LGBT+ inclusive employers see positive effect on workplace

18 July 2018 5 min. read

Employees and employers are seeking to create more inclusive workplaces, where people can be themselves within a much broader set of normative values and preferences. However, the transition remains difficult, with entrenched social values and implicit biases still to be overcome. A new survey shows that large employers are rolling out programmes and policies to make work more inclusive, with more than two thirds of employees broadly positive that it will effect real changes.

Inclusion and diversity is increasingly on the radar for businesses. Cultural shifts have allowed many different forms of relationships and gender identifications to come forward, with people increasingly seeking to escape the yoke of traditional categories and social conformity. If businesses can tackle this effectively and open up their workplace to a diverse staff, then they can reap major rewards, however, with a potential boost to financial performance of up to 30%.

To better understand the business case for LGBT+ inclusion – one aspect of the wider impetus for change – PwC and OutNEXT recently released an ‘Out to Succeed: Realising the full potential of LGBT+ talent’ report. The report is based on a survey of 231 employees that self-identify as LGBT+, and 28 global corporate employers.

Business case for inclusion

The survey showed a relatively positive outlook from LGBT+ employees in the workplaces surveyed, this is even when considering that many of the countries in which corporates operate are explicitly against LGBT+ forms of expression. 80% of those surveyed said that they feel comfortable being out at work, while 90% said that being out at work allowed them to better engage customers and do business. The study also found that performance improved – 90% of those asked said that being out had a positive impact on their work.

Elsewhere, both employers and employees are positive about having an openly supportive locus on LGBT+, citing that it provides access to the best talent by being inclusive. Both employers and employees also agree that it provides recognition in the marketplace as being an inclusive employer. Additional benefits were noted as bringing together a diversity of experience and thought, as well as allowing the organisation to better match the wants and needs of a wider, LGBT+ audience.

Skills enhanced by experience

Attracting talent is one of the benefits of inclusion in the workplace. Many respondents, however, feel that there is a disconnect between their inclusion policies and practices, and getting the word out there – with around 35% of employer respondents saying that the organisation leverages their inclusion policies for business purposes.

The study also looked at how the personal and professional experiences of LGBT+ talent affects various attributes – many of which also score highly among employers in terms of wanted skillsets. LGBT+ respondents showed a deep sense of authenticity, in part from being themselves (cited by 63%), with 61% of employers valuing that attribute. 46% say that they are strong in terms of relationship building, which is valued by 86% of employers. Fighting to be seen, heard and accepted in part offers leadership attributes, which 40% of respondents said were developed in their experience.

Attracting LGBT+ talent

While companies seek to be inclusive, the image portrayed can sometimes be relatively far from what happens on the ground. Many of the prejudices and traditions that stand in the way of inclusion, are at the social and personal level – from implicit biases to value differences. Supporting people to see past their differences in values can be hard work, with inclusion programmes taking time to become effective – if they are well developed.

A number of different strategies are noted by the survey as seen by employees and employers as key to successful support – all employee respondents highlight career progression as important, 99% competitive wages and financial incentives, and a further 99% reputation as a fair and equal employer. Employers meanwhile see career progression and fair and equal employment as key areas of LGBT+ attractiveness.

Employee perspectives on diversity in their organisation

Overall LGBT+ diversity issues are broadly discussed at organisations, with 85% at least agreeing, while the vast majority of organisations (86%) create a diverse and inclusive work environment. Yet while most organisations have policies and programmes in place to support LGBT+ employees, the respondents remain keenly aware that even with company support, issues pertaining to equal opportunities remain elusive for around a third of respondents – while a further third say that their organisation is not doing enough to encourage LGBT+ diversity in their workplace. Organisations do have a broadly positive assessment from respondents – 43% strongly agree that they recommend working at their place of employment to an LGBT+ friend, while 51% said that they agree.