Now, that homosexuality is legal in India, it's time we must embrace the LGBT+ community more than ever


Today, diversity and inclusion (D&I) is among the top priorities for every organization. They’re doing everything possible right from inclusive policies, diverse hiring to infrastructural changes, to become diverse and inclusive. However, there’s still a long way to go especially in the context of the LGBT+ employees. According to a study by Glassdoor, 4 out of 10 LGBT+ workers said they aren't fully ‘out’ at work and half of those surveyed said they feared being ‘out’ would hurt their career prospects, from getting passed over for a promotion to even losing their jobs. There are multiple other studies with similar findings. There is still lot to be done for LGBT+ employees at workplace.

India has been losing as much as 1.4 percent of its national output when homosexuality was not decriminalized, according to calculations by University of Massachusetts Amherst economics professor Lee Badgett, who has studied the issue for the World Bank. This is a huge number and can’t be ignored. Now, that homosexuality is legal in India, it's time we must embrace the LGBT+ community more than ever. These people are one of the most untapped talent that needs to be included in the mainstream workforce. The LGBT+ candidates if given the right opportunity can perform as good as their peers in an organization. Let’s understand how organizations can further embrace and include the LGBT+ employees:

E: Empower

Organizations must create a culture where employees can bring their true selves to work. The LGBT+ employees worry the most about their safety and acceptance at workplace. Organizations must therefore ensure a safe working environment to such employees. The safe workplace will make the LGBT+ employees feel empowered and valued. With such empowerment, employees are incentivised to deliver their best all the time. Increased productivity of the employees will ensure better profits.

Every employee walking-in office must feel safe, inclusive and valued by the company. It is not only the onus of the leadership or the HR department to ensure inclusive environment but every individual has a role to play. It has to be a collaborative approach after all.

T: Transparent

Organizations must treat all employees alike. No policy/rule/infrastructure must be for select people, it must be equal for all. This kind of transparency will bring in true inclusivity. For example, if a company says - ‘All our policies are inclusive’- this means that the organization is transparent about its policies. The maternity benefits to a LGBT+ employee capable of bearing a child will be same as a woman colleague, capable of bearing a child. Transparency instils confidence amongst employees and it makes them feel valued.

H: Honour

I believe it’s high time to honour customization over standardization to embrace the uniqueness of talent and perspective that every employee brings to the table. Individual uniqueness, distinctions, ideas, and methods of functioning must be embraced by leaders who appreciate what makes individuals special. Organizations must aim to bring out the best in an employee and honour them with rewards and recognitions. Keeping all employees engaged and honouring them will make an organization truly inclusive.

O: Observe

Setbacks within teams and organizations for a holistically embedded culture must be carefully observed. For example, if a sudden performance drop is being noticed in a LGBT+ employee, the chances are high that they must be facing discrimination or other issues at workplace. In such cases, the organization must not only take necessary actions but also ensure that this kind of incidences never occur again. The D&I trainings should be revisited and innovative modes of sensitization should be introduced so that the employees are aware of the sensitivities involved.

S: Sustain

We must build a culture of behaviour change rather than attitude change to enable suspension of unconscious bias. According to a recent research by the HRC Foundation, a quarter of LGBT+ employees said they were distracted from their jobs while working in an unwelcoming workplace, and 20% said they would rather remain at home to avoid the negativity. Organizations should focus on training and tools that can assist employees improve their actual behaviour, rather than trying to change the unconscious prejudices or views of employees. HR executives, for example, might actively engage employees in experiential learning programmes to define the behaviours that contribute to a welcoming environment. Additionally, HR executives may develop employee-driven guidance on particular norms, work practises, and routines that employees can implement to improve team D&I outcomes.

To conclude, creative a safe and inclusive workplace is not only the right thing but a must thing to do. Organizations must provide equal opportunities to all because it is a deciding factor for the growth of an individual and an organization. Conscious and unconscious bias can result in loss of right talent but in this fierce talent war, organizations can’t afford to lose on skilled talent due to bias. The need today is to focus on navigating the characteristic spirit of the company’s culture to seamlessly integrate inclusion of LGBT+ community into their current personnel to ensure that the values are applied consistently.

(The views expressed in the authored above have been penned down by Shilpa Sinha Harsh, Senior Vice President – Global Corporate Communications, CSR and D&I, Hinduja Global Solutions solely for BW People Publication)

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