Diversity & Inclusion

5 Strategies for Connecting with Your LGBTQ+ Employees

June celebrates Pride Month, during which we’re all reminded about the importance of fostering a work environment that supports diversity, equity and inclusion.  As an active member of the LGBTQ+ community, I’ve sometimes felt like an outsider and worked harder to be accepted.  Cultivating DEI in business is a journey, and my own journey has allowed me to mentor and serve as a role model for others in the corporate world, helping them create positive change for their employees and customers.

Today I focus on introducing and training business leaders in “cultural competency,” which helps them understand, appreciate and interact with people who have different cultural practices and viewpoints.  Building lasting relationships with LGBTQ+ associates begins by fostering cultural competency in the workplace.

Below are five simple and effective strategies to authentically connect with LGBTQ+ associates and create an environment that allows employees to honor and embrace their differences. 

  1. Increase your LGBTQ+ Literacy: LGBTQ+ movies, books and television shows are great resources to learn more about the culture.  Also be curious and available to learn.  Ask questions in a genuine and respectful way. People enjoy talking about themselves and it’s a natural way to connect and build relationships. 
  2. Create a Culture that Celebrates Differences:  If your business doesn’t already do so, work with associates to introduce Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and/or Associate-Led Groups (ARGs) to meet on a regular basis with the aim of supporting common identities, interests and cultural backgrounds, and to help establish DEI initiatives.  Also, use pronouns as a tool to be more inclusive.  Pronouns signify the willingness of an organization to let each person be who they are.  If a person is not comfortable sharing their pronouns, simply apologize and move on.  If they are, it’s a create way to connect and open the door for more dialogue.
  3. Grow Loyalty: Don’t just “check the box” in June with Pride Month; be genuine and consistent in your messaging and what you do.  For instance, look at your company’s website and other marketing materials and be certain they are reflective and inclusive of multiple cultures.  Display a Pride flag year-round at your business to be visible in your support, and host inclusive team and customer events and campaigns to demonstrate solidarity and a sense of belonging.
  4. Align with your Allies:  Recognize associates that support the LGBTQ+ community.  Allies help create a culture of acceptance and are credible cheerleaders for the community. 
  5. Develop Processes to Capture Feedback:  Utilize surveys, focus groups and other outreach programs to gather important insights from the LGTBQ+ community on how your brand is perceived.  This feedback can lead to more meaningful products and services that elevate loyalty and experiences among LGBTQ+ employee and customer communities.

Cultural competency is fast growing in importance because more businesses large and small are operating on a global level and becoming increasingly attuned to the importance of DEI.  From an employee engagement standpoint, fostering cultural competency helps team members feel the inclusivity of their workplace, assists in attracting talent from the Generation Z population who are looking at companies through this lens, and drives employee retention by valuing diverse backgrounds.

Pride Month is the perfect time to bring your team together to embrace diversity among multiple cultures.  Consider enhancing your daily DEI initiatives by participating in annual holidays to recognize each other’s traditions, host “Lunch & Learn” sessions led by employees of global backgrounds to demonstrate interest in their heritages and be mindful of communication and etiquette norms to show respect for how individuals of specific cultures prefer to conduct business.  The future of DEI is cultural competency — celebrate 365 days a year!

Tim Vesperman is a leader in the hospitality industry with over 40 years of experience.  Training and leading people are his passions, and he has a strong ability to “woo” people and remove barriers to learning and success. Tim is an active member of several Chicagoland LGBTQ+ organizations and is an integral part of the Seva Global team, a company that helps businesses of all sizes elevate their cultural confidence through customized workshops and consultations that increase employee engagement, enhance the customer experience and drive bottom-line results.

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