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How employers can ensure LGBT+ support is not limited to Pride Month

Health and Benefits|Inclusion and Diversity|Talent
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By Rachael K. McCann | June 28, 2022

To truly support diversity, equity and inclusion, employers must continue their focus on the LGBT+ community throughout the year.

June is Pride Month, synonymous with rainbows on the streets, ads, clothing and accessories, websites celebrating progress and awards, professional emails and so much more. Amid the festivities and education about the LGBT+ community as well as progress in human rights protections, it’s also a time to shed light on the experiences and challenges the community continues to have and serve as a “call to action” of how individuals can continue to make a difference through allyship.

Organizations can further their support through policies, benefits, education and other trainings, and recommendations on how governments can protect the LGBT+ community. But once the month of June ends what happens the other 11 months of the year to support the LGBT+ community?

If asked five years ago, organizations’ Pride-focus may have felt like the flavor of the month. Today, many have leaned into the importance of a diverse workforce, of equity and of a culture of inclusion and belonging for their LGBT+ and other underrepresented employees. They may not have a pulse on how their LGBT+ community experiences their efforts, but they acknowledge there is always more work to be done.

This has translated into diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) escalation as a talent and business imperative, thanks in part to environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

Consider the following:

External groups have been influencers with coveted awards and lists that organizations want to be associated with. They also provide important guidance and education of how to support the LGBT+ community.

In the U.S., the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index (CEI) focuses on workplace policies, procedures, training, benefits, communications and sense of community to determine those designated as “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality.” Changes to CEI for the 2023 calendar year has led many to revisit their practices and implement change to achieve or maintain a 100 score. Outside of the U.S., Stonewall, Outie Awards and British LGBT Awards are a few additional examples of awards organizations may strive for.

Global organizations that aim for consistency across all countries of operation will be challenged if they have presence in one of the 71 jurisdictions where it is illegal to be LGBT+ (43 of which lesbian and bisexual women can be arrested, six of which same-sex activity can result in death. Organizations with U.S. employees face challenges of inconsistency across states as anti-LGBT+ legislation continues to be introduced or passed. In support of LGBT+ individuals, on June 15, 2022, the Biden Administration issued a federal executive order focused on LGBT+ rights and protections.

Organizational support throughout the year

“We are on a journey” is a phrase often used when organizations speak of their DEI strategy and how they may have progressed in supporting specific efforts or communities. A range of factors influence progress and level of support, but below are five things that organizations can do to support LGBT+ individuals throughout the year:

  1. 01

    DEI strategy and employee resource groups

    Most employers have a strategy, ranging from a focus on compliance to striving to be transformative, weaving DEI into their talent and business strategy. There are various components critical to the strategy, including employee (or business) resource groups (ERG/BRG). The LGBT+ ERG is most successful when there is not only executive business sponsors demonstrating the organizational commitment, but also allies who further learning, support and a sense of belonging and activities throughout the year. Linking to the wellbeing strategy can be instrumental in how employer programs support the physical, emotional, financial and social health of individuals.

  2. 02

    Employee listening to pinpoint unique needs, perspectives and experiences of the LGBT+ community

    Don’t assume what LGBT+ employees need. Ask how they experience the workplace, benefits, career, societal issues and how it varies by location, by group, etc., as it will yield far greater value on efforts made. Employee listening can be done through virtual focus groups (e.g., all employees and those in the ERG) and other surveys. To get started, research like the 2022 WTW Employee Global Benefits Attitude Survey can serve as directional insight of differences between LGBT+ and heterosexual employees (across countries).

LGBT+ and heterosexual responses to questions relating to benefits

Asking for LGBT+ employees' perspective can broaden your understanding of specific benefit needs.
U.S. Argentina Canada France Germany India
Benefits meet my needs
LGBT+ 56% 60% 61% 50% 37% 92%
Heterosexual 66% 57% 64% 61% 42% 76%
Employer can get a better deal than an employee can
LGBT+ 52% 54% 56% 46% 33% 88%
Heterosexual 61% 52% 57% 53% 39% 73%
Trust products and providers suggested by the employer
LGBT+ 43% 42% 50% 37% 28% 90%
Heterosexual 53% 36% 50% 41% 39% 70%
Top 3 areas wanting help from the employer
LGBT+ Retirement, flexible work, career Manage emotional health, flexible work, retirement Retirement, flexible work, getting most from my benefits Retirement, flexible work, career Retirement, flexible work, manage emotional health Day to day finances, retirement, manage health
Heterosexual Retirement, flexible work, getting the most out of benefits Career, flexible work, retirement Retirement, getting most from my benefits, flexible work Retirement, flexible work, career Retirement, flexible work, career Retirement, manage health, career
  1. 03

    Conduct an inclusive benefit program assessment

    Traditional benchmarking of benefits can unintentionally result in a lack of equity in the benefits program for LGBT+ individuals. This is often seen in the health plan in services important to the community (e.g., gender affirmation/transition, hormonal treatment, PReP), as well as navigation and support for utilization of standard benefits (e.g., provider diversity, mental health, advocacy).

    Also there is a matter of eligibility and affordability in leave programs, retirement benefits and all family supporting programs. Depending on the current benefit and country of operation, simple tweaks in the offerings could make a material difference in the employee experience, health and financial outcomes and how they feel about their employer.

  2. 04

    Communications to LGBT+ employees and families

    Employee communications will come in various forms, but it’s important to have guides related to policies, trainings, benefits and related resources. The use of language, images and personas can further how materials connect and are perceived. Digital vehicles that support navigation of information, education and connect to resources create an enhanced employee experience in their needs in moments that matter.

  3. 05

    Leader and manager training and change management

    Organizations can implement training, policies, benefits and communicate resources, but if managers and leaders are not supportive, the culture of respect, belonging, support and dignity in the workplace will be more difficult to attain. An emphasis on continued learning and conversations, with accountability for culture and employee engagement and retention will support greater employee experience.

Author

Senior Director, Integrated & Global Solutions,
Global DEI Solutions Leader

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