This post is the first in a four-part series that honors Mineral’s month-long celebration of Pride and simultaneously educates and informs organizations to be stronger allies, advocates, and supporters of LGBTQ+ employees year-round. The series features several Mineralists as they discuss what Pride means to them through the lens of the Mineral mission to “elevate teams every day.”
Building a workplace culture that celebrates and honors diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) can’t happen without also building a culture of belonging—one that lets every employee know (and more importantly, feel), that regardless of culture or identity, “You’re one of us.”
Belonging is the feeling that makes a workplace feel like home. Clear policies and programs that support belonging, though, are the structure—the foundation and studs, so to speak. As a way to guide your efforts and energy to achieve that clarity, here are seven ways organizations can provide HR support to LGBTQ+ employees:
To effectively support LGBTQ+ employees, business leaders first need to understand the complexities of sexual orientation, gender identity, and the unique challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community. The best place to start is by simply getting more curious to expand your knowledge about protected classes as much as possible—beyond the legal dos and don’ts. Ask questions like:
What does belonging here look and feel like to you?
Have you felt workplace belonging before in your career? What was it about the culture that created that feeling?
This is essential in developing inclusive HR policies, procedures, and practices in your business, but also has the added effect of identifying knowledge gaps among leaders and your workforce so you can effectively invest in tools and resources to have the most impact. Organizations should consider conducting workshops, seminars, or online training sessions specifically designed to increase awareness and understanding. There are also countless events held by organizations dedicated to LGBTQ+ issues in the workplace that you and your employees can attend—often for free and virtually.
In recent years, society has witnessed a rising wave of awareness and acceptance of gender identities that extend beyond the binary. This shift has prompted individuals and organizations to reevaluate their approach to gender inclusivity. As a small business leader, you play a crucial role in cultivating an inclusive workplace culture that fosters belonging. One essential step in achieving this is recognizing and using preferred pronouns at work.
A few tips to being a pronoun pro:
Healthcare coverage plays a critical role in supporting the well-being of LGBTQ+ employees. Consider expanding your health insurance plans to include coverage for gender-affirming treatments, such as hormone replacement therapy and/or gender confirmation surgeries, if possible. Work with your benefits broker to see what is offered; you never know until you ask.
Additionally, ensure that same-sex partners and their children have access to the same benefits as heterosexual couples—including health insurance, parental leave, adoption assistance, and bereavement leave.
Then for employees who are transitioning, offer comprehensive support throughout their journey. This includes providing resources and guidance on legal documentation changes, name and gender marker updates, and access to mental health support or employee resource groups (ERGs).
As a small business leader, you and you alone can lead the way by establishing open-door policies that encourage LGBTQ+ employees to share their thoughts, concerns, and experiences—with options to share anonymously if they choose. By assuring employees that their voices will be heard and valued, you help to create psychological safety, an essential building block to belonging. And by respecting and protecting employee privacy, business leaders can build trust and encourage employees to open up about their experiences, enabling the organization to address any concerns the employees may have more effectively.
In remote environments like Mineral’s, we have multiple “doors” employees can use to communicate what is going well and what can be improved. Employees are always able to access not only their managers but any member of the company via phone, video, or direct message. Letting your employees know that you are only a message away can make a world of difference in the sometimes isolating world of remote work.
Workplace harassment is a serious issue that can significantly affect employee well-being and productivity. When harassment claims—by or against any employee, but particularly when LGBTQ+ employees or other protected classes are involved—leaders must respond immediately and impartially.
Investigators should understand LGBTQ+ issues, the nuances of sexual orientation and gender identity, and how to conduct investigations without bias to gather evidence from all relevant parties. Upon completion of the investigation, HR must take appropriate corrective actions to address the harassment and prevent its recurrence. This may include disciplinary measures, retraining programs, or policy revisions.
Just as it is important to train people managers on how to be supportive and inclusive of LGBTQ+ employees, it is equally important to train them on eliminating human biases that may arise in their day-to-day interactions. Two such biases are confirmation bias and affinity bias, both of which can affect a manager’s judgment when dealing with sensitive employee issues.
Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, focus on, and remember information that aligns with our preconceived opinions. If a manager has deep-seated notions about protected classes, they are more likely to seek information and make conclusions that support those notions. Confirmation bias presents a danger to impartiality in situations when managers need to investigate employee issues.
Affinity bias leads us to favor people who we know or perceive are like us. For example, a manager who is part of the LGBTQ+ community could potentially favor an employee who identifies in the same way. Although this is seemingly affecting the employee positively rather than negatively, it could present situations that are unfair to other employees.
Managers should do the work to eliminate biases so they can make objective employee decisions, no matter the situation. Assisting managers in this work by providing anti-bias training to identify and unlearn biases is a big step in prioritizing the needs and sense of belonging for all employees.
An ERG specifically tailored to LGBTQ+ employees can be very effective in fostering a sense of belonging and community within your organization. Not only can business leaders support the grass-roots formation of these groups, but you also provide resources and guidance to help them thrive. With financial support, ERGs can organize events, offer mentorship opportunities, and provide a platform for LGBTQ+ employees to connect, share experiences, and support one another. It’s also a clear signal to other employees that your organization’s investments and values are closely aligned.
Additionally, other ERGs that support gender, race, ethnicity, life stage, or ability provide intersectionality for LGBQ+ employees to give and receive support to employees who belong to several unique and often marginalized communities. Aside from offering valuable networking and mentorship opportunities for LGBTQ+ employees, these groups create connections between individuals at different levels within the organization, strengthening the bonds of belonging even more.
At Mineral, the Pride ERG is open to all Mineralists via Slack channel. There, we post recent news learning materials, upcoming events, and more to drive conversation between LGBTQ+ employees and allies. By amplifying the voices of LGBTQ+ employees, organizations can benefit from diverse ideas and perspectives that drive innovation, problem-solving, and creativity.