By John Glenton, Riverside’s Executive Director for Care and Support and Co-Chair of our LGBT group Spectrum
Today is the 29th annual National Coming Out Day, a day to remember that coming out – whatever your sexuality – still matters.
As I often say, I believe that a diverse workforce is an enriched workforce and only when employees can be their genuine authentic selves do they perform at their best in the workplace.
While LGBT rights have made considerable progress in some parts of the world, shockingly same-sex relationships continue to be criminalised in 72 countries and territories worldwide.
And while UK law protects the rights of LGBT people by making it illegal to discriminate against anyone with a protected characteristic, a 2016 report by the Centre for Talent Innovation found that over half of the UK LGBT workers they spoke to were not out at work.
There is evidence to suggest that covering up who you are at work can lead to feelings of exhaustion and distraction from the job at hand. Of those employees who felt they had to change how they acted in order to cover up at work, 39% avoided or engaged less with colleagues, 26% felt sad or nervous at work and 32% felt that they had sacrificed their personal authenticity at work.
Aside from the moral issues these figures highlight, there are huge financial implications – in short it makes bad business and economic sense for employees to be in the closet at work.
After looking at the research into LGBT workplace inclusion, I believe there are compelling reasons for companies to create an inclusive culture, making it easier for employees to be out at work.
LGBT people working in open, diverse and inclusive environments report:
- higher levels of motivation
- a greater affinity with the values and culture of the workplace
- higher satisfaction levels
- better mental and physical health
- feeling more confident to contribute with creative solutions to improve performance
- they are more likely to go above and beyond
- greater productivity.
Furthermore companies that are more diverse and inclusive are:
- better able to compete for talented employees
- more likely to have higher rates of employee retention
- more likely to demonstrate higher levels of innovation and creativity.
So respecting and valuing diversity is the right thing to do, but also clearly makes sense from a business perspective. I am sure you would agree that the reasons above would apply across the full workforce to the majority of employees.
So I am proud of the equality and diversity work we have done at Riverside, making it a better place to work. In turn this gives a better customer experience, because engaged employees have been shown to give better customer service.