9 Steps for an LGBTQ-Friendly Workplace [Tips for Employers]

27 December 2023
12 min read
Background Image

Diversity and inclusivity have become crucial to companies’ values in recent years, with more and more businesses striving to create a judgment-free workspace.

Yet, nearly half of LGBTQ+ workers hide their sexual orientation or gender identity for fear of discrimination.

As an employer, not providing safe spaces for LGBTQ+ workers can lead to a serious loss of talent for your business.

So how can you, as an employer, set LGBTQ+ workers at ease and provide an environment for them to thrive?

We’re here to show you everything you need to know about fostering an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace environment, such as:

  • 5 Benefits of LGBTQ+ Inclusivity
  • 9 Steps to Promote LGBTQ+ Equality in the Workplace
  • LGBTQ+ Resources for Employers

And more! Let’s dive in.

5 Benefits of LGBTQ+ Inclusivity

Research shows that employees working for LGBTQ-friendly businesses report much higher job satisfaction even if they don’t belong to the LGBQTQ+ community.

And that’s just ONE benefit!

Here are several key advantages for companies that invest in LGBTQ+ inclusivity:

#1. Equality

Private companies have often pioneered the fair treatment of LGBTQ+ members, even before their local governments would do the same.

Even in countries and states where there are no protections for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, private companies can dictate their own policies and go the extra mile to make their workplace inclusive.

Private businesses have been able to set the bar by accepting and caring for their LGBTQ+ employees’ talent. And in turn, by promoting LGBTQ+ equality in your business practices, you help increase workplace happiness and promote a fairer and just society for everyone.

#2. Innovation

LGBTQ+ inclusivity helps diversify your workforce and provides your company with varied perspectives. Your employees’ unique backgrounds can lead to ideas you might have otherwise missed out on.

A workplace that’s supportive of LGBTQ+ members makes all your employees feel welcome, which increases your workplace diversity over time and boosts your employees’ confidence. 

Knowing they are valued as who they are and not having to hide allows LGBTQ+ employees to display their creativity and come up with innovative solutions to company problems.

#3. Higher Employee Retention

Younger job-seekers prioritize workplace diversity and inclusivity, so they aim for companies that share their values more than the previous generations.

In addition to this, high-performing LGBTQ+ employees are likelier to seek out and stay in businesses that are committed to workplace diversity and LGBTQ+ inclusivity.

Research conducted by the Human Rights Campaign has found that 25% of LGBTQ+ workers will stay at a job because of an openly LGBTQ-friendly environment. On the other hand, over 30% have reported feeling depressed at work, and 10% have left a job because of a hostile work environment.

This goes to show that LGBTQ+ inclusivity still has a long way to go, as no one should have to experience social exclusion or prejudice in the workplace.

#4. Improved Brand Image

Companies that show strong LGBTQ+ inclusivity can enhance their reputation as ethical businesses and overall improve their brand image.

It’s also worth noting that when a business’ workforce reflects the diversity of its customer base, it leads to a better understanding of the needs and preferences of those customers. 

And as customers prefer supporting businesses that align with their own values, this can also lead to increased customer loyalty and revenue growth.

#5. Increased Productivity

One of the biggest perks of LGBTQ+ inclusivity is the increase in employee productivity.

By giving employees a space where they feel free to be their authentic selves, you reduce their stress significantly. 

LGBTQ+ employees often live in anxiety and spend a lot of energy surveilling their own behavior so as not to be outed or targeted at work.

The security of a safe work environment lets them connect more freely with coworkers and focus fully on their work. Employees who feel valued and respected are also motivated to excel at every task and are more engaged at work, which leads to higher overall satisfaction.

9 Steps to Make Your Business LGBTQ+ Friendly

Companies all over the world have been shifting to an increasingly LGBTQ-friendly direction over the past decades.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the workplace, you should always start by checking your country or state’s exact legislation.

Make sure you’re compliant with the law, and then consider also creating your own inclusive policies to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the talented LGBTQ+ professionals you’d like to have on your team.

So what exactly can you do to make your business more LGBTQ-friendly and appealing to candidates who are part of the community?

Here are a few suggestions:

#1. Adopt the Best Policies

As an employer, the first thing you need to do is ensure that your LGBTQ+ employees have protection against discrimination in the workplace.

Include sexual orientation or gender identification in your company’s nondiscrimination agreement. A strong anti-discrimination policy is the first step to making LGBTQ+ workers feel safe and provides them with the necessary support to speak out when they are treated unfairly.

