Benefits of LGBTQ Inclusion in Diversity Training
You might think diversity training is a one size fits all approach to get everyone working together. If diversity training covers gender, age, and ethnicity, isn’t that enough? Why do we need special courses on LGBTQ topics?
When HSI announced our new series of LGBTQ training videos, we included the message in our usual content release email that goes to clients and prospects. We received a reply from a prospect “LGBTQ? Really? Remove me from your list.” That response is exactly why I wanted to include this topic in our diversity training offering.
As CEO, I have worked to create a culture that attracts top talent and supports a creative, inclusive, and dynamic environment so we can thrive and do our best work for our clients. I also want all employees to feel safe, secure, and supported. Our clients have similar goals for their culture and are quickly incorporating our new courses into their diversity programs.
General Benefits of Diversity Training
We recently published a new white paper, “Preparing Organizations for the New Age of Diversity.” We discuss how to get buy-in for diversity initiatives, going beyond mere compliance, and improving the “Diversity IQ” of your employees. We also cover the benefits of diversity which include:
- Increased productivity
- Improved creativity
- Increased profits
- Improved employee engagement
- Reduced employee turnover
- Improved company reputation
- Improved cultural insights
Benefits of LGBTQ Inclusion in Diversity Training
I wanted to explore the additional benefits to a company that offers LGBTQ topics in their diversity training program. In some companies it may be a controversial topic, which is unfortunate but also demonstrates the need for training on these topics.
Everyone wants to feel safe at work. Safe from being fired without cause. Safe from harassment, bullying, or physical violence. Safe to use the restroom. Your LGBTQ employees are dealing with unique challenges. It is still legal in many states to be fired because of your sexual orientation. The Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments on this very issue.
Offering these training topics sends a message that you value the safety of all employees and want to help everyone better understand each other. I think it reduces the chances of someone being bullied or harassed because of their sexual identity or orientation. Employees know that this behavior will not be tolerated by the organization.
When employees feel comfortable being “out” at work, they can share their authentic selves and create stronger relationships with their co-workers. In a company whose culture is not welcoming, LGBTQ employees have to avoid personal conversations or mask the stories with generic details or even lie. This wall around the truth can reduce trust and increase suspicion. Not to mention the anxiety or fear the employee may feel. How can they give 100% to their job if their mind is preoccupied with being “outed”?
We spend more time with our co-workers than we do with our family. Deeper workplace relationships translate into a more successful work environment. People are willing to go above and beyond, to stay late, to pitch in for their peers and supervisors when a stronger relationship exists.
It is a natural behavior for employees to become friends and socialize. If people can be open about their lives, it’s no longer the topic of office gossip or speculation. No one wants to be the topic of office whispers. We want employees to be productive and focused at work not worrying about censoring themselves.
Gossip is distracting, hurtful, and unproductive. It’s hard enough for companies to manage the grapevine on company news such as unexpected hiring/firing, pending layoffs, or the consequences of underperforming financial results. If you create a safe environment for your LGBTQ employees to share their personal lives, you will have fewer topics for the rumor mill.
LGBTQ candidates will research your company to see if it is a welcoming workplace. They will review your website to see your mission, vision, and values. They can tell if it is an inclusive culture by the tone and messaging on your website, in your social media, advertising, and sponsorships. Do the pictures of employees on your website and social media show a diverse group?
In a time with labor shortage and skills gap, do you want to alienate this group? Why would you limit your talent pool?
People in the LGBTQ community learn to live with a certain level of stress related to their sexual orientation and identity. Every day there is a story in the news or on social media of discrimination: someone being denied housing in a senior center; a clerk refusing to issue a marriage license; someone being attacked coming out of a gay-owned business.
Employees deal with stress from their personal lives all the time but most are temporary situations. Planning a wedding, going through a divorce, or moving a parent into a new living situation. We support our colleagues through these momentary issues. When a company offers LGBTQ training or publishes a company policy of diversity including sexual orientation and identity, the daily stress and worry related to sexual identity or orientation is at least reduced at work.
LGBTQ Courses from HSI
A Gallup poll concluded that 4.5% of adult Americans identified as LGBTQ, so if you have more than 20 employees, you likely have at least one person to consider. My guess is the number is higher due to people not responding to the survey out of fear of being outed. The US Census has never asked questions related to sexual orientation so any of these numbers are only estimates.
The question is do you want 100% of your employees to feel included and safe, or just most of them? If you are shooting for 100%, these are some topics to consider:
LGBTQ in the Workplace:
- Understanding Pronouns
- Supporting a Transitioning Employee for Managers
- Supporting a Transitioning Co-worker
- Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation
- Coming Out at Work
The HSI library covers many topics related to diversity in general. We have courses to help people understand the different generations. We offer DISC training to help employees understand different personalities. We have a series on cultural considerations and unconscious bias. We also offer courses on building relationships, working well with everyone, and social cues. All content to help us all better understand each other and be more productive. Adding LGBTQ content makes sense.
- For more on developing diversity initiatives in the modern workplace, see our white paper, "Preparing Organizations for the New Age of Diversity."
- Our blog post, "Embracing Workplace Diversity."
- See a sample of some of our diversity and LGBTQ training courses.
- How Can you Celebrate Pride Month in Your Workplace?