The Power of Diversity

The Power of Diversity in Business – Silicon UK

Paying close attention to the specific needs of LGBTQI+ employees across your company can pay massive dividends. The unique perspectives these groups bring to their teams are, in many businesses, an untapped resource. As a result, nurturing the talents of the LGBTQI+ communities is now a commercial imperative.


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Ensuring all LGBTQI+ workers feel not only safe but also valued is a vital component of a successful business. The human capital in every enterprise is their most precious asset. Nurturing every employee to be their best has consistently been shown to positively impact the companies they work for.

Tech businesses have been making positive strides to improve the diversity across their enterprises, with action being taken to recognize the value of their LGBTQI+ employees. However, more work does need to be done: The current Blind survey concludes that 40% of employees in these groups had suffered some form of discrimination.

The survey also ranks tech companies on whether their LGBTQI+ employees feel safe at work. Intel fared the worst, with only 17% responding positively to this question, followed by Amazon and Apple. The top three included Pinterest, Salesforce, and LinkedIn.

There is a clear business case for DE&I (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion). There has been a shift by large businesses, in particular, to shift how they approach DE&I. However, it’s vital that companies avoid ‘diversity fatigue’ as The Good Side describe:

“Amongst an increasingly polarised social and political climate, the next generation may fear the consequences of being out at work. Diversity fatigue has set in as companies struggle to achieve their diversity goals. The greatest barriers to change are believed to exist at middle management level. A lack of transparency about the numbers of LGBTQ+ people within a business, and how companies are demonstrating their commitment to inclusion, remains a key barrier to change. There is ground for optimism, as a new generation of executive leaders, investors and shareholders acknowledge that LGBTQ+ inclusion makes business sense.”

Speaking to Silicon UK, Ed Johnson, CEO and Co-Founder of career development and mentoring platform PushFar, says: “Many business leaders may recognize the moral imperative of making their business more diverse and inclusive, but there’s less understanding that there’s a clear strategic and commercial benefit. The reality is, if you create a level playing field where all your workers can thrive, you will raise morale, create a meritocracy, and ultimately develop the best possible team. We also can’t underestimate just how valuable having a mixture of backgrounds and experiences is for innovation. Having more views in the room can help people look at problems from different perspectives and gain a new perspective on tackling it.”

Ed Johnson, CEO and Co-Founder, PushFar.
Ed Johnson, CEO and Co-Founder, PushFar.

Also, Dr Natalie Baumgartner, Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers and Director of the Achievers Workforce Institute, which develops HR software, has an employee resource group called Achievers Proud, which was set up to ensure Achievers maintains a forward-thinking, inclusive, and safe environment for all LGBTQ+ employees, outlined how businesses can approach inclusivity.

“Our data found that LGBTQ+ workers reported higher rates of stress than average (56% versus 48%) but, most notably, were considerably less likely (24%) to say they felt capable of managing that stress. They were also 55% more likely to have taken stress leave than the overall average. What’s more, this additional stress was linked to worse wellbeing outcomes for LGBTQ+ employees, who were 30% less likely to report feeling healthy compared to average. These figures are very concerning and clearly not where we need to be.

Dr Natalie Baumgartner, Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers and Director of the Achievers Workforce Institute.
Dr Natalie Baumgartner, Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers and Director of the Achievers Workforce Institute.

“To promote diversity and reduce these stress levels, we advocate a four-part approach:

  1. Gather feedback from the whole organization using tools like surveys and chatbots, and then act on it!
  2. Be more inclusive, bearing in mind that some LGBTQ+ employees may not be out, adding to their stress levels.
  3. Make stress management tools and support available, including training courses and guest speakers, if possible. Managers should monitor their peoples’ workloads and ensure roles and responsibilities are clearly defined – especially in hybrid office setups where some work remotely. Communication between managers and their people should happen openly and often, not just during annual reviews.
  4. Encourage downtime, with managers leading by example by taking holiday time and not visibly working extra hours outside work. This is especially important for LBGTQ+ workers, 42% of whom in our survey had taken time off due to stress compared to 27% overall. In addition, some workplaces take extra measures to combat burnout, like introducing shorter workweeks or offering occasional additional days off.”

Supporting the LGBTQI+ workers in your business or organization is a clear asset that can be leveraged to help your enterprise thrive post-pandemic. The culture that your business fosters will be critical as your company evolves and changes to meet the challenges of the new working environments that are coming into focus.

Inclusive workplaces

Salesforce is an example of a company that clearly understands the value of its LGBTQ+ employees and has developed programs to support these groups. First, the Global Gender Inclusive Benefit will provide transgender and non-binary employees with the critical financial and emotional support they deserve. These industry-leading benefits were designed in partnership with Outforce, Salesforce’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group. Secondly, an update on its Success From Anywhere strategy and how the company is shifting its focus from reopening to reconnecting.

Salesforce is redefining how its teams work together with Flex Team Agreements, empowering teams to decide how, when, and where they work, including how many days a week they come into the office and what kind of work they’ll continue to do at home. Teams can also decide how they communicate and what behaviours are most important to them.

