Most companies today recognize the importance of hiring a diverse workforce – many of today’s top organizations have invested in processes and initiatives to cultivate inclusive cultures for employees of all identities. However, despite these companies’ efforts, many employees still feel unable to bring their full selves to work.
According to a 2018 survey from the HRC Foundation, nearly half of LGBTQ+ workers remain closeted at work, and 1 in 5 report that they’ve been on the receiving end of negative comments about how they should appear more feminine or masculine. A 2019 survey from Glassdoor found similar results – 43% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported not being fully out at work, and 47% of all LGBTQ+ respondents believe that being out at work could cause harm to their careers, including job loss or missing out on a promotion or project.
That same Glassdoor survey found that 70% of LGBTQ+ employees surveyed would not apply to work at a company that does not support its LGBTQ+ employees, and 46% of all respondents (including non-LGBTQ+) said the same. That means that crafting a hiring process through the lens of LGBTQ+ inclusivity is not only the right thing to do, but it’s essential for talent acquisition strategies. To ensure your hiring process isn’t turning away LGBTQ+ candidates, take stock of your current processes and keep these 6 things in mind:
Recognize that LGBTQ+ involves a wide range of backgrounds and populations.
First, make sure there is recognition at your organization that LGBTQ+ isn’t a homogenous group. This community of individuals is itself diverse across the entire spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identity. One place to be conscious of this is in any potential support outreach programs your company may establish. Exclusively using terms such as ‘gay’ or even ‘queer’ could exclude other members of this community such as trans, asexual or intersex folx. Your LGBTQ+ candidates will also cross racial, ethnic, gender and socioeconomic backgrounds so it’s important to consider this in your approach and borrow from other aspects of your D&I strategy to augment the work you are doing with LGBTQ+ candidates.
From your career page to job descriptions, remove gendered language and coding in application materials.
Avoid explicitly or implicitly using gendered terms or visuals when forming your job descriptions and recruitment marketing materials. Enforcing traditional gender norms – whether that’s through a dress code, employee photos, or phrasing – can suggest a workplace that’s potentially rigid and unaccepting of the full spectrum of gender expression. Opting for gender-neutral phrasing like “team members” over “men and women at our company” is an easy step to take, but you can also check your job descriptions for implicit gender-coded phrasing using free tools like this one.
Collect LGBTQ+ applicant data the right way.
Companies with over 100 employees are federally mandated to keep employment data categorized by race/ethnicity, gender, and job category. However, to better track the effectiveness of their diversity and inclusion efforts, many companies track the demographics of their applicants as they move through the pipeline as well. For many companies, this includes tracking the percentages of LGBTQ+ candidates and employees, even though it is not a federal requirement. Tracking these numbers can be an important step in building a more diverse team (or understanding where in the pipeline candidates are turning away), but it’s important to ask for this data in a way that keeps your hiring process inclusive.
If you choose to collect this data, be clear that the information you’re asking for is voluntary and confidential. HRC suggests the following templates when asking for this information:
When asking for broad self-identification as LGBTQ+
Our company does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. In order to track the effectiveness of our recruiting efforts and ensure we consider the needs of all our employees, please consider the following optional question:
Do you consider yourself a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and/or Transgender (LGBT) community?
☐ No, but I identify as an Ally
☐ Prefer not to say
When asking for data on gender or gender identity
Our company does not discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression. In order to track the effectiveness of our recruiting efforts and ensure we consider the needs of all our employees, please consider the following optional question:
What is your gender?
☐ Non-binary/ third gender
☐ Prefer to self-describe _________________
☐ Prefer not to say
Advertise your efforts to increase inclusivity at work and in your community.
In addition to evaluating the typical parts of a role such as fit for duties and work/life balance it is a serious concern for LGBTQ+ candidates to consider their safety in the workplace. Studies have shown that 20% of LGBTQ+ have reported hostility in the workplace, and this number is even higher for trans or LGBTQ+ staff that belong to a racial or ethnic minority. To help eliminate this barrier for potential applicants, make clear the efforts your company undertakes to prevent discrimination and how you celebrate and encourage the perspectives they can bring.
Some ideas include highlighting specific LGBTQ-inclusive policies and benefits, showcasing the work your company does with community organizations focused on LGTBQ+ concerns, featuring your employee resource groups, or having team members that self-identify as LGBTQ+ share their stories. On a smaller scale, individual team members can signal their commitment to inclusivity in communication with candidates simply by including their pronouns in their email signature.
Ensure inclusion outside of HR.
While it’s important for the entire company to buy into the concept of inclusion, individuals outside of HR who interact with candidates should be educated on how to adopt inclusive behaviors. That means anyone who interviews candidates – not just initial screeners – should be educated on microaggressions and how unconscious bias can affect the hiring process. Interviewers across the board should also adopt an agreed-upon scorecard to evaluate if a candidate will do the job well, rather than relying on a gut-feeling or a perception of “culture fit.”
Follow through past the offer.
This might go without saying, but getting LGBTQ+ candidates in the door and accepting offers at your company is just the beginning of a successful relationship. Make sure your company is following through on promises to support LGBTQ+ staff. This will mean continually verifying that resources you are offering are creating a positive environment. A good way to evaluate how well your company is doing in this area might be check against the guidelines provided by the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. Laws concerning LGBTQ+ discrimination can also vary largely state by state and federal guidance has changed from administration to administration so codifying anti-discrimination above the legal requirement into official company policy is another good step to think about when affirming commitment to your employees.
The main priority for any LGBTQ+ talent strategy is to be respectful. Taking some time with the above strategies to audit current processes, formalize policies and educate staff on LGBTQ+ info will allow your staff to offer the same level of respect they likely already want to offer to everyone they meet. Once these steps are complete, you will be more competitive in the hiring process and can be confident that your company is a better place to work because of it.