Employee Corner, HR Corner

Exploring LGBTQ Inclusive Work Places in India

What is common between Godrej, Accenture, Tata Steel, IBM India, Google, General Electric and Infosys? They are all large corporate companies that support LGBTQ inclusivity at the work place, and have included inclusivity policies.

In 2015, when Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad conducted a survey of 21 corporate companies to explore inclusivity, it revealed 98% of the companies do not take any initiative to make the workplace LGBTQ inclusive. But that seems to be changing.

Numerous owners of corporate companies welcomed Supreme Court’s judgment for Section 377 in 2018. And a number of these companies take initiatives to practice LGBTQ inclusive workspaces. In a recent survey, as many as 67% LGBTQ employees said that employers do not care about the employees’ sexual orientation. Among the industries that are the biggest employers of LGBTQ in India, are media and entertainment, BPO, and IT. 

Benefits of trans-inclusive workplaces

Studies reveal that LGBTQ employees not only progress and grow professionally in inclusive work environments; they even have a positive impact on the productivity of their coworkers, too. 

Organizations that are inclusive of LGBTQ will have a competitive edge, have more customer support and would be able to attract and retain the best talent; apart from that, a strong and clearly differentiated reputation in the industry, especially as an employer.

Research conducted by the Williams Institute revealed that LGBTQ employees who work in organizations that do not accept them, experience high stress and anxiety levels that affect their health and hence their performance. Inclusive workplaces have healthier employees, increased productivity and job satisfaction.

Employers who are inclusive have lower legal costs arising out of discrimination lawsuits. Moreover, discrimination issues that are public, most often lead to customers leaving the brands related to that company. By making a workplace inclusive, a negative public image can be avoided. 

A McKinsey report shows that diverse and inclusive workplaces have 35% higher financial returns, which makes inclusivity essential, not only for the organizational culture but also for its profits.

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Here’s what organizations and the HR departments can do to create LGBTQ-supportive workplaces.

  • Organizations that want to include formal policies for LGBTQ inclusion must conduct research to understand the unique concerns and needs of this community. 
  • Create policies that state the company’s position on LGBTQ rights in the company. This must also include guidelines for behavioral practices and workplace etiquette.
  • Change hiring strategies. Unconscious bias can seep into the hiring process if inclusivity is not embedded into the hiring strategies. 
  • Sensitize and train other employees. Some employees might require training and guidance so that the LGBTQ employees are not made to feel uncomfortable in any way.
  • Every country and city has LGBTQ events. Organizations must participate, support and encourage participation by all their employees in these events.
  • Create networks and Employee Resource Groups of and for LGBTQ employees within the organization that can help them come together and share experiences, share opportunities, provide mentorship and networking opportunities.
  • Provide benefits and facilities to LGBTQ employees just like the other employees are provided. Some of them are: a gender-neutral washroom, health benefits to same sex partners of employees and appropraite wording in job posts, offer letters and other documents.
  • Encourage leadership teams to speak about the importance of LGBTQ inclusion in the organization, within the office and outside of the office at official gatherings and conferences.
  • HR teams must encourage employee referrals from LGBTQ employees. Organizations with referral programs should adopt a diversity-focused approach.

But some of the above initiatives are easier said than done. How can an organization manage the day-to-day nuances and concerns within the office? Here are some suggestions:

  • If an organization has an inclusivity policy, the HR teams can play a key role in having conversations with employees, sensitizing those employees who are unaware and explain to them the expected behavior and etiquette towards LGBTQ employees.
  • In organizations where there are no policies, the HR teams must find employees who understand and support LGBTQ rights. They could lead to a change in the behavior of the coworkers. 
  • Quite often employees who are unaware might not have any clue about the challenges and realities faced by the LGBTQ community, or might be misinformed. It would help to have one-on-one conversations with employees to make them more inclusive and understanding.

As the country becomes more open to, aware of and accepting of the LGBTQ community, workplaces, too, are becoming more understanding and inclusive. Is your organization inclusive? Are you supportive and participative? What are you going to do to change the perceptions within your organization?