How Do You Retain LGBTQ Employees?

In 1964, the Supreme Court confirmed that it was illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in the workplace and, for the most part, businesses have followed this. There have been a few businesses here and there that have been discriminatory, but most companies have absolutely no issues hiring LGBTQ+ people. Despite this, many LGBTQ+ people often struggle in the workplace. They are either subject to discrimination by fellow employees/managers, or even the staff, and others believe that the language used in the workplace is making them feel excluded. Some may have issues with customers, or they feel as if the workplace isn’t doing enough to highlight LGBTQ+ issues. This, eventually, leads to staff loss.

It is believed around 45% of LGBTQ+ in work struggle to come out to their employers. They fear that they are going to experience rejection, job loss, etc. Sure, job loss is unlikely to happen due to anti-discrimination laws where you can’t target people based on their sexuality. But less-than-accepting managers have tried to skirt these rules to get rid of employees who have a sexuality they don’t agree with. This causes issues.

A workplace that seems unaccepting can lead to a loss of quality LGBTQ+ employees. A lot of the time, businesses have lost quality employees because the business hasn’t fostered an environment where the employee is allowed to feel comfortable. Losing employees like this can lead to lawsuits, extra costs for employee recruitment, and sometimes the loss of fantastic employees. Some companies that have struggled to create an LGBTQ+-friendly environment have been left to deal with the wrath of the public.

We’re going to help you to avoid those issues. We’re going to teach you how to retain LGBTQ employees and create a much more welcoming workplace for everybody.

The Importance of Retaining LGBTQ+ Employees

The Importance of Retaining LGBTQ+ Employees

We know this may seem obvious to many of our readers, but you will be surprised at how many businesses don’t think about how the environment they have created could cost them quality employees.

We’ve heard countless stories of LGBTQ+ employees, good ones at that, leaving their roles because they do not feel that they were accepted. They felt that the language used in the workplace was not inclusive. They felt that there wasn’t a policy in place that could help to protect them. They felt as if any benefits the workplace had weren’t all that accepting of LGBTQ+ employees.

Losing a good employee is a bad thing. As any employer will know, the cost of recruiting and training an employee is massive. If you lose a quality employee in the midst of a project, it could throw the entire project into turmoil. Not to mention the impact on morale that the employee loss will have.

If a business is continually seen as being anti-LGBTQ+ (whether they know it or not), then it could impact their standing within the LGBTQ+ community. This could cost the business potential new customers and employees.

So, you have plenty of reasons why your business needs to be working hard to retain LGBTQ+ employees. This is without even mentioning the fact that it is the right thing to do. Work is hard enough without people feeling as if they are being prevented from being who they are. Do you really want to make somebody’s life that much worse?

Implement an Anti-Discrimination Policy

First things first, you’re going to need to put together a robust anti-discrimination policy.

Your anti-discrimination policies should let your employees know what your business will offer them, as well as tell employees what you expect from their behavior. It may include:

  • Recruitment procedures
  • Language in the workplace
  • Inclusion in the workplace.
  • Who employee benefits should be for.
  • How to report breaches of the anti-discrimination policies.
  • The punishment for a breach of anti-discrimination policies.

In our opinion, all businesses, no matter how small they are, should have an anti-discrimination policy in place. It is one of the best ways to make employees feel much more comfortable in the workplace. You’ll be surprised at how far even a simple policy can go to give minority employees the confidence to know that they are being looked out for by their employers.

Remember – it is all well and good to have an anti-discrimination policy in place, but that anti-discrimination policy is useless unless you follow it. For example, if you detail potential punishments to employees for creating a non-inclusive workplace, then actually punish those employees. As soon as a business is clearly not living up to what it wrote down in the anti-discrimination policy, it will be seen as a company that is not accepting of LGBTQ+ (or other minorities, for that matter). 

LGBTQ+ and the workplace

Train Your Managers in Your Anti-Discrimination Policies

If you have a medium to large business, you can’t keep tabs on everything that happens, as much as you would like to. Therefore, if you’re looking to create an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace, then it is essential that your managers are trained properly in anti-discrimination policies. They need to know how to foster an inclusive environment, both in how they act around employees, as well as in dealing with any issues that may arise.

Nowadays, there are many companies that will offer inclusivity training. Alternatively, you can talk to LGBTQ+ employees and ask them how they feel the environment can be made much more inclusive. You can then take their feedback and use it to educate your managers.

If the business has a bit more cash to spend on training, then you could train the lower-level employees too. The more people trained in anti-discrimination, the better.

Don’t let your employees tell you that they don’t need training either. Some people will think that they are inclusive, but you’ll be surprised at the number of people who hold prejudices that they weren’t even aware of. It doesn’t mean that they were bad people (most of the time), it is just that some discriminatory language, jokes, behavior, etc. has become so commonly accepted in society that many people don’t see it as bad. It is.

