- 17% of LGBT employees strongly agree that their organization cares about their wellbeing
- DEI initiatives often fall short, sometimes doing more harm than good
- Cultures of inclusion are brought to life by managers
Companies are investing more care -- and resources -- into their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts than ever before.
It's the right thing to do and a strategic leadership choice. Gallup research shows that employees who feel included are more likely to be engaged.
Unfortunately, a February 2022 Gallup study finds few LGBT employees strongly agree that their organization cares about their wellbeing, is fair, or will do the right thing about ethics or integrity issues.
These perceptions of inclusion affect a company's quality, productivity, innovation and retention. Employees who don't feel seen, heard, and valued are less liable to invest in their company with their performance, contribute their creativity and talent, or see a future for themselves in their organization.
And people who don't feel accepted in the organization's dominant culture are more likely to filter their ideas, opinions and language. That's exhausting for the worker, limiting for the organization, and undermines the culture of inclusion DEI initiatives are meant to establish.
Facilitating a culture of inclusion is a leadership issue. Leaders can positively impact LGBT employees' sense of inclusion in a variety of ways, such as gender-neutral parental leave, including sexual orientation in anti-harassment and nondiscrimination policies, non-gendered dress codes, and treating all employees' spouses the same at corporate celebrations, for example, or in relocation decisions.
However, operationalizing inclusion usually comes down to the local manager. Their behavior proves -- or disproves -- to an LGBT employee that they're genuinely valued and accepted. Gallup workplace studies indicate the best method of operationalizing inclusion is with frequent, focused conversations. Such conversations can and should explicitly reinforce the organization's concern for LGBT employees' wellbeing and its values around ethics and fairness. But perhaps most importantly, those conversations can and should be individualized for each employee.
Every experience at work is unique to the person. Various demographic groups have similar perceptions about their workplace, Gallup data indicate, but perceptions of the workplace and the organization are deeply personal. Inclusive environments can't be created with a one-size-fits-all approach, and managers should relate to the person. Each person.
Operationalizing inclusion usually comes down to the local manager. Their behavior proves -- or disproves -- to an LGBT employee that they're genuinely valued and accepted.
Similarly, everyone defines respect in their own way. Respect is a crucial attribute of inclusivity, Gallup finds, but respect requires knowing how the individual wants to be treated. That knowledge can only come from interaction and individualization.
Those interactions can demonstrate care, a prerequisite for engagement -- which is the biggest driver of career wellbeing -- and enable genuine relationships. Managers who develop relationships with employees based on care can be exceptionally beneficial to LGBT employees, who are less likely to be thriving and more likely to have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety at some point in their life than people who don't identify as LGBT, the Gallup study found.
The Strategic Choice
Every employee wants to feel welcome. Everyone wants to know they can be their authentic selves, that their talent is valued, and that there's a future for them at their company.
Everyone wants to work at a place where they're treated with respect, valued for their strengths, and have the confidence to know their leaders will do what is right. Those are the three requirements, Gallup research shows, of an inclusive workplace.
Every leader wants their organization's employee experience to feel like that.
It's the right thing to do but, as noted, it's also the strategic thing to do. In Gallup's February study, 9% of the people Gallup surveyed identify as LGBT. That's a significant proportion of the workforce, which means a significant proportion is skeptical of fair treatment at their workplace. If their leaders and managers lean into DEI, commit to a fair and ethical workplace experience, and support employee wellbeing, many companies can be more successful.
And many, many more LGBT workers could have a much better experience at work.