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Why LGBTQ+ inclusive workplaces are good for business and 5 ways to get involved

By Simon Winfield, Managing Director, Hays UK & Ireland

Pride is an opportunity to celebrate diversity and a reminder that we should be free to be ourselves. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that served as a catalyst for the Gay Rights Movement so if we ever needed an excuse to celebrate, there it is!

I travel a lot in my job and this year there definitely seems to more companies flying the flag for the LGBTQ+ community quite literally - with flags, banners, badges and even cakes all prominently on display in the rainbow colours. It’s to be applauded that there’s so much visibility, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that there’s still progress to be made and we’ve got to make headway with the issues that really matter.

Each year we run a survey centred around diversity. Last year the report contained some particularly worrying findings. Almost a quarter of respondents to the Hays Diversity & Inclusion 2018 report stated that their organisation never supports key diversity events, such as Pride. When asked whether they felt their voice was heard and respected, only 13% of respondents strongly agreed that this was the case. It was also worrying that 57% felt that there have been occasions when their chances for career progression have been limited and 8% cited that this was specifically due to their sexual orientation. It is these issues, and more, that still need addressing.

At Hays, we’ve always prided ourselves on being a meritocracy and as recruiters, we understand exactly how beneficial a diverse workforce is for organisations to succeed. Last year, we achieved the National Equality Standard and were one of only 20 organisations in the UK to have achieved it. It’s one of the most prestigious accreditations for equality, diversity and inclusion and followed a two-year journey. But, that was just the start of our journey and we’ve still got lots to do.

Earlier this year we set up an internal LGBTQ+ steering committee to help strengthen the voice of the LGBTQ+ community within Hays. Our Hays Pride Network is led by employees – LGBTQ+ and allies – and has objectives in the four areas of environment, people, business and policies. We know that people who can be themselves in the workplace, will flourish and be more productive and we’ll always look for ways to continue to make Hays a better place to work for everyone.

It’s also very clear that there’s a definite business imperative for investing in diversity. There have been numerous studies on it, including one by EY which found that companies with diverse teams report higher earnings. It’s been our experience that there’s a definite business case for investing in diversity and being an inclusive employer.

One of the founders of the Hays Pride Network, Mike Morgan, is also co-founder of the Alliance Network, a Midlands group which aims to make the Midlands the best place to work for LGBTQ+ professionals. This year, Mike coordinated 120 professionals from 11 different companies, including Mazars, Irwin Mitchell, Serco, Deutsche Bank, and Hays led them through the vibrant Birmingham Pride parade.

Hays in Birmingham also joined forces with other companies when they celebrated at the office and not only was it great for visibility having such huge numbers all actively supporting Pride, but it also opened up additional networking possibilities. Mark Povey, Surveyor at Cushman & Wakefield, commented: “It was great to see the whole building come together as one to support Pride and it opens up the opportunity for doing more of this in the future.”

So, if you are working for a company that doesn’t support inclusivity, that doesn’t allow you to be yourself at work or even if it isn’t flying the Pride flag, here are some suggestions:

  1. Start small. If your organisation is at the start of its journey and needs a significant cultural change, don’t be afraid to start small and take baby steps with tackling the change within one office or business area.
  2. Present a business opportunity. Make sure the business benefit is very clear in everything you do and say. Make sure this is viewed as an essential rather than a “nice to have”.
  3. Set up an internal networking group. Sharing stories with your colleagues might not change policies but having like-minded people to share your frustrations and support you on the journey will help.
  4. Get a senior advocate. Convincing somebody senior to lend their support is critical. It won’t be easy but it will make a difference to impacting the policies and practices that will help to drive change.
  5. Learn from others. Seek advice and look at how other companies have approached it. They will be diversity advocates so should be happy to share what they’ve learnt and encourage others. If you share an office, consider whether you can join forces during awareness campaigns like Pride.

As the leader of a large company employing thousands of people across the UK and Ireland, I strongly feel that we have a responsibility to make a difference to these issues and support the LGBTQ+ community. However, the onus is on all of us and there are plenty of ways that employees can get involved, or even take the lead, depending on their organisation. By working together, we’ll be able to make progress for #Pride2019 and beyond.

About this author

Simon joined Hays in 2006, having commenced his recruitment career in 1993. Initially responsible for our businesses in Western Australia and Northern Territory, Simon relocated to the UK in 2014 where he was responsible for our operations in the West & Wales and Ireland, before being appointed Managing Director of the UK & Ireland business in 2018.

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