Deal with Discrimination and Harassment Properly

If you are going to have an anti-discrimination policy, then stick to it. If somebody breaches the policy, then you need to punish them. Simple as that. As we said before – writing an anti-discrimination policy is not enough. If you are not following what you have written down, then it is just a useless document and LGBTQ+ employees (and other minorities) are really, really going to look down on you.

Discrimination and harassment in the workplace, no matter how minor people seem to think it is, needs to be dealt with. The level of punishment should vary depending on the severity of the issue, plus how frequently it has happened. Punishments can include warnings, training, or even a loss of a job.

We’ve seen many companies go through huge downfalls because they fostered an environment where discrimination and harassment were able to run rife. This is because the issues were not punished when they came up. If an LGBTQ+ employee doesn’t feel as if people are being punished for breaches of the anti-discrimination policy, they’ll feel unsafe in their job. If they feel unsafe in their job, you’ll struggle to retain them.

Remember – this doesn’t just apply to keeping your employees in check. If customers are clearly anti-LGBTQ+, ditch them. Ban them from buying from you. Cut contact. If you don’t, employees will think you care more about the cash than who they are as a person.

Let Employees Know That They Can Approach You

You should have a section in your anti-discrimination policy that establishes clear communication channels when it comes to suspected breaches of the policy. Let people know exactly who they can talk to about any problems. They should be able to report it anonymously if they wish.

We highly recommend that you let your employees know that if they experience discrimination in the workplace, whether it is against them or against other employees, they can chat with you. Let them know that you are there to help.

Some of the larger businesses may want to introduce potential support groups. These groups don’t need to have regular meetings, but there should be defined people that an employee with an issue can go to seek help.

The whole idea of this is to ensure that LGBTQ+ employees do not feel alone in the workplace. Loneliness is an issue that many LGBTQ+ people face while working (hence why so many people stay in the closet in the workplace), and if somebody feels alone, they are more likely to leave their job.

Celebrate LGBTQ+ Holidays

Inclusive companies will celebrate events like Pride. It is only a small gesture, and it can often come across as ‘hollow’ if you do not have other aspects of your business that cater to the LGBTQ+ community. However, if every other aspect of your business lines up as supporting LGBTQ+ employees, then celebrating LGBTQ+ holidays is another way to show that you genuinely care about each and every one of your employees.

It is worth noting that there are many LGBTQ+ employees who wouldn’t even consider working in a place that ignores Pride, etc.

Promote the Use of Inclusive Language

Anti-discrimination training, and a robust anti-discrimination policy, should go a long way toward stamping out exclusive language. The same applies if LGBTQ+ employees feel as if they can talk to managers about any issues they have in the workplace. However, things shouldn’t just stop there. There are other ways that you can foster much more inclusive language in the workplace.

For example, letting people use their own pronouns (including through HR) is a great way to help people feel more comfortable in the workplace environment.

If you spot any language that doesn’t appear to be inclusive, then make sure that your employees know that you will not tolerate that language. Punish how you feel is appropriate for the breach of your anti-discrimination policies.

Look at Your Biases with Hiring and Promotions

One area where businesses often suffer is in their hiring and promotion policies.

It is important that a business keeps tabs on who it is employing. You need to ensure that there are no unconscious biases coming through. If your business does not seem to be hiring or promoting LGBTQ+ employees all that often, then you need to get to the bottom of why.

A lot of businesses are now including LGBTQ+ employees on recruitment panels to help cut down on discrimination. Other companies will focus recruitment ads on LGBTQ+-friendly job boards, etc.

If LGBTQ+ employees feel that there is a bias in your hiring or promotion policy, then they will not see a future in their career with you. They will start looking elsewhere, and you will struggle to retain them.

Showing pride in the workplace

Offer Benefits That Do Not Exclude LGBTQ+

Finally, make sure that any benefits that you offer employees do not exclude LGBTQ+ employees. A lot of this is unconscious exclusion, but you’ll be surprised at how often it happens.

For example, many businesses have parental leave (including adoption leave) as a benefit. This sounds fantastic, but many benefit packages seem to state that this benefit only applies to heterosexual couples, which isn’t as great. You don’t want to exclude same-sex couples from receiving parental leave when adopting, etc. It is targeting somebody because of their sexuality.

We suggest that you hire somebody to go through the benefit packages to make sure that they are inclusive policies. Sometimes, even a simple word change in a benefit package can make people feel much more accepted in the workplace.

Final Thoughts

Remember – it is all well and good knowing the theory behind retaining LGBTQ+ employees, but you need to put that theory into action. Start by developing a clear anti-discrimination policy and focus on training your staff. Once that is in place, you’ll be well on your way to creating a much more welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ employees. At all times, LGBTQ+ employees should be aware of available communication channels to report any issues that they may face. If they bring up issues, make sure that you deal with them. If you don’t, you could lose a good employee. 

Gay Worlley

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