Author: Bridget Papanicholas, Head of Search and Business Operations

Did you know that until very recently, it was legal in more than half of our 50 states to fire employees for being gay, bisexual, or transgender?

A landmark change occurred in June when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to protect gay and transgender employees from workplace discrimination.

This decision and the broader issue of workplace Diversity & Inclusion (D & I) that has come to the fore, highlights that organizations must make essential decisions on how everything from training to hiring practices, include and prioritize considerations.

Why do LGBTQ+ friendly cultures and policies matter?

There is a bounty of research that shows workplace environments and policies that support LGBTQ+ employees are beneficial and even potentially open the door for coming out at work.

To that end, research by the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law found when LGBTQ+ friendly cultures are in place, LGBTQ+ employees experience higher job satisfaction, increased productivity, better workplace relationships, and are more open about their sexual orientation. Similar benefits also extend to their coworkers. Conversely, a study published in the Harvard Business Review revealed that almost one-third of LGBTQ+ workers feel that to be promoted, they need to stay in the closet.

Below is a list of actions your company can take to advance LGBTQ+ inclusivity, equality in your organization. You may also realize improved productivity!

1. Develop & Socialize Diversity Policies

It’s pivotal that your company’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies have clear language that prohibits any discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Making clear statements in your mission and values about diversity is also integral.

Whether it’s speeches, e-newsletters, presentations, posters, or conversations, consistently communicating these statements, values, policies, etc., will help ensure they become a part of the cultural fabric of your organization, understood, appreciated and adopted by employees.

2. Transform your hiring practices

The fact LGBTQ+ workers have faced legal discrimination and barriers to landing jobs and advancing in their careers presents a compelling reason to take a close look at your hiring practices. It may not be evident to you, but the way job descriptions are worded can have an unconscious bias that could deter LGBTQ+ candidates from applying. It’s worthwhile to review your position profiles and consider having an expert in diversity assist with this.

A proactive approach is to note in your job postings that your organization is committed to diversity and equality and, for example, state that you offer same-sex spousal benefits. Additionally, you can participate in LGBTQ+ recruitment fairs and advertise on job sites that cater to diverse applicants.

3. Provide D & I Training

Training is a cornerstone of developing your employees, as well as recruiting and retaining the best people. With D & I training for all, your aim should be to arm employees with a better understanding of the types of workplace issues someone who is of a different sexual orientation may confront. An equally important goal is to provide training that offers tangible skills, such as how to recognize unconscious bias and how to communicate effectively in a more inclusive way.

Many online training modules focus on D & I. You can also invite a facilitator to provide more applied, skills-based training. In-person or Zoom meetings with a facilitator, not only serves to enhance awareness, acceptance, and inclusiveness but concurrently functions as a team-building and morale-boosting exercise. The impact of this is significant. Studies have shown LGBTQ+ employees who said their organization offers diversity training have more positive workplace experiences, by a margin of 5-10% more so than those that do not.

4. Create Groups and Networks

From sports and hobby groups to professional and networking forums, great companies offer employees various avenues to come together and share experiences. Having groups for LGBTQ+ staff can also be powerful and meaningful.

As an example, consulting firm Accenture set up networks and groups to enhance the LGBTQ+ employee experience. Their research indicates creating a culture of equality within the company enabled LGBTQ+ professionals to be 1.5 times more likely to advance to management roles and three times more likely to progress to senior management positions.

5. Broaden Benefits

Beyond offering comprehensive benefits to same-sex spouses, there are additional ways to treat LGBTQ+ employees equally. For example, providing coverage for gender transition surgery and ensuring the same forms of tax treatment that heterosexual couples receive are applied to same-sex relationships, will create a workplace culture that is open, inclusive, progressive, and welcoming.