With the addition of Slack, Salesforce has created a Digital HQ that is completely transforming the way its employees work, enabling growth, increasing productivity, and enhancing collaboration. As a result, individual and team productivity has increased by 16% and 13%, respectively, and the number of emails has decreased by 46%.

Silicon UK In Focus Podcast

PushFar’s Ed Johnson also points out that a whole team approach must always be taken: “There’s no one size fits all approach to creating a supportive environment for LGBTQ+ workers. However, there are a few universal principles such as ensuring they are comfortable to express who they are, that both overt and unconscious discrimination is tackled firmly and that career opportunities are equal and open to all. It’s important to remember that LGBTQ+ people do not need special treatment or positive discrimination.”

Ed concluded: “The goal for businesses is to make their workplace a fair, open and comfortable place for anyone to thrive in. This may mean creating mentorship programs so individuals can get direct support to level the playing field or focusing on improving diversity by tweaking hiring processes. HR teams can play a huge role in creating and maintaining a great environment for LGBTQ+ workers – ensuring the HR department is skilled, well-resourced and empowered is a large part of the battle.”

Diversity is the future

There is a commercial advantage when a workforce is more diverse: According to a new report from RedThread Research, organizations that foster greater diversity are 81% more likely to have higher customer satisfaction, twice as likely to indicate they have met the business goal and employees are twice as likely to give their employer a positive net promoter score and 45% more likely to remain at their organization. So, there’s a clear business case for improving diversity.

Commenting, Susie Lee, Global Business Transformation and DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging) Executive Officer at Degreed, explained: “To successfully drive a culture of DEIB and offer robust and unbiased career opportunities across an organization, starts with understanding the skills needed, as actionable skills data gives everyone a tangible and impartial way to build the foundations for an inclusive organization — one skill at a time. This can be the catalyst that will finally drive change. And what’s really exciting is the actionability not just for HR but across the entire business and for all job levels, because it’s only through making DEIB part of holistic business operations that actual systemic change will occur and drive change within DEIB efforts – across HR teams and the broader business community.

Susie continued: “To encourage more diverse candidates into leadership roles you need a multifaceted approach that builds talent from the ground up, that addresses systemic inequality at all levels and departments, and that inspires people to do their best work and reach their full potential. Give people the autonomy to choose their best work environment. Make talent opportunities visible and accessible to everyone, not just those with the right connections. Set up mentoring programs to inspire and nurture candidates – and vice versa, to give mentors the opportunity to give back and grow their leadership skills. Listen to your people, especially those in the minority, and set up ways to hear and learn from their life experiences. At Degreed, some of our most popular initiatives have been set up by our diversity groups – our culture days, for example.”

In the tech sector, there has been a fast take-up of diversity programs. Organizations such as Out in Tech, Lesbians Who Tech, LGBTQ Tech Advocates and oSTEM, all illustrate that fully supporting these groups must be a business priority.

Pips Bunce, Director and Head of Global Markets Technology Core Engineering Strategic Programs at Credit Suisse, says: “There is a new generation of executive leaders who understand how important this is. They can see that to attract the next generation and the most diverse pipeline of future talent where 20% identify as LGBTQ+ and 12–14% gender non-conforming (Trans, gender-fluid or non-binary), they need to create a place of work where fresh talent can come in and be their true authentic selves.”

Work and business have changed permanently. Companies that can embrace these changes and evolve how they support a diverse workforce will become the leaders in their industries and dominate their market sectors. People drive a business. Paying attention to their needs with practical action will be massively rewarded.

Silicon in Focus

Teresa Boughey, Founder of Inclusion 247.

Teresa Boughey, Founder of Inclusion 247
Teresa Boughey, Founder of Inclusion 247.

Teresa Boughey is CEO of Jungle HR and founder of Inclusion 247. Teresa is a Non-Executive Director and has extensive Strategic HR experience, operating at a senior level within various industries and sectors, including FTSE 250, Financial Services, Travel Industry, Private and Public Sectors. Teresa has delivered a TEDx talk entitled ‘Overcoming Diversity Fatigue’ (2019) and is the author of the number 1 Amazon bestseller Closing the Gap – 5 Steps to Creating an Inclusive Culture (2019). Teresa is also the author of the new “Accelerating Inclusion” Report launched by Inclusion 247.  Teresa is a Business Board Member and Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Sub-Group of the Women and Enterprise APPG and a member of the Women and Work APPG. She is also a regular contributor to the media and public policy. 

Do business leaders appreciate how supporting their LGBTQ+ workers can deliver real value to their enterprises?

 “At a superficial level, leaders know that it’s the right thing to do to support all individuals in the workplace. However, some still believe that when it comes to supporting LGBTQ+ workers it simply means putting on the rainbow colours and hosting an annual pride event without really taking stock of how their policies, and the policies of their suppliers, partners’ and associated organizations, impact the LGBTQ+ community. Organizations that take such a tokenistic approach fail to recognize the colossal spending power of the LGBTQ+ community and run the risk of missing out on a share of 3.9 trillion globally, as well as alienating and potentially significantly damaging the wellbeing of members of their team.”

