LGBT+ inclusive employers see positive effect on workplace

18 July 2018

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.


Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.