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How to build awareness around LGBT at the workplace

Blogikirjoitus   •   Loka 10, 2016 09:18 EEST

Two years ago I stepped into the role as the Human Capital and Diversity Lead for Accenture Finland. My work comprises of developing and running leadership, talent and culture development programs, initiatives and trainings in close cooperation with our leadership. The role has challenged my thinking and made me re-evaluate not just the company practices, policies and culture from Inclusion point of view, but also on a very personal level the way that I behave and speak.

Why should Finnish companies take LGBT-issues into account in the workplace?

To me, the real wake-up call was an LGBT awareness training that I attended in Stockholm two years ago. It opened up my eyes and I began to understand the realities for people who identify as LGBT and why LGBT inclusion is a workplace issue.

First of all, behind the letters “LGBT”, are real people – our family, friends, colleagues, clients and suppliers – with whom we work with every day. This is not a question about how big of a minority group we are talking about or if sexual orientation or gender identity is a private matter. This is about creating a company culture that allows for people to make the choice whether they want to reveal their sexual orientation and that allow for each employee be their authentic selves at work. If we can be ourselves and use our full potential, we feel more engaged and when we feel engaged, we perform better. Very simple logic, right?

In my work I often also think about the power of words and how much damage we can do, unintentionally, with our choice of language. Ranging from the slip of a wrong word to inappropriate jokes all the way to strange silence or significant lift of an eyebrow. From the minority’s perspective this is also a game of what to leave out from the story of what did you do over the weekend and how to use pronouns that might reveal something. Majority of our employees are working with numerous clients meaning that if they are L/G/B/T and choose to be open about it, they are not just coming out just once, but multiple times. And if they choose not to be out, they may feel less part of the company, isolated and not credible when having to withhold a big part of their lives. In any cases, it takes a lot of emotional energy.

Another point of view to LGBT being a workplace matter is recruiting. We are in a constant battle over the best and brightest talent. By ensuring an inclusive culture that appreciates diversity in all of its forms, we are also making sure that we are not excluding any talent pool in our recruiting.

What is the key to an inclusive company culture?

In our experience on putting the Inclusion and Diversity agenda on the center of the business strategy there are few key success factors:

  1. Gaining the strong support from the senior leadership and in a global company, being sensitive to the country’s maturity on each of the diversity areas
  2. Raising awareness through training, workshops and discussing. The increasing knowledge and understanding will start the change on an individual level with opening eyes to norms, culture, behaviors and unconscious biases.
  3. Ensuring visible role models that are not silent, that encourage others around them to be more inclusive and share their knowledge and experiences. Having informed and vocal LGBT Allies is key in overcoming challenges.
  4. Working with Inclusion and Diversity on three levels: starting from the bottom withthe leadership behaviours and culture, to the middle layer of ensuring the inclusiveness in the core processes all the way to the surface level working with I&D communities and events.

I want to challenge you, what is your pledge in making the Finnish working culture more inclusive place for us all to work and give the choice for everyone to bring their authentic self to work?

Check out a video from Accenture’s LGBT work It gets better or read more experiences from the Huffington Post article

ANNI HALLILA
Human Capital & Diversity Lead, Accenture Nordic and Finland
anni.hallila@accenture.com

Frank Korsström, Accenture Country Managing Director Finland, Nordic Managing Director, oli yksi 5.10.2016 järjestetyn Työpaikkojen vaietut puheenaiheet –seminaarin puhujavieraista. Blogi on osa saman nimistä juttusarjaa. Lue myös:

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