work. ERGs can help businesses foster inclusivity and create a more authentic culture.
Among the employers included in the Corporate Equality Index by civil rights organization the Human Rights Campaign, 93% have an employee resource group or diversity council that includes LGBTQ and allied employees and programming.
“We have a number of programs in place to support LGBTQ+ employees, and we are always looking for ways to improve our offerings. Our goal is to create a work environment that is equitable and welcoming for all employees. We know that diversity makes us stronger, and we are proud to embrace LGBTQ+ talent,” says Michelle Hague, HR Manager at Solar Panels Network USA, a renewable energy semiconductor manufacturer. “Some of our key programs include diversity and inclusion training, mentorship opportunities, and employee resource groups.”
These programs include inclusion training for all employees to understand how to be better allies at work, and how to be aware of unconscious bias that might exist in the workplace. Within the ERG itself, there are opportunities for the community to connect and discuss possible pressing issues for LGBTQ+ employees.
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“Our training helps employees understand the challenges LGBTQ+ individuals face in the workplace, and we provide them with resources to support them.” says Hague. “Our employee resource groups help to connect LGBTQ+ employees, providing a community where they can feel safe and supported.”
Companies continuously see the benefits of creating and fostering ERGs. “Our associate-led PRIDE business resource group (BRG) supports and engages with associates who identify and support the LGBTQ+ community,” says Michelle Swanenburg, head of human resources at T. Rowe Price, a global investment management firm. “Through concerted efforts, the group has developed voluntary training programs that help to educate and support those who self-identify as LGBTQ+ allies.”
For T. Rowe Price, creating connections goes beyond just fostering ERGs at the company, it also means connecting with already established organizations. They have strategic partnerships that help them attract and retain LGBTQ+ talent with organizations such as LGBT Great, Lesbians who Tech, mygwork, Out & Equal.
Foster an Authentic Culture
Employees of all sexualities should be allowed to come as themselves in a work environment and not feel the need to hide their identity. According to data from the Human Rights Campaign, 46% of LGBTQ+ workers say they are closeted at work. Companies have to create an authentic culture of belonging to allow employees to feel like they can be themselves, whether that means disclosing their sexuality or not.
Research from McKinsey found that LGBTQ+ women who are open about their sexuality at work are half as likely to plan to leave their current employer in the next year compared with their closeted peers (8% versus 16%), and are a third more likely to plan to stay for five years or more (51% versus 38%). An authentic and inclusive culture will allow for all employees to feel safe at work.
How can you create an equitable work environment? “By giving everyone a seat at the table to inform what that looks like,” says Mere Abrams, co-founder of Urbody, a gender-affirming underwear and activewear brand. “Checking in with folks to gain a better understanding of what a safe and equitable work environment looks like to them, and tailoring the approach to fit each individual’s needs. We don’t assume everyone who is part of the LGBTQ+ community shares the exact same needs.”
Abrams further says that their company’s approach to creating an inclusive work culture is by asking for feedback and allowing folks a seat at the table to express themselves before executive decisions are made. “We put people first and make sure they know their physical and mental wellbeing are being prioritized.”
Understanding where your employees are coming from, meeting them where they are and working together to create a more equitable environment naturally allows for a more safe and authentic culture.
Understand Different Levels of Disclosure
You’ve been trying to hire with LGBTQ+ in mind, but you may have existing people or hires that fit into that cohort you don’t know. How do you feel comfortable collecting that information and how do you make them feel welcome and equitably treated? Companies have successfully put out anonymous surveys gauging how they can best support their employees, whether their employees are out at work or not.
“We did the research necessary to understand the needs and expectations of various marginalized communities, implementing some things immediately, while recognizing that others will either be ongoing efforts or come with our growth as a company,” says Abrams.
Understanding how your employees identify can help inform how to support them best and offer programs that allow them to be their whole selves at work.
Abrams says this means creating an environment that supports all LGBTQ+ employees, where the culture is safe for employees, whether or not they’ve disclosed their identity. “Demonstrate that your workplace culture presents a safe and affirming opportunity to do by implementing initiatives such as LGBTQ+ inclusive policies and practices, training, education and workshops for each employee about their role in maintaining an LGBTQ+ friendly environment, HR forms, like EEO-1, benefits coverage, and employee resource groups.”
Abrams explains there are weekly check-ins with the co-founders to ensure inclusivity. They have also established their Fully Human give back program, which is a mutual-aid-based fundraising program showing Urbody’s ongoing commitment to supporting community members who create art as a way of reviving history, telling stories, healing trauma, and pursuing the things that make them feel fully human.