(Article by Lauren Franklin originally appeared in HR.com)
How companies can extend pride initiatives to make employees feel included year-round
This year, we saw more companies than ever extend LGBTQ-themed campaigns full of rainbow swag, updated logos and even integrating Pride activities into their employee programs. But at times, these rainbow-colored items can feel inauthentic to employees, especially if it’s the only form of support. If LGBTQ+ employees don’t feel safe, included and like they belong, companies are failing to foster a culture that shows they care.
Organizations that are “getting Pride right” are those that invest in LGBTQ+ rights throughout the entire year in meaningful ways — companies who devote budget to employee resource groups (ERGs), that create a sense of belonging for LGBTQ+ employees, take a stand publicly to support the LGBTQ+ rights movement and that make the stories of the LGBTQ+ community a part of their brand. For example, Gillette’s commercial about the father teaching his transgender son how to shave, IKEA released a rainbow-themed reusable bag in which 100% of the proceeds go to the Human Rights Foundation or how Megabus — an intercity bus service — used their services to ensure access and inclusivity in celebrating Pride events.
Embracing and celebrating Pride month is a great step in supporting the LGBTQ+ community that so many of today’s employees identify and participate in, but the support shouldn’t stop when Pride month comes to an end.
Here’s how you can extend your Pride initiatives to make employees feel included every day:
- Listen to your employees
Before jumping to action, companies should take time long before and after Pride month to understand what employees need and want to feel more cared for and supported. When you focus on creating a culture of inclusion and belonging for your people and driven by your people, the results are a lasting and meaningful impact. This might look like a quick anonymous pulse survey asking for opinions in what employees would like to see from Pride month or attending an ERG for LGBTQ+ rights to gather insights directly from employees.
- Prioritize your focus
Once you’ve received feedback from your employees, use your employees’ voices to tailor your company action to help employees feel included every day. The reality is, not every request can be accommodated — choose two or three priorities to focus on. By narrowing your focus you’ll be more successful than trying to tackle everything. This could be investing in employee LGBTQ+ education or updating your organization’s imagery and language. Sometimes what might seem like the smallest of steps can lead to big results and help pave the way forward.
- Close the feedback loop
It’s essential to communicate back to employees to show you’re not only actively listening but taking the steps to create real, meaningful change. You can continue Pride initiatives through supporting other organizations’ actions or points of view, or even by speaking up and challenging local laws. Regardless of this extension, the communication between employees always must be there. Be clear and consistent when it comes to follow up communications and always provide the “how” when it comes to your decisions and why you chose to focus on specific actions.
- Continually educate
LGBTQ+ rights don’t start and end in June. In order to show an ongoing commitment in your organization, you must invest in ongoing education for employees. For the most part, people have an awareness of the LGBTQ+ culture, but you can’t assume everyone has a true understanding. Dig deeper with educating employees on why LGBTQ+ rights matter, the history behind the community and how your company plans to take part by making education and inspiration a year-round priority. Consider how you might host a webinar or lunch and learn on LGBTQ+ issues during voting seasons, or how you might include multiple LGBTQ+ organizations as options to give to during your annual giving campaign.
- Weave Pride into your culture
Truly celebrating Pride means making inclusivity a part of the everyday employee experience. Once you have the above steps in motion, repeat the process of listening, acting, communicating and educating. Not only will this create a lasting foundation, but ultimately, you’ll foster a culture that supports all employees bringing their whole selves to work.
Looking beyond the rainbow, organizations are still facing the need to implement inclusion practices into their day-to-day policies and programs. While Pride month boasts equality, empathy, community and so much more, it’s also a time to step back and reflect on the road ahead. What path can your company take to help make the feelings of inclusion extend past 30 days of celebration? It’s up to you and your actions to create a culture of respect and support, and ultimately invest in a greater level of effort to build an inclusive workplace for all.