 What support do LGBTQ+ workers need for them to work efficiently and for them to have strong career paths within a business?

 “Employees get an early indication of the culture of an organization and what it’s like to work there well before their first day before they have even applied. This includes the type of imagery and language used on their website, the whole recruitment process, the experience of the physical building environment, and where an organization offers an onsite customer experience. It will all attract or repel employees by providing clear signals about an organization’s real commitment to inclusion and the level of psychological safety within the organization. Inclusion intelligence of this nature is essential to support employees in all parts of their identities as these intersect and come with their own unique challenges.

“Once an employee has taken the plunge and decided to join an organization, it’s here that the organization’s commitment to workplace inclusion needs to match up with any pledges and promises. Employees need to see leaders express support and allyship for LGBTQ+ rights. Organizations should also have a range of policies and procedures to enhance and enable the workplace experience of all employees through wellbeing, reward, remuneration, and learning and development created with the individual in mind. Get to know what each employee needs by providing them with a psychologically safe space to share any concerns or feedback, but individuals should not be expected to always or repeatedly share their experiences with others as this can be exhausting or triggering – remain respectful.

“Megan Key, Equality Manager for the National Probation Service and trans activist talked openly at an Inclusive Companies event about her journey transitioning whilst working for her employer. Megan shared that one of the reasons she felt comfortable, safe, and confident to do this was because there was a proactive and positive gender reassignment policy in place within her organization. She also shared that reverse mentoring during her journey was another critical element. Not only did she feel supported, but through her lived experience it enabled the organization to make continued enhancements to the workplace. Megan’s is just one example of how policies are there to support employees and to enable them to be the best they can be.”

 What are the challenges businesses need to overcome to ensure a diverse workforce including LGBTQ+ can work at their best?

 “Organizations will, quite understandably, be focused on financial stability, particularly given the worldwide economic challenges. However, the company’s success will be attributable to the people who design, produce, and deliver their goods and services. Consequently, it is important that organizations really do put the needs and welfare of all their people at the heart of everything that they do.

“Zero tolerance to discrimination is essential. The Accelerating Inclusion research report found that 74% of respondents have a zero-tolerance towards discriminatory behaviour, but this still leaves around 1 in 4 organizations who either do not have this or do not know. This zero-tolerance does not always translate into resulting experiences. Words and actions need to be aligned with enforced accountability for those who do not adhere. Similarly, the report found that only 16% of respondents said yes, they have a development programme in place so that everyone understands how they can become an ambassador ally or advocate for others. Indicating there is still a way to go to embed these policies for the future.

“Employee wellbeing is also key. Organizations need to tune into the unique challenges and demands placed on LGBT+ employees not just within the workplace, but in wider society as a whole. Employers need to recognize that wellbeing solutions do not come as a one size fits all and they should be supporting the whole employee, not just them at work, especially when remote working means increasing blurring of work and home.”

 As we move into a post-pandemic working environment, how critical will it be to support every employee no matter the group they identify with?

 “The impact of the COVID pandemic has accelerated the desire by many for a fairer and more equal world. As a result, our society is changing, but the workforce and its attitudes are also changing. We have seen many organizations break with traditions by introducing remote working, and managers must unlearn fixed management styles often associated with presenteeism.

“What we do know, however, is that employees are tired of rhetoric. Therefore, companies must do more than offer empty pledges or adopt inclusion initiatives that are, in fact, exclusive and may be viewed as tick box activities. Workplace equality and wellbeing will not be achieved without actively creating a culture where all employees feel safe and valued. Real change will be determined by organisations’ sustainable efforts to truly embed a culture of belonging within the workplace.

“Our future requires us all to look at diversity equity inclusion and belonging through a completely different lens. If we’re going to make sustainable long-term change we cannot revert to the old ways of doing things or try to implement initiatives and strategies that have simply not worked prior to the pandemic in the hope that somehow they will now drive change. Organizations simply cannot afford to ignore the business case for inclusion, it not only makes sense, but also supports organizations in retaining staff, creating better products and services, expanding into new markets, better problem solving, but above all else remaining a business of the future.”

 What is the business value of a diverse workforce?

 “‘Return on Inclusion’ (ROI) is real and there are several facets that can be taken into account: There is the perception that some facets are the ‘softer’ elements such as behaviour and culture, which can be harder to measure, but these have a huge impact on the more tangible facets such as Results, Reputation, and Relationships. The Accelerating Inclusion research highlighted that 49% of leadership teams understand and are able to articulate the business benefits that an Inclusive and Diverse organization brings, however, 36% said no they couldn’t and 15% reported not to know.

“Current events unfolding in Professional Cricket are a clear example of the damage that can be done to individuals and businesses when inclusion is ignored. In recent weeks the regulatory body, The English Cricket Board has imposed sanctions against one club including the withdrawal of fixtures. Sponsors have withdrawn their support, and significant relationship damage has occurred between players, the club’s executives, sponsors’ and the wider community. This is a stark reminder of the importance of inclusion for the wellbeing of the workforce and the health of the business.”