Many LGBTQ+ employees fear being outed at work because they may be mistreated or even fired as a result.

Be sure to enforce your non-discrimination policies. Don’t just claim you’ll protect the rights of LGBTQ+ employees; commit to your promise and investigate any claims of discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

#2. Offer Benefits Specific to LGBTQ+ Employees

Many companies offer benefits for their employees but the unique needs of LGBTQ+ workers require consideration.

Here are some LGBTQ-specific perks you can provide:

  • Domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples. This gives your employees a sense of security that their loved ones matter as much as those of your non-LGBTQ+ workers.
  • Healthcare that includes gender-affirming care. A good healthcare package is always an employee favorite. However, for trans and non-binary employees, supporting them both financially and psychologically through their transition can be life-changing.
  • Adoption leave. Giving parents a chance to welcome a new addition to their family is essential to a healthy work-life balance, and it shouldn’t be limited to biological children.
  • Access to facilities. Make sure all employees can safely access needed facilities, such as bathrooms, break rooms, or dressing rooms. Gender-neutral bathrooms can especially make the lives of trans and non-binary employees much easier.
  • Safe spaces at work. Encourage employees to create their own internal networks and discuss experiences as members of the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace.

Each of these inclusive employee benefits will increase the interest of any LGBTQ+ workers looking to join your company.

#3. Announce Your Intentions

If you want LGBTQ+ workers to find your business, then you should clearly state that you can provide a safe and inclusive workplace for them. 

One way you could do this is by making an announcement on your website or related company social media.

Additionally, list LGBTQ+ inclusivity to your company’s values and put in the work required to abide by them. One great thing you can do is contact your local LGBTQ+ community center to let them know you’re an ally and work together towards inclusive business practices.

And, perhaps most importantly, be sure to cut ties with organizations and businesses that openly discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals.

Your support can’t be genuine until you take a firm stance against anti-LGBTQ+ policies and movements, even at the cost of troubling yourself.

#4. Find LGBTQ+ Employees

The easiest way to have LGBTQ+ workers join your team is to find them yourself.

Start by advertising your open positions on job boards that connect LGBTQ+ professionals with companies that value diversity and inclusivity.

Some examples include:

Use your networking skills and reach out to your contacts and other employers who share your vision for referrals to LGBTQ+ job seekers. Finding like-minded entrepreneurs and other professionals is the key to making a significant change in the job market.

If your network is too limited to find the diverse talent pool you’re looking for, expand it by attending job fairs. Consider also reaching out to colleges and universities, since many of them have their own LGBTQ+ centers.

#5. Welcome All Candidates

Job-hunting can be a nerve-racking experience for LGBTQ+ candidates.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community often have to carefully assess employers to determine if the company will offer them safety and legal protection, and allow them to work in peace. This includes reading company reviews, researching possible discrimination lawsuits, and scanning the job advertisement itself.

Unfortunately, many job advertisements don’t say whether they’re LGBTQ+-friendly or not. This leaves candidates guessing whether their gender identity or sexual orientation will disqualify them from the hiring process, or lead to trouble further down the road.

Even ads that announce they’re an Equal Opportunity Employer can be vague. Having anti-discrimination policies in the hiring process is one thing. What about following them after the interview?

For this reason, the best thing you can do as an employer is to be explicit that people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are encouraged to apply for the position. This lets candidates know you’re serious about workplace inclusivity, not just parroting inclusive policies.

Another thing hiring managers should implement is inclusive language. Instead of using gendered terms such as “maternity leave” or gender-specific titles like “delivery man,” opt for neutral alternatives, like “parental leave” and “delivery person”, respectively.

Making vague allusions to your diverse and inclusive company culture won’t win over those talented LGBTQ+ workers you’re aiming for. But by openly encouraging LGBTQ+ job-seekers to apply and using language that reflects your policies, your odds of attracting diverse candidates go up.

#6. Support Your Employees

Once you’ve hired members of the LGBTQ+ community, your journey to workplace inclusivity is only just beginning. To make sure you’re on the right path, contact organizations like Human Rights Campaign or local LGBTQ+ centers for guidance. 

Additionally, consider providing LGBTQ+ sensitivity training in the workplace to help offset any biases or miscommunications within your team. This can include educating your employees on terminology, using the right pronouns, and addressing concerns related to LGBTQ+ employees and customers alike. 

