How your organisation can support you
LGBT employee network groups are most successful when they have the backing of their organisation. Working out what support you’ll need, and what support your organisations can provide, are essential first steps when setting up your group.
Support could include:
This is often the first and most essential form of support network groups need from their organisation. Most network groups operate through regular members’ meetings, requiring a regular venue. Ideally, this should be a private, rather than an open, space. This means discussions can remain confidential and members who aren’t yet out at work can safely attend meetings.
Organisations should make it as easy as possible for employees to attend network group meetings. They may be able to put clear policies in place that ensure managers allow employees time to attend network group meetings and events. This is essential for the network group to run smoothly and for employees to get the most out of it. It also signals to members and the wider organisation that the network group is taken seriously by senior leaders.
One of the least resource-intensive ways for your organisation to support your network is by increasing its internal exposure. Regularly reminding employees of the existence of the LGBT employee network group, and what it’s up to, will help raise awareness and grow membership. It can also be a great way to find allies who can support your work. Internal newsletters, communications from senior leaders and posters in your offices are some of the simple ways your organisation can do this.
Having a set budget funded by your organisation can be a great asset for your network group. For example, it could allow your network group to run socials to help members get to know each other and feel included, invite external speakers and organise larger events to raise awareness of LGBT inclusion internally and externally.
Formalising your voice
This is the most effective way to achieve your goals and create positive change in your workplace. Network groups should have a designated senior sponsor from the senior leadership team who acts as a point of contact for feedback. You may also create a formal process for the network group to review organisational policy and make sure it’s LGBT inclusive. For more information on senior champions for LGBT equality, what they can do, and how to recruit them, read our resource ‘Securing senior buy-in’ resource.
Running an LGBT employee network group can be time consuming and is often voluntary work carried out on top of members’ day-to-day roles. Organisations should recognise and celebrate the work that network group members put into supporting their LGBT colleagues and creating a more inclusive environment. Including network group activity in employee appraisals shows your organisation values the work and timeof the network group group. Contribution to a network group should be recognised as additional responsibility and be valued as such.
Putting forward a business case
Putting forward a strong business case that demonstrates what a great asset your LGBT employee network group can become is the best way to secure the support you need.
Think about who you need support from. This might be a senior leader or your human resources department, particularly if there’s a designated members of staff working on diversity and inclusion.
Tailor your business case to your workplace – there are several different angles that show how an LGBT employee network group can benefit your organisation. Keep in mind who you’re pre senting to and the kind of arguments they’re likely to be receptive to. The following examples can be used as templates to build your own business case.
- The well-being case
Stonewall’s LGBT in Britain – Work Report (2018) found that almost one in five LGBT employees (18 per cent) have been the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues in the last year because they’re LGBT. This includes being the target of derogatory remarks, experiencing bullying and abuse, and being outed without consent. This rises to a third of trans people (33 per cent) and one in four LGBT disabled people (26 per cent).
Nearly one in five lesbian, gay and bi people (18 per cent) aren’t open with anyone at work about their sexual orientation. Almost two in five bi people (38 per cent) aren’t out to anyone at work about their sexual orientation. This includes half of bi men (49 per cent), followed by a third of bi women (34 per cent), compared to seven per cent of gay men and four per cent of lesbians. One in four trans people (26 per cent) aren’t open with anyone at work about being trans. This number increases to almost two in five non-binary people (37 per cent) who aren’t out at work.
More than a third of LGBT people (35 per cent) have hidden or disguised that they are LGBT at work in the last year because they were afraid of discrimination. This rises to half of trans people (51 per cent). It’s also higher among younger workers aged 18 to 24 (58 per cent), LGBT disabled people (43 per cent), and black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT people (42 per cent). These statistics demonstrate that many LGBT people still feel unable to be themselves at work. Editing their lives with colleagues can be exhausting and leads to values being compromised and relationships being undermined.
LGBT employee network groups provide a key space for LGBT employees to feel less isolated, and authentically express themselves at work. They can find colleagues who understand the challenges they face and role models to show them that it’s possible and okay to be out at work. LGBT employee network groups can often provide a safe and confidential point of contact for employees facing homophobia, biphobia or transphobia at work and may not feel comfortable raising this with a manager.
When LGBT people feel able to be themselves, they have increased energy, better performance and better relationships.
As a Diversity Champion, Stonewall can provide you with specific statistics from employees in your sector here. For more information about joining the programme, visit: www.stonewall.org.uk/ dc Specific examples of your LGBT employees’ experiences are particularly powerful to include here – LGBT focus groups can be helpful for collecting anonymous testimonies.
- The productivity and innovation case
People perform better when they can be themselves.
In Stonewall’s Employee Feedback Questionnaire 2017, LGBT respondents who agreed they could be themselves in the workplace were more than twice as likely to be satisfied with their sense of achievement compared to those who disagreed (84 per cent compared to 38 per cent).
Open for Business (2015) supports this link between LGBT inclusion and individual performance. It found that employees in LGBT-inclusive environments have greater job commitment, higher levels of satisfaction and improved workplace relationships. All of this has an overall impact on the productivity of an organisation.
Open for Business (2015) also found that LGBT diversity and inclusion leads to greater innovation and collaboration. Employees from different backgrounds bring varying perspectives to business problems and solutions, resulting in greater creativity and better decisions. Collaboration is improved because of greater trust, communication, understanding and awareness.
Diversity and inclusion work is always more effective when employees who are directly affected are able to provide input. Taking the time to consult LGBT employees, understand the challenges they face and find the best solutions for them will help you create a truly inclusive work environment. Network groups can act as an ongoing focus group and help you gain feedback from a diverse range of LGBT employees within your organisation.
LGBT employee network groups can also help foster an LGBT-inclusive environment across the organisation. Network group activity will raise awareness and understanding of LGBT inclusion in different teams, and help create positive change internally. The creation of an LGBT employee network group can encourage discussions around LGBT inclusion at work, and any network initiatives will contribute to creating a more inclusive environment.
- The recruitment and branding case
LGBT employee network groups can help recruit the best talent for your organisation.
LGBT people and their allies often look for an LGBT employee network group when considering jobs. Having an active LGBT employee network group signals your organisation is committed to creating an LGBT inclusive environment, which makes you a more attractive employer. Your network group may also organise or attend externally facing events related to LGBT inclusion, which can help raise your profile as an organisation and attract talented job candidates who care about LGBT equality. This can also help improve your brand image with potential customers and service users.
- The professional development and employee retention case
Having an LGBT employee network group can help you retain your best employees. It ensures that your employees can bring their whole self to work and promotes healthy work-life integration. Open for Business (2015) found that job-seekers increasingly value work-life integration in a job, and associate LGBT inclusion with good work-life integration.
Network groups can also provide professional development opportunities for employees. Giving your employees more ways to build new skills by running network group initiatives or being elected onto its committee makes you a more attractive employer and can improve employee retention. For LGBT employees, these opportunities are particularly important considering they can face barriers that prevent or restrict their career development. These barriers can include discriminatory attitudes from managers, reluctance to leave a job that feels safe and secure for one that’s more unknown, and, in informal networking environments that can aid progression, a fear of exclusion.