Tag Archives: lgbt

Creating Employee Connection Innovations in the HR, People & Culture Space

How a world-wide shutdown led to the biggest shift in Human Resource practices

Creating Employee Connection Innovations in the HR, People & Culture Space

GUEST POST from Chris Rollins

While the world was experiencing widespread shutdown and companies promptly shifted to remote work from home, the focus was on how companies would adapt to this new normal of the pandemic. At the same time, while many people were facing daily stress about their job stability, their financial livelihood, and their families’ health & safety, social justice issues were also at the forefront with the murder of George Floyd. In response, we’ve seen the evolution of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) departments in the workplace. For smaller companies and organizations with a less established DEI function, however, it’s HR leaders out front navigating these issues and leading the change, often with little support or guidance.

The Human Resources space went into crisis mode at the onset of COVID and was forced to innovate incredibly quickly as every facet of our work was impacted. HR leaders have more responsibility than ever and increased influence at the C-Suite level, especially as they implement changes to their people practices in order to keep up with what employees want and need from their employers today. HR professionals, in close partnership with the CEO, had to create covid policies, work-from-home guidelines and return-to-work plans, all in an extremely short time frame, which required innovative thinking and presented an opportunity to leverage technology to better support their employees. We also saw the rise of many HR communities, including niche groups like QueeHR, to create space for HR leaders to connect and support each other during these times.

Proactive employee mental health benefits

Another major difference between HR pre-pandemic is that although there was already a focus on employees’ mental health and wellbeing, it was being handled reactively. Now, Human Resource teams are taking note of employees’ experiences and emotional health, as well as developing skills to detect problems early and to step in to provide help. This sounds like an easy process once implemented, but with today’s massive shift towards hybrid or remote work, it’s challenging for HR professionals to constantly stay up to date with each and every employee’s experience. Creating space for more consistent coaching conversations and 1:1 meetings with managers is imperative to staying connected. Having “difficult conversations” at work used to look like a 1:1 in the boss’ office, and now has shifted to video or phone calls where body language is hard to distinguish. HR professionals must also train leaders how to be great coaches and to bring a healthy dose of empathy into the virtual environment.

The experience of LGBTQ+ employees

A common topic of conversation in the HR community is the experience of underrepresented employees. Ensuring that diversity, equity and inclusion efforts include individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) is essential for business success. Although many companies offer health benefits and other policies that support LGBTQ+ workers, a company’s culture plays a key role in whether employees feel safe bringing their whole selves to work. While many LGBTQ+ workers have the skills to be great leaders, a strong sense of belonging is crucial in order to establish their leadership voice and style at work.

For companies, there is a high cost to not creating an inclusive culture where underrepresented employees feel they belong. One of the common challenges for LGBTQ+ workers is trying to do their job and lead their teams while spending valuable mental energy figuring out if or how they fit in. A lot of wasted energy goes into assessing the level of safety and comfort. Considering this impact at scale across an organization, that’s a lot of lost productivity, and puts LGBTQ+ at a disadvantage in the context of performance, promotions and career growth.

While figuring out the right approach to these challenges is not “one size fits all”, the impact and positive benefits of a more diverse workforce with a focus on employee wellness is huge. HR leaders are adopting a “people-first” approach to leading their organizations, and getting more specific with employees to understand their unique needs. Each company, industry, and workforce is entirely different, but by taking a look at the overall workforce and gathering data from employees about their experience, companies can design programs that will actually move the needle and positively impact employee experience.

Employee resource groups/ERGs emerge as a trend

ERGs, or employee resource groups, are voluntary, employee-led groups whose aim is to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with the organizations they serve. Although they have been around since the 1960s, they are becoming increasingly relevant today as questions of personal identity and politics are creating difficult conversations in the workplace. Typically, ERGs are more common in companies with a minimum of 500 employees, but they are continuing to increase in prevalence.

ERGs are creating a ton of innovation and impact in the workplace, as many companies are increasingly establishing employee resource groups for various identity groups – like LGBTQ+, POC, LatinX, Women, etc. Those spaces are creating and helping build community among like-minded folks, while also creating opportunities for allyship. The groups truly serve to inform the business about things they could be doing as a whole to create more inclusive practices. For example, the LGBTQ+ resource group could make it clear that the benefit policies are not inclusive, and don’t offer gender affirming care benefits. The LGBTQ+ ERG can raise it as a group to enact real change for the company, which then has ripple effects for how they recruit new people, communicate their employer brand, etc.

