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What HR can do to support their LGBTQ+ employees

​Serenity In Leadership

Responsible, resilient workplaces embrace inclusion, diversity and equality. They have a direct positive effect on productivity by helping businesses and employees thrive. Supporting our LGBTQ+ colleagues means changing the culture and mindsets of the majority to allow them to show up to work as they are. This not only creates a healthier work environment by aligning business objectives with looking after our talent, but ultimately it is also the best culture for good business and a proven way to outperform competitors. So what can HR do to support LGBTQ+ employees? Thom Dennis, CEO of Serenity in Leadership, shares his top ten tips:

  1. Actively listen to LGBTQ+ voices when making any changes to the workplace, strategy, legislation and interventions. Who better to know what changes are needed? These conversations have to have the support of the LGBTQ+ network. It is extraordinary how many businesses try to put interventions in place without consulting the very people they are trying to include and protect.

  2. A diverse workplace must be represented by different genders and sexualities. Ultimately different people bring different things to the table, including a wide range of ideas and experiences. Diversity increases awareness, equality and inclusion and prevents bullying and stereotypes, all leading to better understanding and new ways of thinking.

  3. I am who I am. Leaders need to create a culture where workers are allowed to be who they truly are. When you are authentically yourself, you bring your whole self to work. We know that our differences are what make us interesting, but it is also easier to find commonality when people feel comfortable to be themselves.

  4. Psychological safety is key. There is no place for exclusion, bullying and harassment for LGBTQ+ or in fact any employees. Management by fear must be a thing of the past. We need to explore how safe people feel by creating a secure space for discussion, whistleblowing and training. Leaders should not be automatically reassured by low to non-existent statistics on bullying and harassment; very few reporting systems set up to enable the signalling of dysfunctional behaviour are regarded as safe by those for whom they were designed.

  5. Leaders need to lead by example by modelling behaviours to prevent LGBTQ+ discrimination and to have difficult conversations about sensitive matters. Encourage your team to be courageous and curious, practise active listening, be open to a different way of thinking and show them exactly how that is done. We need to create allies who can step in to support our LGBTQ+ colleagues if needed.

  6. Find out where the problems are by conducting surveys around safety and inclusion, again with the help of LGBTQ+ colleagues. All forms of bullying, harassment, banter and conscious and unconscious biases can have a a negative impact on individuals – affecting mental health and creating feelings of resentment, anxiety, anger and injustice – as well as on the business. Active, genuine inclusion is the most effective way of eliminating dysfunctional powerplay and bullying behaviour.

  7. Education and training. Learning about understanding and respecting the differences between us will enable us to fight against ignorance and prejudice. Diversity creates space for us to gain awareness, educate, learn and include. It is fundamentally important for leaders to develop their own self-awareness to begin to see and take responsibility for how they perceive and react to difference. This is a skill that will be increasingly emphasised in the next few years.

  8. Take action to create a healthy environment with a diverse workforce and also ensure there is a mix of good candidates for recruitment with truly equal opportunity for promotions. Act internally to understand the damage of a workplace lacking in diversity and inclusion. Are the best policies in place? Is the right training available? Are the non-discriminatory values being openly publicised? Does the leadership truly believe in what is being instituted? What role is the board playing? The list is long but effective.

  9. Social inclusion. Strengthen the ways in which LGBT+ workers feel socially connected and included so that the entire workforce feels accepted, equally treated and welcome. Check out with them what would work best. Remember that what feels safe for you is not necessarily similarly experienced elsewhere.

  10. The pandemic is an opportunity. Covid-19 has not only affected us as individuals but created global disruption to working norms. It is a huge opportunity for businesses to change, adapt and source the best talent wherever they are in the world and to change inclusively for the better. Transparently committing to diversity and inclusion during the pandemic will pave the way for a healthy recovery as well as strengthening loyalty, work relationships and business integrity

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