Jobs and the Future of Work

Pride Month: Nearly a third of LGBTQI+ workers have quit a job over feeling uncomfortable – here’s how to build more inclusive workplaces

Colleagues standing in a small group discussing something while working at an office; building more inclusive workplaces

Pride Month is a great time to reflect on how to build more inclusive workplaces but allyship should be a year-round endeavour for businesses. Image: Getty Images/SolStock

Sander van't Noordende
CEO, Randstad
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  • Businesses that don't have an inclusive working environment risk losing talent, which means inclusivity is a business imperative.
  • Research shows people want to feel supported by their colleagues, peers and bosses. Simple recognition or taking time to initiate a conversation can make a big difference to people’s working lives.
  • There are some solid steps that organizations can take to build more inclusive workplaces.

Would you risk turning your back on a third of your organization's employees by alienating them? In a time of talent scarcity, almost all employers would likely say no.

However, we consistently find through our research into talent across the globe that there’s a sizable proportion of the workforce – hovering around a third – who say that misalignment with their employer on key issues affects their performance, or even causes them to leave or turn down roles.

In our latest Workmonitor Pulse survey of more than 2,000 employees within the LGBTQI+ community in seven countries, we found that almost one in three (28%) believe workplace discrimination has worsened over the past five years. In addition, 41% say they have faced discrimination ranging from being left out of meetings to not getting promotion. A further 29% say they have quit a job because they felt uncomfortable.

Nearly a third of people voting with their feet is significant. Employers must recognize these findings and take action to build more inclusive workplaces. In particular, at a time when businesses are increasingly competing for talent, taking steps towards greater inclusivity is not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do.

The new rule of thirds

Time and again, key results from our research into LGBTQI+ workplace experiences highlight how discrimination is having a real impact on the lives of around a third of people.

More than a third (36%) of those we've surveyed report being less motivated or productive as they cannot be themselves at work, while the same proportion (36%) choose to work remotely because the office doesn’t feel like an inclusive space.

Exactly a third (33%) say their employer does not engage with Pride Month initiatives, while more than a third (39%) of those with employers that do engage describe these efforts as tokenistic.

This chimes with results around equity and understanding from our Workmonitor Report published earlier this year. It shows that over a third (37%) of the 27,000 employees we surveyed across more than 30 markets wouldn’t accept a job if they did not agree with the views of the organization’s leadership, while the same percentage wants to be aligned with a future employer on social and environmental issues.

Infographic showing an average of 29% of LGBTQI+ people around the world (and separate country averages) have quit a job over feeling uncomfortable.
More inclusive workplaces can help ensure great talent remains happy and fulfilled. Image: Workmonitor Pulse Survey, Q2 2024, Randstad

Why organizations should take note

Talent is becoming increasingly scarce. Populations are aging. To use a football analogy: to get results, we need everybody on the pitch on their best day. A coach wouldn’t want a third of their squad not feeling their best – and neither should employers.

Our research shows most people want to feel a sense of belonging and shared purpose at work. They want the chance to develop and to have the support of leadership. Without this, a third are more than willing to quit, potentially even before they have another job.

The era of one-size-fits-all work is behind us. It's now essential to tailor career opportunities to meet the unique needs of each employee. This means fostering an inclusive environment – which we found 58% of employees within the LGBTQI+ community believe is the responsibility of their employer.

We held a LinkedIn Live webinar on turning the tide on LGBTQI+ discrimination with Erin Uritus, CEO of non-profit Out & Equal and Allyn Shaw, EVP, COO of Consumer Technology at Wells Fargo, and Board Chair of Out & Equal. Both said representation and allyship are fundamental. Being an authentic ally means that words and actions are in sync, so employers need to walk the talk, and they must be held accountable.

Infographic showing the global average number of people (32%) that have not applied for a job for fear of discrimination (also various country averages).
More inclusive workplaces could help LGBTQI+ people feel more comfortable about applying for jobs. Image: Workmonitor Pulse Survey, Q2 2024, Randstad

How to build more inclusive workplaces

Our latest survey found that more than 57% of people think their company needs to introduce inclusive policies, and the same proportion believes their employer should take a stance on LGBTQI+ issues internally, while 50% think organizations should take a public stance.

Employers can and should respond to this clear expectation in the following ways:

  • Beyond creating inclusive policies, organizations need to work on authentic allyship year-round – and it has to come from the top because leadership sets the tone for everyone.
  • Empower employee-driven resource groups with leadership involvement and provide visible support such as ensuring LGBTQI+ employees are represented on the company website and other materials.
  • Instil a culture of respect and empathy by educating staff about LGBTQI+ issues and how to be effective allies. Recognize and reward allyship year-round.
Have you read?

Back in 1987, when I joined a workplace for the first time, all I got was a little brochure about the company – and, of course, there was no website. It was mentioned that someone on the sixth floor might also be gay. Workplaces have come such a long way since then. We now have substantial Pride events around the world and two-thirds of LGBTQI+ people at work are out.

The actions people are taking in the face of adversity are really impressive – this resilience makes me proud and gives me hope. For the benefit of everyone, we now need to accelerate this progress.

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