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Building an LGBTQ+ Employee Network

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Celebrating Pride month shouldn’t be limited to one month a year. It should be an ongoing recognition of the cause, celebrating diversity and providing marginalised communities with the support they need. Discrimination, whether intentional or not, acts as a continuous barrier for certain groups in society and the workplace.

While participating in city pride events, wearing colourful clothing, and showing support on social media is a good start, we need actionable steps to remedy past wrongs and bring about meaningful change.

Employee networks

Many people spend on average 8 hours a day in the office. Feeling seen, heard, and accepted will contribute to an employee’s experience and ultimately, their wellbeing and productivity.

Employee support networks can provide a space for people to be the most authentic versions of themselves, providing opportunity to gain support and advice off others.

Individuals often hide their true identities in the workplace therefore networks should be tailored to accommodate all groups of marginalised individuals, including different races, sexual identities, disabilities, and parental responsibilities.

When people feel supported and empowered on an organisational level, it has an immediate impact on their mental well-being and confidence and this in turn has a positive impact on their productivity.

Creating the network

Managers or employers should take a tactful approach when looking to start a group or network and getting LGBTQ+ employees involved, to lead the cause, is the best way to start.

Approaching employees who you believe may want to be involved using avenues such as surveys or focus groups to gauge interest opens the conversation for ideas and thoughts. Anonymous surveys can also act as a useful tool for those who do not yet feel comfortable talking about their identity.

Additionally, the LBGTQ+ community includes multiple different identities meaning a diverse representation is important. Providing opportunities for all opinions to be involved will help different ideas and experiences to be heard, creating a well-rounded, inclusive network.

Structuring the network

Like running a business, for a network to run effectively, a clear structure with individuals who can lead it and be accountable for meetings, agendas and general admin is required.

These are the individuals that the network can put forward suggestions, preferences and desires to. For example, how often meetings are held. They can also be accountable for goal setting, which is an important aspect, like hosting an LGBTQ+ event once every two months.

We live in a world where hybrid working is common meaning the networks should be made available online. Additionally, people may feel more comfortable joining from the comfort of their own home, so options must be available.

Organisational support

It is important that employees provide support to the network on an organisational level to ensure the group does not just feel supported within the network, but from the wider business. This can include allocating space to host meetings or providing budget towards events hosted by the network.

Additionally, networks should raise awareness by promoting it through company’s internal communication channels or putting out posters and newsletters. This will help build the network, offering additional support from within the organisation.

It is not uncommon for organisations to have a blend of people from a wide array of backgrounds and it is more important than ever for businesses to celebrate difference to help provide everyone with equal opportunity, positive experiences and the chances to grow and develop within their career.

Diversity should be a top priority for business leaders to build a workforce that is happy and empowered. An inclusive work environment promotes innovative thinking, which ultimately drives business growth.

Written by Sheila Flavell CBE, COO of FDM Group

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