The LGBTQ community is diverse and broad, bringing unique value to the workforce through its fabric of differentiated experiences. This often includes heightened levels of empathy and grit as well as a deeper understanding of social dynamics and cohesion building. However, Bain’s recent study found that more than 70 percent of LGBTQ employees do not feel fully included at work. This puts employers at risk of missing out on the full value of these diverse skills and perspectives.
“Many companies are awakening to the business benefits of welcoming LGBTQ employees, including an ability to attract and retain talent,” said Brenen Blair, expert associate partner in Bain & Company’s Houston office and a leader in its Organization and DEI practices. “But inclusion is about much more than ‘welcoming everyone.’ Being LGBTQ brings a distinct feeling of ‘otherness’ and comes with a life backdrop that often translates into differentiated perspectives and abilities in the workplace. Our research identified some of the most important steps employers can take to build more inclusive work environments for their LGBTQ employees and truly reap the benefits of this diversity.”
Because the category “LGBTQ” is so broad — and many organizations lack accurate data about the specific contours of their LGBTQ populations — it may seem daunting for employers to understand how to create greater inclusion for members of this group. For example, Bain’s research shows that while the top enablers for inclusion among the LGBTQ community consistently fall into areas of growth and career development — coaching, talent development programs and growth mindsets — notable differences exist between LGBTQ employees in North America and Europe as well as by gender.
LGBTQ men in North America place greater importance on the overall diversity, equity and inclusion mission and goals of an organization than LGBTQ men in Europe, who put a greater focus on open and honest communication. Bain’s research showed similar differences between LGBTQ women in North America, who place greater importance on the perceived empathy of others than women in Europe, who value growth opportunities and transparent feedback more strongly.
Leaders looking to ensure all queer talent feels included should focus on the following areas:
- Get the basics right. Create an environment where “coming out” is safe and easy. Revisit benefits packages, particularly healthcare and family leave, and ensure they meet the needs of all identities, genders, orientations and family setups. Build allyship programs that both educate and “lighten the load.”
- Embrace individuality in talent management. Examine role expectations, performance reviews and accepted language for describing success. Ask whether the organization is set up to encourage and cultivate diversity of thought in its most critical roles.
- Enable tailored career pathways. LGBTQ employees are continually coming out, and identities and passions may change significantly over the course of peoples’ careers. Inclusive organizations create clear pathways for lateral career moves that keep strong talent engaged. For example, part-time, hybrid and remote roles and sabbaticals benefit everyone, but are particularly important for creating equity for queer employees.
- Cultivate true sponsorship. Mentor programs for underrepresented groups are common, but true sponsorship opens doors, creates advocates and helps employees navigate their organization.
“To be truly inclusive, we must recognize the diversity of our people and celebrate their unique qualities,” said Andrea Arroyo, a senior manager in Bain & Company’s London office. “For example, my sponsor at work pointed out that my sensitivity — a trait I originally thought of as a flaw in the workplace — helped to make me highly attuned to both clients and teammates who were uncomfortable or even struggling. It turns out, being fully myself has helped me to be more effective in serving my clients and made me a better team member.”
Source: Bain & Company