By training your employees to be aware of LGBTQ+ issues and respectful towards individuals that are part of the community, you’ll foster an environment of mutual respect and dignity that anyone would be happy to work in.

Assure your employees that they can always rely on you or your HR department. If a problem somehow related to their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression arises, let them know they’ll have the necessary support to navigate it.

Finally, provide your employees with any LGBTQ+ resources they might need, such as the contact information of local LGBTQ+ centers and hotlines, and encourage them to speak up and make suggestions to management or the HR department.

#7. Celebrate Pride

Every June, hundreds of companies don rainbow icons and hoist colorful flags to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community. And the amount of companies showing their pride during Pride Month keeps growing.

Participating in Pride Month is a great way to advertise your search for LGBTQ+ talent. Some companies create campaigns where they highlight the achievements of their LGBTQ+ employees or create product marketing campaigns that reflect their stance on equality.

Another thing that shows job-seekers you’re honest in supporting the LGBTQ+ community is donating to LGBTQ+ organizations and sponsoring local events. This especially goes if your celebration of Pride is a year-round event, not just limited to the month of June.

The name of your business can also become synonymous with LGBTQ+ inclusivity through the many ways you undertake to make your employees feel seen and appreciated at work. Ranging from rainbow stickers and asking for people’s pronouns by default, to supporting the fight for trans healthcare and equality for same-sex families, there are countless ways to achieve this.

Each of these actions celebrates workplace inclusivity and lets LGBTQ+ individuals know they can count on you.

#8. Invest in Diversity

In order to create a positive and truly inclusive work environment for LGBTQ+ workers, you need to embrace diversity in all its forms.

Fostering a company culture that celebrates differences and gives all employees a feeling of belonging can only happen through intersectionality. In addition to sexual orientation and gender identity, diversity in the workplace should include race, ethnicity, age, religion, disability, and many more.

Committing to workplace diversity can bring new perspectives and ideas to the table, leading to innovation and growth. Increases in productivity, employee satisfaction, and retention rates all follow where diversity goes.

#9. Aid Employees Coming Out

Once you create an environment where employees of all sexual orientations and genders can work together, it’s likely one of your LGBTQ+ employees will feel comfortable enough to come out.

That said, you should never expect them to, nor pressure them into doing so.

Outright asking about a worker’s sexuality or gender identity at work would be unprofessional, and can even be illegal.

Many LGBTQ+ employees don’t feel comfortable revealing their true selves at work. Whether due to bad experiences at a previous workplace or a completely unrelated reason, some of your employees just won’t feel ready to share that part of themselves with the whole company.

Some LGBTQ+ workers, however, choose to come out to coworkers or managers.

Coming out means that the person trusts you won’t judge or harass them, so always respond respectfully and listen to them. When someone confides that part of themselves to you, ask how you can support them, and don’t share the information with anyone unless they specifically ask you to.

By providing a friendly work atmosphere where employees know they can be themselves, you increase the likelihood of an LGBTQ+ employee coming out and improving the mental health in the workplace for everyone.

14 LGBTQ+ Resources for Employers

You can achieve an LGBTQ-friendly workplace by regularly assessing employer policies and practices that promote inclusivity.

Fortunately, there are many resources that companies can rely on to help identify the areas of their business that need improvement.

9 LGBTQ+ Inclusivity Tools

Here’s a list of some of the most widespread indicators used to measure overall LGBTQ+ inclusivity in businesses worldwide: 

  1. The Corporate Equality Index (CEI) by Human Rights Campaign remains the oldest and most popular tool used to measure LGBTQ+-friendliness.
  2. The UK Workplace Equality Index by Stonewall, a London-based LGBTQ+ organization.
  3. The Global Workplace Equality Index, also run by Stonewall UK.
  4. The India Workplace Equality Index is the only comprehensive benchmarking tool for companies to measure their LGBTQ+ inclusivity on the subcontinent.
  5. The Global Benchmark Monitor by Workplace Pride started in the Netherlands but spread throughout the entire world, giving LGBTQ+ a space to voice their experiences.
  6. The South African Workplace Equality Index by the South African LGBT+ Management Forum began in 2018 and is the only assessment tool in all of Africa.
  7. The Australian Workplace Equality Index by Pride in Diversity is the rapidly expanding and definitive national benchmark on LGBTQ+ workplace inclusion in Australia.
  8. The LGBT+ Inclusion Index by Community Business is the first of its kind in Asia and is now an annual assessment across the entire continent.
  9. LGBT Monitor by Workplace Pride gives insight into the work lives of LGBTQ+ employees in Europe.

