5 Ways to Foster a More Inclusive Work Environment

person with rainbow paint on hands

by Simon Winfield (He/Him/His), Managing Director, Hays UK & Ireland

With Pride month now over,  there’s no better time to reflect on the events that have taken place to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, raise awareness about LGBTQ+ history, and ensure pertinent conversations are continued all year round.

One personal learning that I can take away from this month is that the LGBTQ+ community often carries a disproportionate burden when it comes to the risk of cancer. Research from the National LGBT Cancer Network indicates that there are greater incidences of the disease and late-stage diagnoses, resulting from a combination of social and economic factors linked to the stress of living as a sexual and/or gender minority. Through our fundraising events during Pride month, we have been raising money for our charity partner Irish Cancer Society, a community determined to transform the experiences and outcomes of people affected by cancer in Ireland.

Now it’s time to consider how we can take these insights into the issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community and turn them into meaningful action beyond the month of June.

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Why is diversity important in the workplace?

Companies that create supportive work environments and empower employees to be themselves will reap the benefits, both in terms of culture and business results:

  • If your organisation actively embraces diversity, employees will feel more comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work. Having LGBTQ+ representation at all levels of an organisation also helps to raise awareness about issues affecting the community and drive positive action.
  • Being a diverse and inclusive organisation can increase employee retention and make you more attractive to potential job-seekers. A strong commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I) in your employee value proposition (EVP) is a clear indication that your company values mental health and employee wellbeing – a high priority for many people in their job search.
  • Having a diverse workforce brings new perspectives to tasks and can enhance creativity. Diversity of thought can bring more solutions to complex problems, improving overall business results. Companies that place diversity in high regard are typically thought to be drivers of innovation and positive change.

How can we foster inclusive work environments?

  1. Set a zero-tolerance precedence against harassment of any kind in the workplace. Company-wide anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies should be established (and enforced). However, it’s also essential to promote a culture of openness and acceptance through everyday actions at work.
  2. Challenge unconscious bias when you notice it. For example, educating employees on the importance of inclusive language and drawing attention to the unconscious use of exclusive words – like ‘guys’ – in the workplace.
  3. Display your pronouns in your business communications so that people know how to address you. Whether you’re non-binary, transgender or cisgender, noting your pronouns shows solidarity and prevents any uncomfortable encounters with colleagues or external stakeholders.
  4. Reach out to your employees if you notice them struggling. As a leader, you don’t need to have all the answers yourself, but it is important you know where to signpost those employees in need of support.
  5. Establish networks for people to share their experiences and educate others on topics affecting minority groups. Our Pride Network is a safe space for all our employees who want to learn more about LGBTQ+ topics and take part in company-wide Pride activities.

By taking these manageable steps toward fostering a more inclusive work environment, as well as learning more by signing up for ED&I training courses, companies can ensure all employees thrive in their roles and feel comfortable to be their whole selves at work.

About the author
Simon Winfield joined Hays in 2006, having commenced his recruitment career in 1993. Initially responsible for Hays businesses in Western Australia and Northern Territory, Simon relocated to the UK in 2014 where he was responsible for their operations in the West & Wales and Ireland, before being appointed Managing Director of the UK & Ireland business in 2018.