“Onboarding for diversity” has become something of a buzzword in the last few years as organisations globally begin to recognise the diverse needs of new hires from marginalised groups - including the LGBTQIA+ communities.
This is good news.
Whilst much has been achieved in the name of equality, LGBTQIA+ people still face discrimination in the workplace, with more than 46% of queer employees remaining “in the closet” professionally.
The thing is, it can be hard to know where to start, especially if you are not a member of the LGBTQIA+ communities. Many otherwise confident leaders stop short of really investing in tailored initiatives for queer employees, often out of fear of making a misstep or causing offense.
We’re here to help.
We anonymously surveyed members of the LGBTQIA+ communities to better understand their experiences in the modern workplace, and put together a list of initiatives that HR leaders can use to support LGBTQIA+ onboardees.
Keep in mind that these initiatives are not an exhaustive list and do not speak to the experiences of all LGBTQIA+ people. But they’re a great place to start!
#1 Be upfront about parental leave
Parental leave can be tricky for many members of the LGBTQIA+ communities. Not only are policies wildly inconsistent, but they’re also often poorly communicated (or poorly understood) by employers.
A 2019 Reuters study of OECD nations found that same-sex male couples received, on average, 5 months less paid parental leave than heterosexual couples, with same-sex females receiving 3 months less. The study did not include non-binary or transgender relationships, who often face even greater challenges.
The first step here is of course to take a look at your current parental leave offering and ensure that it is providing equal opportunities across the board. For a better understanding of how different European Union member states approach parental leave for non-traditional families, take a look at this great fact sheet from the European Commission.
Once you’re confident that your policies offer a level playing field for all employees, it’s time to create a short piece of content for new hires that outlines that policy clearly and concisely (better yet, film a short explainer video).
Be sure to specifically call out what policies are (and aren’t) available to LGBTQIA+ people and who they can go to for more information.
#2 Educate all new employees on queer issues
One of the biggest barriers to queer people being their authentic selves in the workplace, is that many heterosexual people have little to no knowledge of core LGBTQIA+ issues.
This often results in uncomfortable conversations where the burden of education falls entirely on the marginalised employee.
"I am often expected to explain complex queer-related topics to uninformed colleagues. Which is hard because I'm still learning myself and they expect me to know everything about all queer people and topics!
One way to combat this is to offer educational opportunities in a new hire's onboarding process where they can learn more about issues that queer people face in the workplace. This could be in the form of a video interview with a member of the LGBTQIA+ communities, a resource sheet with helpful links to expert articles, or a helpful FAQ with answers to some of the more common questions queer people encounter at work.
#3 Promote the use of personal pronouns from the get-go
Pronouns are words that we use to refer to people, such as she/her/hers, he/him/his, or they/them/theirs. For queer, gender non-conforming, non-binary, and transgender people, being identified by a pronoun that does not accurately reflect their identity can cause stress and anxiety.
For the uninitiated, personal pronouns can be a bit of a minefield. People are often afraid of getting things wrong, or they simply don’t understand why the issue is so important.
A simple way to encourage the use of correct personal pronouns in the workplace is by weaving them into your new hire onboarding process from the very beginning:
In “meet and greet” situations, ask existing colleagues to list their preferred pronouns after their name to let others know that they are in a safe space
Include a short guide to personal pronouns in your onboarding documentation.
Add pronouns to your email signature template.
All of these activities will make LGBTQIA+ new hires feel more at home in your organisation.
#4 Normalize non-traditional relationships
One thing that almost all LGBTQIA+ people face at work is the need to “come out” over and over again, with Mckinsey reporting 50% of surveyed LGBTQIA+ employees were having to “come out” at work more than once a week.
|Daily||Weekly or several times a week||Once or twice per month||Never||N/A|
Usually, this happens when a colleague assumes you are heterosexual and asks a question that requires you to clarify your sexual identity. For example, a lesbian woman might be asked “are you inviting your husband to the work party”, necessitating her to “come out” to that colleague to be able to participate in the conversation as her authentic self.
These questions are, most of the time, well-meaning and ultimately come from a lack of normalization of non-traditional relationships.
The process of normalising new ideas can take a while, but the best place to start is in the onboarding phase. A short piece of content that defines what non-traditional relationships are with some tips & tricks on how to rephrase common colleague-to-colleague relationship questions to make them more inclusive will go a long way in normalising this oft-misunderstood topic.
#5 Create rainbow visibility
LGBTQIA+ people are underrepresented in corporate environments, and many report being an “only” in their organisation or on their team. This can lead to employees feeling isolated and that they are not truly welcome in their organisation.
Beyond expanding your hiring practices to be more accessible to queer people, there is one important thing you can do to help improve this outlook; create more rainbow visibility.
For the Charles Schwab Pride Employee Resource Groups, this meant bringing together employees from all over the organisation to make a video about what PRIDE means to them. The video featured senior leadership and was heavily promoted during their onboarding process.
"[Seeing visible LGBTQIA+ symbols of support made me feel] Included,
valid, and valued.
But there are many ways to promote rainbow visibility in the onboarding process including:
Using inclusive imagery in your onboarding documentation.
Adding a PRIDE session to your new hire training schedule.
Become a member of the Workplace Pride foundation and display their logo on your onboarding materials.
All these activities will send a message to both queer and non-LGBTQIA+ new hires that your organisation is a supportive rainbow-friendly place to work.
There’s no room for discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people in today's modern workforce. But it’s important to set the scene to ensure that unconscious bias and institutionalised prejudice don’t cast a shadow on the new hire experience of queer folk.
Weaving these practices into your employee journey from the very beginning helps establish good habits for non-LGBTQIA+ hires and lets queer hires know they are welcome to be their authentic selves at their place of work.
Remember, wherever you can be sure to include the voices and opinions of LGBTQIA+ people within your organisation when developing policies that will affect them.