Jack Mizel, CEO of Pride 365, shares seven suggestions for making your organisation more inclusive for transgender employees.
Regardless of the target demographic or cohort, inclusion is never a one-size-fits-all concept. This is particularly relevant when referring to LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace. True inclusion policies should be omnipresent across all company landscapes, but they don’t necessarily guarantee employees feeling welcome.
There are several benefits to having a trans inclusive workplace. It creates greater innovation, makes great candidates easier to find and retain, and develop better employment and customer engagement.
Understanding is the foundation of creating an inclusive workplace for transgender individuals. Rather than assumption, discussion and respectful questions are the key. Open dialogue will lead the way to clearly understanding what both parties need to do, and know, to ensure a mutually beneficial working relationship. Conversation is the first step to breaking down barriers and gain the required understanding to assist transgender employees with feeling truly part of the company through acceptance and visibility.
It’s no surprise millennials are driving the way for gender diversity and inclusion; 20% of this generation currently identify as LGBTQ+, compared to 7% of baby boomers and 12% of GenX. This results in a greater number of people being able to directly relate to the problems caused by gender exclusion and, therefore, pushing for changes necessary to create ongoing solutions. This generation, through greater diversity exposure, are more naturally empathetic of the issue’s others face. Millennials also currently dominate the workforce and have more influence over policies, hiring, marketing, and business decisions, both from an employee and customer perspective.
As people aren’t able to emulate experiences, this is not an exact science. You can only really know the personal journeys of transgender people from a lived perspective. Likewise, even if you are transgender, this doesn’t mean you will necessarily understand another transgender person either. No two journeys or stories are identical. Being similar to someone does not mean identical. Transgender is a broad term to cover many different people and it’s easy to get things wrong if you don’t take the right approach. I have detailed below seven things that can be done to help build a trans inclusive workplace.
1. Open door policy
Conversation is a great foundation for any relationship, including an employer/employee one. Promote an open door policy, bring in workplace allies, set up an LGBTQ+ network and create a safe space and network. They may not be used, but importantly, it’s the availability that will make employees feel they can be themselves. If they do access these resources, ask them questions, listen to their answers, look for commonalities and actively implement anything constructive that comes from it. Employees feeling unheard will only be detrimental to your business.
2. Dialogue sessions and workplace training
These improve relationships, communication and cooperation. Through building community, trust and understanding, you enable progress and promote action. They really do deliver long lasting results, and are huge makers of change and solution drivers, and will help you to understand what the business and recruitment process needs in order to drive inclusion.
3. Machine learning
There have been huge advancements in AI and machine learning in the last few years in helping to achieve diversity and inclusion. Though it isn’t perfect, it can continually create, analyse and assess data, environments and situations to help companies identify gaps and weak spots within their D&I. AI can also be used to create unbiased job descriptions and documents, and analyse language to make it more relatable and comfortable for everyone, especially non-binary individuals. AI leads to better decisions by removing the human connection, and emotions, and putting the emphasis on figures and data. Don’t forget, however, to put the human element back, as that is where and how people connect.
We spoke about how AI can remove biased language, but why is this important? Removing things such as gender choices on application forms and replacing it with an empty box, or adding ‘they/them’ into communications, or letting employees choose their given name, and pronoun are small changes, but can be profound. Removing assumptions and giving people the choice and freedom to be who they are at all levels is important.
5. External communications
A lot of people, when pushing for diversity and inclusion, will focus on internal communications, which is great, but it’s also important to practice what you preach. If you want to drive trans inclusion, include transgender individuals in your marketing, advertising and PR, and celebrate your employees. Authenticity however should always be chosen over tokenism. The middle ground is, as usual, the one with the most nuance and difficulty but it is the bridge that connects us and the surest path to inclusion. This will solidify the changes you are pushing for, and send a clear, loud message to your customers. It will also increase your selling power, since 60% of women say they would buy into a brand that is LGBTQ+ friendly, and 42% of people are more likely to trust a company that appears LGBTQ+ friendly.
This helps form connection and empathy. When relaying data, and data driven results, to a wider audience, storytelling is vital to help the information resonate with your audience on a logical, intellectual, and emotional level. It also improves front of mind recall. As humans, we respond to storytelling better than we would any percentage or fraction. It’s a paint by numbers situation where the data provides the image, and storytelling paints it, piece by piece. Without the story, we are left with data that we often don’t comprehend.
This is imperative for the efficacy of diversity and inclusion policies. If companies aren’t recording and analysing the data they are gaining from their efforts, then they can’t progress, improve and identify gaps. Through regular reporting, you are able to share the results with your wider company community, allowing them to input, and see the actions being taken. Seeing something tangible will promote trust, loyalty and support, and will ensure the company is working together towards the same goals. Strong reports will also give you a competitive advantage, positioning your business as a thought leader and changemaker, making you more appealing to customers, stakeholders and investors.
There are several benefits to having a trans inclusive workplace. It creates greater innovation, makes great candidates easier to find and retain, and develop better employment and customer engagement. New ideas often come out of great inclusion.
It isn’t easy, and takes time, effort, commitment and often finances, but it’s better to do something rather than nothing. Diversity and inclusion is a constant and incremental work in progress, but implementing the above will assist with getting closer to the ultimate goal.
About the author
Perry Timms is the Founder & Chief Energy Officer of PTHR, with 30+ yrs experience in people, learning, technology, organisation change & transformation. His personal mission is to see more people flourish through their work, and help shift organizations as a force for societal good (not just profit machines). PTHR's mission is defined as "Better Business for a Better World". In October 2017, his first book, Transformational HR - was published by Kogan Page and the Energized Workplace published in August 2020. He was an extremely proud new entrant to the list of HR Most Influential Thinkers for 2017 and again in 2018 + 2019 (in the top 10 both years).