Why empowering employees to bring their true selves to work amplifies engagement, productivity and loyalty
Inclusion in the workplace is now a universal expectation. LGBT+ straight millennial and Gen-Z employees care deeply about inclusion and are more likely to advocate for it than previous generations
It goes without saying now that diversity and inclusion (D&I) have multifold benefits for businesses across the board – it is of little wonder that building an inclusive culture in organizations has been part of boardroom conversations for quite some time now. Right from policies and infrastructure to support groups and appointed grievance officers, organisations are taking far-reaching measures to create a truly inclusive workplace. Despite the work, inclusion today continues to remain on paper and does not fully reflect on ground.
Today’s workforce has undergone a fundamental, generational shift in the environment, the culture and even how it interacts universally. It is radically diverse and far more likely to include minority groups than in the past. The composition of the modern workforce is continually evolving, and its multifaceted nature presents challenges to how organisational cultures can adapt.
However, this complexity also presents the solution, which is to account for the intersectionality of identities. Demographic and life factors contribute to the differences in every individual employee’s experiences, and the best organisational cultures of today acknowledge the varied contexts and needs impacting these experiences.
Inclusion, today, is a necessity
Inclusion in the workplace is now a universal expectation. It is not just LGBT+ professionals who look for it. Straight millennial and Gen-Z employees, who will soon make up the majority of the workforce, also care deeply about inclusion and are more likely to advocate for it than previous generations. In that light, there are visible and well-distributed benefits when companies get it right – improved financial performance, stronger innovation, less attrition, and a more engaged workforce.
The confluence of current events amplifies the urgency for D&I strategies to be adapted for the new normal. The numerous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have a disproportionate impact on the health, wellness and financial security of women, caretakers, part-time workers, employees on the LGBT+ spectrum, employees with disabilities, employees with non-traditional family arrangements, and other minority groups.
A recurring challenge organisations face is assimilating people from various backgrounds and gender identities into the overall company culture, which is vital for fostering a sense of belongingness. Even the smallest of changes like usage of preferred pronouns and ungendered language can help everyone feel more included. Despite meaningful progress in some areas, the undeniable fact is that most LGBT+ employees are yet to feel completely included in the workplace.
This initiative should not and cannot be led only by the Human Resource or D&I function. Leaders across the board need to be onboarded and sensitised to help teams adapt to cultural changes. Friction in the process is expected as an integral part of any change. Formalising inclusion efforts plays a critical role in further driving an inclusive culture. This conveys the depth of the organisation’s intent and strategy, while also empowering.
LGBT+ employees to be their authentic selves at work. Formalisation can include adapted policies, inclusive practices, frequent sensitisation, enabling employee-driven support through network groups, relevant sponsorships, and more. Consistent sensitisation plays a major part in how the inclusion mindset and inclusive practices reflect in people’s behaviors in the workplace.
This should also be intrinsic to the employee lifecycle right from the onboarding stage. Thereon, periodic sensitisation will reaffirm and sustain the focus on the organisation’s D&I goals.
Support and be an ally to the LGBT+ community
The recent Madras High Court ruling to help bring the LGBT+ community into the mainstream is a stellar example of inclusion in action and allyship. Justice N Anand Venkatesh, who issued the order, rightly recognised that ignorance cannot justify normalising discrimination. He understood his limitations in this respect and undertook necessary measures to help him empathise with the community and inform his decision better.
The best allies take responsibility for their preconceived biases and take proactive action where necessary. Allies that can effect systemic changes play a significant role in furthering inclusion, primarily because of their wide scope of impact. Given that allyship can work in ripples and make fundamental changes to mindsets, every ally counts.
So, enabling people to become allies is an integral part of workplace LGBT+ inclusion journeys. More allies not only help create an environment where LGBT+ feel welcomed, but also allow for greater authenticity at the workplace.
As we are now familiar, empowering employees to bring their true selves to work amplifies engagement, productivity, loyalty and job satisfaction.
Especially in the pandemic context with greater focus on the overall employee wellness and sustaining productivity remote environments, authenticity at the workplace has evolved into a necessity for all employees. By considering the best ways to enable everyone to be their true selves at work, we are moving toward a more inclusive workplace culture.
Businesses of today no longer function in a bubble, outside of the world at large. Changes in our external environments are continual and rapid, and organisations are pushed to reflect this dynamism to keep pace. Organisations that work to create more accepting and progressive work environments have a lot to gain – primarily, the loyalty of employees and the public. At a time when we are finding more similarities in our experiences than differences, acceptance of diversity is all the more significant.
Edited by Diya Koshy George