Can ERG’s eventually become a paid role?

Currently, employee resource groups are 100% volunteer, but companies such as LinkedIn are starting to pay their ERG leaders to show their appreciation for these extra hours of work. Many ERG chairs are working overtime to host meetings, plan events, and gather information to present to the C-suite, but the positive side of this extra time are the leadership capabilities these team members learn. ERGs create a whole new opportunity for employees at any level of the organization to take on leadership roles and build their skills. It’s another way to develop talent in the organization and create opportunities for innovation across the business.

With LinkedIn being a standup example of paying their ERG leaders an additional $10,000 per year, there are infinite benefits to adding these types of leadership resources to the team. ERG leaders are getting hands-on training on how to be great leaders through leadership development programs. By encouraging and supporting employee resource groups at a corporate level, employers are truly communicating the importance of investing in their own employees, as well as considering the impact this type of experience will have on their career.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Whither Innovation in Indiana?

Whither Innovation in Indiana?Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s talk about homosexuality and whether it has any impact on innovation. There probably are two no more polarizing topics in the United States than homosexuality and abortion. But the truth is that if both sides of the political and religious spectrum focused on the golden rule, there would be less corruption, we’d all be a lot happier, probably have more innovation, and our politics would be more productive.

Today we have another great case study for how short people’s attention spans have gotten, how the government can help or hinder innovation, how little investigative journalism still remains in the United States, and how easily people are swayed by a soundbite that runs contrary to (or in support of) their own personal religious or political beliefs.

But this article isn’t going to be some diatribe in support or opposition to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) legislation (referred to by the media as an anti-gay law) because I freely admit I don’t fully understand all of the implications of a similar federal law and whether federal protections for gays apply to the state law.

Instead I’d like to focus briefly on what this controversy brings to mind for me in regards to the efforts of hard-working folks attempting to stimulate innovation in Indiana (and elsewhere).

Point #1: People Must Feel Safe to Innovate

If we take Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs as gospel (okay, maybe that’s dangerous word choice), then safety is one of the most important needs for people, and in order to innovate people must feel safe. True innovation usually requires taking risks and doing things in a new way, and if people feel that trying something new or even just being different has a high price, then people won’t step out of their comfort zone and push the boundaries of conventional wisdom. So if we are truly trying to do everything we can to inspire innovation in our region, shouldn’t we also try to do everything we can to make it feel like a place where it is safe to be different and where that difference is potentially even celebrated?

Point #2: Diversity is Important (to a point)

We all look at the same situation through different eyes and a different history of experiences, values and beliefs. This diversity can help create different idea fragments that can be connected together to create revolutionary new ideas with the potential to become innovations. But at the same time, having some shared experiences helps to make it easier to communicate and to have a higher level of trust (assuming those experiences were good ones). So if we are truly trying to do everything we can to inspire innovation in our region, shouldn’t we also do everything we can to make different groups of people look to our region as a good place to move to so we have a diverse talent pool?

Conclusion: If Culture Trumps Strategy, Environment Trumps Startups

The world is changing. It used to be that companies started and grew in the community where they were founded, hiring increasing numbers of people from the surrounding areas and attracting others from elsewhere. Now, an increasing number of companies (especially digital ones) are moving to more distributed models where they create satellite offices where the talent is rather than trying to attract all of the talent to a single location.

Economically this is meaning that it is becoming less important that the next Facebook starts in your town than it is for the next Facebook to want to have an office in your town. This means that for cities, counties, states and countries, the greater economic impact is likely to be made not from trying to encourage lots of startups, but instead from trying to create an environment that young, talented people choose to live in.

And when you create a place that is attractive for smart, creative people to move to, you know what, you’re likely to end up not just with more growing digital companies seeking a presence, but also a larger number of startups than if you started with the goal of specifically trying to encourage startups.

Does your region focus on creating startups as the primary goal or on making itself an attractive place for a young, diverse and talented population to live?

Does this uproar help Indiana establish its as an attractive place to be, or work against that perception?

I’ll let you decide!

P.S. If you’re curious, here are The Metro Areas With the Largest, and Smallest, Gay Populations (for what it’s worth, Indianapolis isn’t on either list)

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