5 Other LGBTQ+ Inclusivity Resources

Here are some other resources you can use to improve your business’ LGBTQ+ inclusivity: 

  1. Professional Resources by The Human Rights Campaign Foundation. In addition to the CEI, employers can find a range of guides, or attend webinars and learn about the latest practices for creating LGBTQ-friendly workplaces.
  2. Best Practice Toolkits and Resources by Stonewall. Employers can find tools and information that span a wide range of subjects, such as transgender inclusion, how to identify and prevent LGBTQ+ bullying, and examples of LGBTQ+ role models.
  3. Diversity Champions Programme by Stonewall. The program offers employers the opportunity to join a specialized program, which gives them training and support to help create more LGBTQ-inclusive workplaces.
  4. The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. The organization provides resources and support such as mentoring programs and business certifications, with the aim to help businesses in the pursuit of LGBTQ+ inclusivity.
  5. Greater Seattle Business Association. The GSBA begins as an organization in Seattle, Washington, with the goal of supporting businesses owned and operated by members of the LGBTQ+ community. They help businesses create inclusive workplaces and offer educational seminars, events, and networking opportunities.

FAQs About LGBTQ+ Workplace Inclusivity

Need to know anything else? Check out the answers to some of the most Frequently Asked Questions about LGBTQ+ workplace inclusivity.

Q — 

1. How can I make the workplace LGBTQ+ inclusive?

To make your workplace more LGBTQ+ inclusive, start by having the company accept a nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

Make sure to provide workers with safe and accessible facilities, such as gender-neutral bathrooms, and ensure that company benefits are inclusive of same-sex couples and gender-affirming healthcare. Offer safe spaces for LGBTQ+ employees and display inclusive signs, like rainbows.

Educate your employees on proper terminology and encourage the use of gender-neutral language in the workspace, without presumptions that everyone is heterosexual or uses binary pronouns. And be sure to celebrate events and support LGBTQ+ organizations to show your commitment.

Q — 

2. How can I hire more LGBTQ+ employees?

The best way to find LGBTQ+ employees is to be proactive in your search for talent and aim for job boards that specialize in connecting LGBTQ+ professionals with open-minded employers.

Expand your reach even further by attending job fairs and contacting local universities, many of whom have their own LGBTQ+ resource centers.

Q — 

3. How do I manage LGBTQ+ employees?

There are no fundamental differences in managing LGBTQ+ employees as opposed to others.

All employees should be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. By creating a workplace that respects and values all its employees, you achieve a more productive, engaged, and supportive environment where everyone can thrive.

If an employee confides their LGBTQ+ sexual orientation or gender identity to you, provide them with the necessary support. Don’t express surprise or confusion, and don’t pressure them into revealing this information to others.

Ask how they would like for you to support them, both publicly and privately.

Q — 

4. How can I make my business LGBTQ+ friendly?

There are several things you have to do to make your business inclusive of LGBTQ+ people.

Start by adopting policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity in nondiscrimination agreements. Provide people with safe spaces and offer employee benefits that are inclusive of gender-affirming care and same-sex domestic partnerships.

Also, be sure to show customers and potential employees that your business is LGBTQ-friendly. Consider making an announcement or contacting local LGBTQ+ centers to inform them.

Another easy way to do that is to mark your business with the “LGBTQ-friendly” attribute on your Business Profile in Google Maps and Search. The platform offers other tags you can add, such as “Transgender safe space” and “Gender neutral restroom”.

Key Takeaways

And there you have it!

Now, let’s recap the main points we covered on LGBTQ+ workplace inclusivity:

  • LGBTQ+ inclusivity is a lot more than a lack of discrimination. It’s a direction a company can take which leads to growth, increased employee retention, higher satisfaction rates, boosts employee productivity, and generates more revenue.
  • Creating an inclusive environment requires including LGBTQ+ people in your anti-discrimination policies and providing sensitivity LGBTQ+ training to your staff. Other things to consider are giving LGBTQ+ employees access to support groups, sponsoring Pride Month events, and donating to related organizations.
  • There are organizations you can contact for help in making your business LGBTQ-friendly. Take advantage of all the tools at your disposal to foster a work environment of dignity, mutual respect, and employee appreciation.
  • You can attract LGBTQ+ professionals by reaching out to specialized job boards and local community centers that can vet your policies and refer candidates to you.