Last week, the United States Supreme Court made history when it voted to include members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer communities under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the 7 to 4 vote, justices protected employees from discrimination in the workplace based on their LGBT identity.
It is serendipitous that this ruling happened in June, when Americans celebrate Pride month. Pride month is an important annual reminder of a year-round recognition – that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals deserve to be openly visible members of society, treated with the same respect as heterosexuals and dignified as humans regardless of their identity.
When it comes to celebrating diversity in the workplace, successful companies are starting to go beyond decorating the cafeteria with rainbow colors or giving all employees a Pride t-shirt to wear in support. At Notion, we’ve witnessed the start of an exciting and game-changing evolution in workplace culture. Companies are beginning to commit to celebrating every employee as they bring their “whole self’ to work. Building a whole-self work culture is not only the right thing to do, it is a business imperative in today’s world.
What does a whole-self work culture mean?
Whole-self work culture promotes a professional environment that acknowledges, celebrates, respects, and honors everything that an individual brings to the workplace. This attitude is meant to ensure that people feel included, empowered, and equipped to succeed and grow without the fear of exclusion, disadvantage, bias, or discrimination.
What does this look like?
Beyond setting clear policies that address diversity, equity and inclusion, there are many ways companies and leaders can embrace a whole-self work culture. Here are just a few examples of what a whole-self work culture looks like in action:
- The company has defined values and ethics, and leaders model them consistently on a daily basis.
- The company supports external groups and events that promote equity and raise awareness.
- The company offers year-round training for their employees and managers around issues of implicit bias, communication and self-awareness.
- Leaders take an interest in their people, and have ongoing mechanisms for two-way communication and feedback.
- Leaders encourage employees to talk about what is important to them outside the workplace, and celebrate personal milestones.
- Employees can get support from company networks and affinity groups.
All of this is important, not only if you believe in humanity, equality, and social justice, but there’s also a significant business imperative. There are many studies showing the business benefits of diverse teams. This study, by BCG Henderson, notes that diversity increases the capacity for innovation, builds resilience, and predicts future growth. It concludes that “Increasing diversity is a moral imperative, but it is also becoming a powerful business requirement.”
For companies to be successful, they need their best talent to feel acknowledged, valued, and empowered to thrive, not despite who they are but because of who they are. If your outward messaging and internal policies and practices limit employees from being their ‘whole self’, you are also, of course, risking a disengaged workforce and poor retention. On the flip side, when LGBT professionals feel freedom and support from their employers, they offer an invaluable contribution to company culture via their talents and perspectives.
Here’s the bottom line: when you treat your employees as humans first and foremost, and embrace people as individuals – each with their own unique interests, needs and perspectives, your company will be stronger for it.
In the race to meet deadlines and surpass goals, it’s easy to forget that staff is made up of people, and they should be treated as equals, regardless of their background, sex, sexual orientation, race, or any other factor. Movements like Pride and ground-breaking laws help to propel the conversation, but as business leaders, we need to do more. As the events of the past month have shown us, it is our job to keep diversity, equity and inclusion at the forefront of our business and people decisions. After all, there is still a long way to go.