Health and fitness

7 ways to truly support LGBTQ+ employees beyond Pride month

By the team of mental health professionals at Koa Health

Because we're committed to supporting our LGBTQ+ team members year-round (not just during Pride Month), we've taken time to reflect on and research the actions we could implement as an organization that provide a more inclusive working environment. We, like many employers, know that we also have improvements to make and want to share our findings with others in the hope that we can continue to support our communities for the long term and in a meaningful way.

So what can companies do to support LGBTQ+ team members throughout the year?

Thankfully, quite a lot. According to company review platform Glassdoor, LGBTQ+ employees are less satisfied at work than their non-LGBTQ+ colleagues.

Another survey from Glassdoor reports that almost half of LGBTQ+ employees feel that being “out” at work would damage their career prospects. The same survey also states that more than half have heard coworkers make anti-LGBTQ+ comments.

Clearly, there is important work that can be done to support LGBTQ+ people at work. Here are a few actionable tips to make your workplace a more supportive environment for all genders and sexualities:

1. Support LGBTQ+ employees with a robust anti-discrimination policy

Until June 2020, employees in the US could be fired for being gay or transgender. The Supreme Court ruling making this illegal was of course good news—nevertheless, there's still progress to be made 25% of LGBTQ+ professionals responding to a LinkedIn survey stated they had been denied career advancement opportunities because of their identity. And 31% said they’d faced blatant discrimination and microaggressions at work.

For these reasons and more, businesses need to demonstrate they will not tolerate any form of discrimination by creating policies to show very clearly that it will not be tolerated. There should be established processes to deal with any instances that occur and policies should be shared widely and made easily accessible to everyone in the business, to ensure it’s read and understood. Then, beyond these processes, companies have to demonstrate their expectations through actions, as well, with leaders modeling the accepting and inclusive behaviors they expect from employees.

2. Create an equality, diversity and inclusion policy

In addition, a D&I policy is also useful for clearly setting out your organization's stance on equality, diversity and inclusion. This is a good way to show that your organization is committed to better LGBTQ+ representation and fair treatment of everyone in the workplace. It’s also an opportunity to lay out how you expect team members to treat each other with fairness and respect regardless of their identity. An equality, diversity and inclusion policy is also an opportunity to support transgender employees, who face a unique set of challenges.

HR teams will require training to fully understand the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ employees, in order to better facilitate the creation of a supportive and encouraging environment for all.

3. Provide education and bias training

As well as specific training for HR professionals, training should be provided to the whole organization to support your policies and educate the workforce.

54% of managers and 52% of employees responding to the aforementioned LinkedIn survey, stated that their company “should offer educational opportunities and bias training.” Implicit bias training (or unconscious bias training) is designed to reveal to people their potentially harmful biases and provide methods to help them adjust their automatic judgements, to help eliminate discrimination.

4. Support your local LGBTQ+ community

CNBC journalist Abigail Johnson Hess recently wrote that, “Beyond harassment and discrimination, many LGBTQ+ workers also report being unsatisfied with how they feel their organization supports—or rather, does not support—the LGBTQ+ community.”

Supporting your local community is a great way to show that you really want to engage with LGBTQ+ issues. Celebrate and share information with employees about local LGBTQ+ events and groups, run a volunteering program and/or encourage employees to take time off to participate in Pride marches.

And remember that LGBTQ+ events take place all year round, giving you the opportunity to show that these issues really matter to your organization.

5. Offer inclusive employee benefits

Standard benefits packages could potentially discriminate against gay employees if not thought through.

It's vital to ensure that benefits packages don't unintentionally exclude LGBTQ+ families or transgender employees. This means offering equal benefits to all, regardless of their orientation or identity, such as time off to care for dependents, medical coverage for partners, and parental and adoption leave.

The language you use is important if you want to avoid being exclusive. Gender-neutral terms are advised when detailing benefits packages, as well as in other employee documents. Companies should also make sure there are sufficient options in any drop-down menus or forms employees need to fill out.

6. Give employees access to personalized mental health support

Studies show that LGBTQ+ employees are more vulnerable to mental health issues than their heterosexual coworkers because of the stigma, discrimination and prejudice they still face. Which is why companies’ support for LGBTQ+ employees should also include personalized mental health resources and tools to help them manage the additional challenges they face.

7. Communicate regularly and pivot as needed

Supporting diverse employees is important and requires continued focus. As you implement new policies intended to better support LGBTQ+ employees you may find some initiatives are helpful….and others are not as helpful as intended. Initiatives that worked last year, may not continue to be as effective the next. Communicating regularly and creating a space where gay and transgender employees feel safe openly expressing their needs and seeking out support, you’re much more likely to have the information you need to course-correct.

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