While Pride Month might be over, support for the LGBTQ+ community should continue year round. The workplace is the perfect setting to show up for queer and trans people in impactful ways every day—helping us to be safe, respected, and feel a sense of belonging. It’s become increasingly important to employees, as well as customers and clients, that businesses foster work environments that welcome the LGBTQ+ community.
When a company stands behind its queer and trans employees in both its workplace policies and culture, it results in better collaboration between colleagues, improved productivity, and better business results. Beyond the benefit of recruiting the best talent, supportive companies can expect to retain more satisfied employees in the long run—84% of LGBTQ+ employees at supportive companies say they are proud to work there, compared to 68% at unsupportive companies. It’s essential for employers and HR leaders to take action to make people of all identities within the LGBTQ+ community more comfortable, safe, and happy .
Below are 7 simple ways to continue supporting your LGTBQ+ employees year round:
1. Respect other people’s pronouns
It’s essential to respect people’s pronouns and refer to them by their correct ones, especially considering that being misgendered creates a negative touchpoint for queer and trans people leading to worse mental health and workplace engagement. Our community includes individuals who are non-binary, transgender, and gender-fluid and use various pronouns, like he/him, she/her, they/them and/or neopronouns like ze/hir. So it’s important to never rely on perceptions or assumptions when it comes to someone’s pronouns, as our pronouns may or may not match our gender expression.
We recommend leading by example and introducing yourself with your pronouns first. This is a great way to create an inclusive environment allowing others to introduce themselves with their pronouns. You can and should also correct co-workers if they misgender a colleague, as it can be scary and laborious for LGBTQ+ employees to have to correct repeatedly. For digital introductions, add your pronouns to your email signature, Slack profile, Zoom display name, and social media accounts. Lastly, work with your workforce management vendors to enable employees to add and edit their pronouns as necessary.
2. Educate yourself
Our community is incredibly diverse, and our experiences are personal—not every person will have an answer to your questions. Additionally, many of us have faced trauma and discrimination, which makes it exhausting to be tasked with educating people at work. Instead, employers and HR leaders should research, listen, and partner with your LGBTQ+ employees to build understanding. Leverage resources from organizations like Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project, and GLSEN to educate yourself about the experiences of queer and trans people and learn how to be better allies and advocates. Consider implementing diversity training to share these resources across your organization. Join your Pride resource groups to gain perspective. And for people at companies offering Included Health’s care concierge, our care coordinators are here to help connect you to trainings and resources.
3. Adjust your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policies to include the LGBTQ+ Community
Workplace culture starts with the policies a company upholds, and HR and Culture leaders have the unique opportunity to shape them. Company policies must protect all sexual orientations and gender identities while also celebrating LGBTQ+ employees. Employers should update their company policies to remove any gendered language that may potentially alienate LGBTQ+ employees. For example, eliminating gendered language in dress code policies, parental leave policies, and removing the “s/he” mentions in job descriptions can signal a more inclusive work environment and attract more candidates to the company. Employers should also conduct a top to bottom audit to find and replace gendered language that is used across intranet resources and other internal tools for employees to ensure a thorough policy update.
4. Invest in Employee Resource Groups
If Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) do not already exist in your workplace, give employees the resources they need to start one—appoint someone who is passionate about this mission to lead the group and allow employees to take the necessary time to participate in, build and promote the ERG. If ERGs already exist at your company, make sure to further invest in those existing groups to support the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace. Having true executive sponsorship, budget and buy-in can help foster community and belonging, and create space for all of your employees to thrive at work.
5. Offer benefits that truly meet your LGBTQ+ employees’ needs
Queer and trans people often face discrimination within the healthcare system. We also have unique healthcare needs that cisgender and non-LGBTQ+ colleagues never face. Whether it’s finding insurance coverage for gender-affirming surgery, or an affirming LGBTQ+ therapist or doctor, queer and trans people need extra support and resources that are not always available in health plan tools like provider directories or navigation teams.. HR leaders and employers can provide LGBTQ+ employees with the benefits they deserve through healthcare concierge platforms that are intended for the community.
Grindr recently partnered with Included Health so they could offer an LGBTQ+ affirming care concierge to best serve their queer and trans employees health needs. “We are committed to creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ people around the world and want to ensure that our benefit offerings reflect that dedication by providing our employees and their loved ones with the supportive, affirming healthcare everyone deserves,” Heidi Schriefer, the Vice President, People of Grindr, says.
6. Establish a workplace resource for LGBTQ+ employees
Julia, the Principal People Relations Manager at Genentech, has seen firsthand how LGBTQ+ employees benefit from having someone they can rely on at work. “Part of my job includes being a navigator. If an employee reaches out to me needing guidance on fundamental issues, I help them put a plan together to get what they need,” she says. “They might ask questions like ‘how do I come out to my manager?’ or ‘how do I help my colleagues remember my pronouns?’ and I offer ways of communication and find solutions so that they can be their true self at work.” Julia sees how this has made a difference for employees at Genentech. “Luckily, LGBTQ+ employees at Genentech rarely have to come to me. But I do get emails saying, ‘I’m so happy you’re here.’ I think it’s important for LGBTQ+ employees to know that they have someone in their corner at work. “Supporting the LGBTQ+ community should be something that isn’t an ‘extra’ for a company, but a part of its culture,” she adds. “At Genentech, it’s who we are.”
7. Support LGBTQ+ organizations
Showing support for the LGBTQ+ community can extend outside of the workplace. Fundraising for local and national LGBTQ+ charities and organizations demonstrates that your business not only accepts the community, but is actively providing resources. There are hundreds of organizations, all with unique and important missions, that you can volunteer with or donate to.
It’s equally essential to review what entities or individuals your company is already financially backing, and the beliefs they actively support. While a handful of major companies have outwardly expressed their acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, a recent report exposed their donations to be supporting politicians who are introducing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Research where your money is going, and whether or not your donations are championing the causes you and your company care about.
Being an LGBTQ+ ally is not a title you’re given, it’s in your actions. And, it doesn’t hurt that these changes can create real impact to growth (Deloitte found that companies which had LGBT-supportive policies experienced 2.7% higher average employee productivity and 25% higher average profitability compared to those without LGBT-supportive policies.) Implementing changes to improve the lives of all queer and trans people can easily start with small changes at the individual level and at the company level. While a lot of what you can do for the community can involve change within your workplace culture, remember to initiate change in yourself first. Whether it’s remembering to use your employee’s pronouns or educating yourself on the LGBTQ+ experience, lead by example to make your workspace a safe place for everyone.
At Included Health, we strive to provide friendly and exceptional healthcare navigation services to the LGBTQ+ community. Join our mailing list to receive more health and wellbeing updates from our care team. And please do not hesitate to contact us to #GetIncluded for your company, health plan, and community.
Our Editorial Team is composed of our leaders, clinicians, and care coordinators, as well as other Included Health employers, all who are working to raise the standard of healthcare for everyone. Together, they combine decades of subject matter experience across all fields of healthcare.