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In my last piece for CBT, I spoke about how companies can improve their hiring practices to be more inclusive. After hiring practices, the next thing to think about is how to cultivate an inclusive culture in your company.
There are many ways one can create a positive culture for LGBTQ individuals. I’ve listed below a few of my favorite ways to create a workplace environment where all employees feel valued and seen.
The easiest way for most companies to create a welcoming culture is to ensure the facilities within the building are accessible for those who don’t feel comfortable entering a bathroom labeled “male” or “female.” If you have single stall bathrooms, the solution is as simple as changing the signage to create bathrooms anyone can use. Ideally, the restrooms should be easy to find and accessible to all.
Providing accessible facilities can be more complex if you don’t have a single stall bathroom available. In this case, the best practice is to allow people to self-select which restroom they’re most comfortable in and enforce the standard that people get to self-select.
The LGBTQ community is one of the most diverse communities one will encounter, which is a beautiful thing, but it complicates talking about the community as a whole. There are many ways to create an inclusive environment in your workplace, but you must address the different communities who all identify as LGBTQ. For example, having a gender-neutral bathroom is a great step, but if it’s not accessible for people with differing abilities, the point is nullified.
As someone who has changed names while in the workforce, I can speak specifically to the power of having inclusive HR policies and systems in place. When I started my job, my name had yet to be legally changed. But through a simple line on an online form, I was able to enter the name I go by and avoid awkward conversations any time I accessed my employee discount at another store location or had my name printed on the schedule.
Something as simple as having a line for someone’s preferred name and pronouns on your intake forms and applications can create a higher level of support. In fact, being sure to ask for a preferred name helps those outside the LGBTQ community as well. How many Beckys do you know who recoil at being called Rebecca?
It’s also vital to have the conversation about how your company will handle it if someone on staff transitions from one gender to another. What policies do you have in place to help this person feel supported as they transition to a new name and/or different pronouns?
Of course, our workplaces are embodied by our coworkers more than our leaders in many ways. Therefore, ensuring that your staff is knowledgeable on the LGBTQ community has a tremendous impact on how inclusive the environment at your workplace is.
Simple things such as asking about a spouse or partner as opposed to a husband or a wife at the stereotypical water cooler creates a greater feeling of inclusion and belonging at a workplace.
Creating an inclusive work culture doesn’t have to be difficult or involved. In many cases, simply asking the question of how you would handle a situation and having a plan in place will create a more comfortable environment for all if an employee were to transition genders or decide to come out in the workplace.
Small steps are the pathway to creating greater organizational change. If you choose one step to implement, you’re well on your way to creating a culture of inclusion and celebration of people with a variety of identities.