In January BITCI held the first of the 2016 Members’ Roundtables. The focus of this event, hosted by Oracle EMEA, was LGBT Diversity in the Workplace. Speakers from Oracle, Accenture, Microsoft and Sodexo talked about their experiences from the diverse perspectives of senior sponsor, HR professional and LGBT Network Lead. The animated discussion that followed showed that although many businesses embrace Diversity & Inclusion with initiatives around gender, people with disabilities, different ethnicities etc., there was a feeling that some organisations still ‘skirt around’ LGBT.
The most surprising fact for most attendees was recent American research which found that 62% of graduates who are out at college go back into the closet when they first join the workplace. Whilst many might assume that the youngest arrivals to the workforce would experience their organisations as fully inclusive that is not necessarily the case. If the organisational culture is not openly supportive it adds to caution that LGBT employees may already feel in their first professional role.
People with a broader perspective are needed to challenge that approach, and to proactively engage with LGBT staff to get their input. The organisational journey needs a staging of policy & safety (no career damage) supports, and leadership engagement to get the culture right first. Employee Resource Groups (network groups) are a great way for employees including straight allies to feel engaged but organisations should not rely upon them to take the lead ahead of policy commitments.
If companies don’t support employees of any age to bring their ‘whole selves’ to work they risk a significant loss of engagement, energy and productivity, and higher staff turnover. If they get an inclusive culture right, it benefits all employees and helps to attract and retain the best talent.
On a related note, Eir recently co-hosted an information session with GLEN on the application process for the Workplace Equality Index 2016. This Index is open to all employers (both private & public) and provides a means of measuring an organisation’s efforts to create an inclusive workplace for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees. More information is available here.