Research-based Insights on How Companies Can Build an LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Workplace

Recommendations from Original Research at AnswerLab

Posted by AnswerLab Research on May 23, 2023

This article is a part of AnswerLab’s Human-Centered Work Project, a hub of research-based insights and resources on redesigning work. The following insights come from research exploring policies and perspectives from LGBTQIA+ and ally employees to uncover what actions can improve workplace experiences and further cultivate an inclusive culture.

For this phase of our Human Centered Work Project research, we’re turning our focus to the experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community in the American workforce, what companies are doing now to support workers and what steps they can take to improve.

We have taken a multi-phased approach, starting with a literature review, moving to internal research at AnswerLab, and now with qualitative research with LGBTQIA+ employees across the US. Our goal is to provide detailed findings on the LGBTQIA+ workplace experience and recommendations for what companies need to do to improve it.

Get the research findings!

HCW Report PreviewWe've made our research findings available in our new research report: Building an LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Workplace.

In the report, you'll find our recommendations on:

  • What makes a safe and inclusive experience for LGBTQIA+ employees in the day-to-day
  • Steps companies can take to make a difference at the policy-level, related to trainings, onboarding, recruitment
  • The value of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
  • How benefits can meet LGBTQIA+ specific needs, including details on partner coverage, gender-affirming healthcare, and more
  • How to create a pronoun policy that works
  • And more…

Download the report

About the Research

HCW Report- Rainbow figuresWe conducted a 10-day Diary Study with 34 LGBTQIA+ full-time employees at companies across the U.S. Then, we conducted follow-up interviews with 15 of the diary participants to dive deeper into their responses and better understand their experiences.

Our research objectives included exploring sources of daily workplace support, uncovering what generates exhaustion and discomfort at work, identifying safe and inclusive experiences, and highlighting opportunities for workplaces to improve.

What We Learned

Inclusive LGBTQIA+ workplaces must be built at both the Company and Individual level.

Companies affect LGBTQIA+ employees through policies, procedures, and actions. Individuals like colleagues or managers affect LGBTQIA+ employees through daily interpersonal interactions. Both are a critical part of the workplace experience for LGBTQIA+ team members.

Companies HCW ReportCompanies make a difference at the policy and leadership level.

Companies can contribute to daily workplace support in the form of policies and resources, LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), comprehensive training around gender identity and sexual orientation, and inclusive health benefits. 

Successful company policies promote and use gender-inclusive language, outline protections and policies against harassment and discrimination, prioritize LGBTQIA+ representation at all staff levels, and offer employee training beyond legal compliance. LGBTQIA+ employees also feel safer being out at work when companies create and use pronoun policies. 

However, a critical piece of the puzzle is connecting employees to these resources. Through our conversations with participants, we learned that failing to connect them with important resources and lacking comprehensive benefits can be harmful and exhausting.

In the report, you’ll find recommendations on how companies can contribute to better LGBTQIA+ experiences at the policy level, including how to:

  • Highlight an LGBTQIA+ supportive culture with inclusive hiring procedures and materials
  • Build a welcoming and comprehensive onboarding program
  • Provide comprehensive benefits that cater to LGBTQIA+ needs
  • Create a policy that encourages use of pronouns
  • And more…

Individuals HCW ReportIndividuals make an impact on the daily workplace experience through moments of connection.

Ultimately, organizations are made up of individuals. Managers and colleagues play a critical role in fostering a supportive work environment. LGBTQIA+ employees we spoke with find daily sources of support in small, casual interactions with colleagues when they can openly discuss their personal lives without judgment. These conversations may be small, but they help LGBTQIA+ employees feel more comfortable coming out at work. Non-binary and trans employees’ shared that colleagues using their correct pronouns was a big source of support for them.

However, examples of negative interactions and sources of exhaustion were plentiful and frequent. These interactions ranged from subtle conversations and questions to overt misgendering and harassment.

The report includes findings on how individuals can contribute to better LGBTQIA+ experiences, including how to:

  • Be an informed, supportive manager and advocate for your direct reports
  • Demonstrate support to colleagues who are coming out
  • Be aware of the range of uncomfortable conversations and interactions that negatively impact LGBTQIA+ teammates and how to avoid them
  • And more…

Download the report

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AnswerLab Research

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