Workplace Guides: Career Development

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Developing Policies and Top Level Buy-In

This section includes:


Developing or adapting career development policies

Many organisations have policies stating that the career development of all staff is a priority, and often these policies consider the particular barriers staff from under-represented groups such as women, disabled and black and ethnic minority employees, face in the workplace. Altering existing policies which refer to the needs of other under-represented groups to reflect the unique experiences of lesbian and gay employees should not be difficult.

Organisations should review their policies to identify whether they include the career development of lesbian and gay employees, including the particular barriers that lesbian and gay staff may face. To identify these barriers organisations should consult their lesbian and gay staff. Lesbian and gay network groups can perform a very useful consultative role.

Organisations that need to develop new policies on career development of staff should look to include:

  • What the organisation defines as career development
  • Why the organisation views career development as important
  • Any specific groups the organisation identifies who are not fully accessing career development opportunities
  • How the organisation will put the policy into practice

Liverpool John Moores University’s Staff Development Policy and Strategy defines staff development as “…everything that is done by and for staff in order to maintain and extend their work and career-related knowledge, skills, attitudes and capabilities…” and its aim is “to encourage the commitment and develop the capabilities of all staff in working towards achieving excellence in the University’s core functions…” The policy also states clearly that the University regards staff development as essential to both individuals and the wider community and is “crucial to… the fulfilment of our Mission, Purpose and Core Values.”

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Achieving top level buy-in

Career development initiatives for lesbian and gay staff need the full support of senior management. Employers should establish a robust business case for career development initiatives that are targeted at lesbian and gay employees. The business case should clearly detail aims, benefits and outcomes for the organisation.

The actual career development barriers lesbian and gay staff feel they face in the organisation, identified through consultation, should play a central part in this business case.

The collection of data on the number of lesbian and gay employees at every level of the organisation can play an important part in supporting the business case for action. Over time, organisations should begin to monitor the sexual orientation of their staff at all levels and monitor internal promotions. Many organisations that have begun to do this have identified that lesbian and gay employees are under-represented in leadership positions. This allows them to continue to develop schemes to increase the number of lesbian and gay employees in senior positions.

Staffordshire Police began monitoring across all levels of the organisation in 2001. The data collected supported anecdotal evidence from lesbian and gay staff that there were currently no out lesbian and gay people at senior levels of the organisation. This in turn supported the establishment of a number of different career development initiatives. Monitoring at every level of the organisation, over a period of time, has enabled Staffordshire Police to evaluate the effectiveness of strategies and assess their impact on lesbian and gay inclusion.

The collection of this data enables an organisation to identify specific issues or problems. This can also be established via anonymous staff satisfaction surveys where staff could be asked about their perceptions of career development opportunities, and
what barriers they think might exist. Gathering this evidence can be essential if senior managers are to be persuaded to invest in, and continue to invest in, specific and targeted career development opportunities for lesbian and gay staff.

BT recognises and accepts both the business and ethical case for encouraging diversity and funds the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people’s network group (BT Kaleidoscope). In 2004, BT Kaleidoscope consulted members about barriers they encountered to their career development. Some members said that they lacked confidence and would like advice on how to come out in the workplace. The group identified that no relevant training was already on offer and developed the Confidence Plus course as a result. Open to all BT staff, the training course is particularly targeted at lesbian and gay staff. The idea behind this was to equip attendees with various tools to increase their assertiveness and build their confidence in the workplace and outside. Senior management felt this was an important investment.

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