Now that June is over, organizations and brands are taking down the flags and putting away the pride paraphernalia until next summer. That leaves many LGBTQ+ employees to wonder, “Okay — so what’s next? It’s July and I’m still gay (and maybe still not out at work). I still don’t have the same rights as some of my colleagues. What are we going to do to keep the conversation going?”
Building an inclusive workplace should be a core value of every organization. According to the Human Rights Campaign, close to half of LGBTQ+ employees are not out in the workplace, and 31 percent say they have felt unhappy or depressed in the office. It should be clear from this data that many companies still have a long way to go when it comes to making sure all employees feel welcome and valued. Rather than waiting for next June to roll out another round of inclusivity initiatives, companies should build upon the momentum from Pride Month to keep the effort going all year long.
Here are four steps organizations can take to ensure LGBTQ+ employees feel supported in the workplace, even after Pride Month has ended:
1. Examine Your Policies and Benefits to Ensure They Are Truly LGBTQ+ Inclusive
According to Catalyst, 93 percent of Fortune 500 companies have nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation, and 85 percent have nondiscrimination policies that include gender identity. If your organization doesn’t have these in place, focus on changing that before building out other LGBTQ+ initiatives.
Make sure your benefits are LGBTQ+inclusive as well. This may include a number of things, from increasing benefits to support LGBTQ+ employees to ensuring that language used in workplace benefits does not exclude the LGBTQ+ community. Catalyst indicates that 62 percent of Fortune 500 companies have transgender-inclusive benefits — a number that needs a great deal of improvement.
There may be times when your organization will want to take a stand on various LGBTQ+ social issues that affect the liberties of your employees. Having explicit, inclusive policies in place will help you to deliver a clear message about how your organization demonstrates support. Inclusive policies and benefits are critical to your employees in the LGBTQ+ community, as Catalyst notes that a quarter of LGBTQ+ employees say they will stay in a job for its inclusive work environment.
2. Build LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Groups
An LGBTQ+ employee resource group (ERG) can be a powerful tool for LGBTQ+ employees and their allies. ERGs are most effective at increasing employee engagement across the organization when they are structured to provide networking and professional development opportunities, community service, and business impact.
ERGs should also provide employees with direct access to senior leaders, as this allows the ERG to help inform the business’s overall direction. Identifying an ally as an executive sponsor for an LGBTQ+ ERG can elevate the profile of the ERG and bring to the conversation others who wouldn’t normally be included.
3. Support Various LGBTQ+ Initiatives Throughout the Year
If an organization wants to demonstrate its commitment to its LGBTQ+ employees, it should not limit its support to Pride marches. There are numerous initiatives all year long that companies can participate in.
For example, National Coming Out Day takes place on October 11 every year. It serves as a coming-out celebration for LGBTQ+ people and their allies. This year will mark the 31st anniversary of the day’s designation. Similarly, Transgender Awareness Week (November 12-19) and Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20) provide visibility to transgender and gender nonconforming people.
If you need a little extra guidance on how to get involved, GLAAD provides a lot of great resources for people and organizations wishing to take action.
4. Ensure Your Hiring Is Inclusive
Once your organization has created LGBTQ+ inclusive policies, it can then take a deeper look at its hiring processes. Even if your organization isn’t consciously discriminating during the hiring process, there could be language in its job descriptions and careers pages that can lead to bias.
Make sure to review the language on your job descriptions. Listing too many requirements and not including authentic diversity-and-inclusion language (think: How does your company specifically talk about diversity and inclusion?) can cause qualified candidates to self-select out of your talent pipeline for fear that they will not be welcome. You want to be sure that your hiring process is welcoming to all candidates, regardless of background.
Actively engage your LGBTQ+ ERG in the hiring process. Existing employees can be an organization’s best resource for finding top talent. If your ERG has a newsletter, ask if you can use it to promote open jobs. When creating your inclusive hiring strategy, include ERG leads in the development of the strategy from the beginning.
While these suggestions aren’t exhaustive, they can help guide discussions around making the workplace more inclusive for LGBTQ+ employees. More importantly, adopting these suggestions allows an organization to support its LGBTQ+ employees beyond the month of June.
Ryan Lathrum is director of community and inclusion at BounceX.