Why your business needs an LGBT network group

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Health Assured team

10 June 2021

For lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) people, work can be fantastic—a safe space, where they can be themselves without any fear of repercussion. But for others, it’s the opposite. Discrimination and harassment are all too common with more than a third of LGBT staff in the UK hiding their status at work.

LGBT people who feel able to bring their whole selves to work have increased energy, better performance and stronger relationships with their peers. The more you're forced to be somebody else or hide who you are, the more your happiness and performance at work will be affected.

LGBT employee network groups can transform the experiences of LGBT people at work. They do this in three main ways:

Peer-to-peer support—providing a space for LGBT employees to support each other, express concerns they may have, and spend time around people who understand their experiences. This can radically improve their day-to-day experience at work by helping them feel less alone, access the support they need and grow in confidence.

Awareness raising—promoting a better understanding of LGBT inclusion and making LGBT experiences more visible in the wider organisation. This can empower all employees to step up as allies and improve the workplace culture for everyone within your organisation.

Accountability—scrutinising your organisation’s policies and processes, feeding back concerns, and suggesting how these can be improved. This gives LGBT employees a critical voice and helps ensure that LGBT inclusion is embedded across your organisation.

How to set up an LGBT network group

Before making key decisions about the structure or objectives of your network, you should consult other LGBT employees within your organisation. This will help you at a later staff when you request formal support for your network group—you’ll be able to demonstrate that there’s interest from across the organisation.

This is particularly important if you work in a large organisation with employees in multiple locations or with vastly different day-to-day roles. Taking the time to understand the needs of someone who works part-time, or whose job is more client facing than yours, allows you to create a network that supports all LGBT employees. You should also always actively consult, listen to and support LGBT colleagues whose identities are different from yours.

Anonymous surveys and focus groups are both effective ways to consult other employees. They give you the opportunity to ask key questions about how the network group should be run, while allowing your colleagues to raise new ideas or issues you may not have considered.

Creating an operational structure

LGBT employee network groups can operate in many ways and often look completely different from organisation to organisation. Your organisation might be centralised in one office, or have a dispersed workforce based across the country or the world. This will affect your network group structure.

Some networks operate online, while others choose to have monthly in-person meetings. Some network groups simply have one person in charge of chairing meetings and handling administrative tasks, while others have a large elected committee. Those elected committees can include various operational roles and representatives for members whose identities are sometimes excluded from LGBT communities. This can include bi and trans members, or members who are women, disabled or black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME).

Understanding the specific circumstances of your network group and the needs of your members will help you create an operational structure that’s appropriate for the scope of activity your network will carry out.

For more suggestions and guidance on activities and initiatives you can run as a network group to create a more LGBT inclusive workplace environment, refer to Stonewall’s ‘Finding your collective voice’ resource available exclusively for Diversity Champions.

Clarifying your aims and objectives

Aims and objectives are specific targets and goals for the network to achieve within the next year. Setting clear aims and objectives right from the start will help you build an effective network that achieves its goals.

Your aims and objectives can relate to anything from organising a fundraising event, to changing a particular piece of policy, or simply how many network group meetings should be held in the next year.

They should be tangible and measurable. Depending on the size or structure of your network, these objectives may be broken down into roles and tasks assigned to specific network members.

Next steps

Once you’ve put these foundations in place, it’s time to begin growing your membership. These groups are run by employees, for employees—the more of you there are, the stronger your position.

All-staff communications

These are a key tool for engaging colleagues and recruiting more members. Whether you use email, intranet posts, paper, or something else, all employees working at your organisation should be informed about the creation of the LGBT employee network group and how to join.

Hold a launch event—these are a popular way to build momentum after creating a new network group. A launch event doesn’t have to be costly or difficult to organise. It can be as simple as an informal social or networking event after work hours, or a roundtable for employees to discuss LGBT inclusion.

Work to make your network inclusive—there can be barriers for some employees to get involved with LGBT employee network groups. This is particularly true for bi and trans employees, as well as other employees who may have felt excluded from LGBT communities in the past – for example, disabled employees, BAME employees, women, and employees of faith.

Don’t get discouraged—growing your network group can be a slow process. Even with a small membership base, your network group can create positive change internally and see some great results. With time, your contribution to creating a more LGBT-inclusive workplace environment is likely to help other employees feel comfortable enough to be out at work and get involved with your network.

If you’d like to know more about this subject, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the experts at Health Assured today.

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