LGBTQ employees on what matters to them in the workplace

As Pride Month rounds out, it is important to remember that celebrating diversity and inclusion isn’t only welcomed from June 1 to June 30 – but year round. Especially if you aspire to attract a diverse workforce, instituting policies and practices that make dynamic communities feel welcome, appreciated and valued is key.

The tricky part, of course, is making sure your efforts hit the mark — without making those who identify as LGBTQ feel uncomfortable or spotlighted ineffectively. Not sure how to start the brainstorming session or the shift in mindset or routine? Here, gay employees provide their insight on what really matters to them in the workplace:

Host pride month celebrations

Did you check this one off this year? Awesome. If not — get planning now to ensure you’re outwardly and internally pausing to celebrate Pride month. Senior account executive at Finn Partners, Zander Wharton explains as a community, many struggle with feeling different, and the month of June serves as a time to unite, bonding over those differences in a meaningful way. When a business is forthright with their support, Wharton says employees will feel more comfortable and empowered to be themselves.

“It’s important to me to work for a company that not only recognizes the month of June as Pride Month but also one that helps to celebrate its LGBT employees during this time,” he notes. As an example, Finn Partners’ June newsletter included a note from the CEO, illustrating his — and the corporation’s proactive commitment to inclusion.

Commit to diversity in hiring

While by law, it is vital to hire the right person for the gig, dependent on their laundry list of characteristics — from race to age and beyond. Even so, diversifying employees while hiring will make for a much more creative, inclusive workspace.

As founder and chief creative officer Tim Haughinberry at Back Bar USA explains, they purposefully include all sexual identities, religions, races, ages, and attitudes. “This allows us to excel at what we do, as our clients are as diverse as our employees. Our diversity also allows us to associate, integrate and adapt to many types of personalities, which gives our company an extra edge,” he shares.

Allow those to come as they are

This might seem like a no-brainer, but too many employers have dress codes or unspoken eyebrow raises that can make it difficult to fully present their authentic self to clients, co-workers and beyond.

“If I can’t be myself in the workplace — sharing who I am, what I do on weekends, or who my partner is — then it’s not an environment I want or need to be in,” director of Lucky Break PR in San Francisco, Phillip Sontag says. “It’s really important for me to be myself and that includes being a part of the LGBTQ+ community.”

Have empathy and be understanding

Even if, as a manager, you also identify as LGBT—no person can ever fully understand the background or current state of a person’s mindset, hardships or needs. This is why lead barber at Best Barber Greg Cooper Spencer says empathy should be at the core of all companies. Especially those who aim to be inclusive.

“So often many voices go unrecognized because they don’t fit into the idea that we’ve been groomed to expect to see in certain situations, I face this problem still to this day even with a celebrity clientele,” he shares. “For this reason, I have a great deal of empathy for those individuals in pursuit of dreams that are silenced without being given an opportunity to be acknowledged at the very least.”

Provide benefits for significant others

Even those senior advisor for AppleCare, Kyle Ankney is single, he has one non-negotiable for any company he chooses to accept an offer from: Benefits for significant others. In addition to any social events or discussions that could set the tone for a company, outwardly backing an employee’s personal life speaks volumes.

“The ability to share benefits with your significant other: Being able to share healthcare; the ability leave company-provided life insurance to that person, and a 401K is a must,” he notes.

Bring groups together

Whether it is through happy hours, team-building exercises or other events, Wharton stresses the importance of bringing minority employee communities together within the workplace.

“The LGBTQ community often feels is that of being alone. We’re in constant search of feeling included and we find this often times in our ‘chosen family’: those that may not be blood-related to us but that are emotionally close enough to play a significant role in our lives,” he explains.

When you provide easy opportunities for like-minded employees to connect, they will feel supported and able to express themselves, while building both personal and professional relationships.

Commit to fighting LGBT rights

This can go as far as you are comfortable, but Ankney says to set themselves apart, a company must truly embrace the LGBT community by actively taking a stance on furthering their rights.

“The reality is, the fight for equality is ongoing, and working for a company that is willing to make a statement and take a stance on LGBT issues when appropriate, creates a work-environment that accepts and embraces diversity, and sparks a deeper sense of pride and loyalty from me as an individual,” he shares.