Benchmarking LGBTQ Diversity & Inclusion Efforts

If you don’t set a baseline standard for what you’ll accept in life, you’ll find it’s easy to slip into behaviors and attitudes or a quality of life that’s far below what you deserve. – Tony Robbins

Believing that your workplace culture is 100% welcoming and inclusive of LGBTQ employees is a sure sign that your business may have a few significant blind spots. These blind spots can manifest in a variety of professional sectors, and even some of the strongest champions of LGBTQ diversity & inclusion can fall victim to assumptions that inhibit further progress. The danger of these blind spots indicates a failure of objectively assessing the current workplace climate, establishing a baseline, and setting aggressive yet attainable benchmarks to move the needle to improving a workplace’s culture.

With just over a quarter of LGBTQ staff feeling comfortable enough with being out in the workplace, it’s in every businesses’ best interest to proactively assess and evaluate LGBTQ diversity & inclusion efforts. Without taking these actions, the majority of LGBTQ employees in the workforce will continue to navigate the stressful art of “covering,” or intentionally not disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace due to job insecurity. When LGBTQ employees don’t feel encouraged to bring their whole selves to work, the business loses out on their productivity, talent, commitment, and professional advancement within the firm.

How do you know when you’re ready to assess your workplace climate? You know you’re ready when you’re clear on what LGBTQ diversity and inclusion mean to you, and you have your leadership team on board with efforts to introduce workplace culture change efforts. Assessing your workplace climate involves taking stock of how your commitment matches up with the current culture. Areas that do not align will indicate where your blind spots exist. This snapshot of your company’s climate will provide a baseline from where you can develop benchmarks to advance future progress. This post outlines how to obtain this snapshot, by providing an overview of the third stage of my consultancy’s TEAMS Transformation Method™, Assessing the Climate. Here are five strategies to take action on this process:

1. Take Stock. With resources like the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI), your business can identify the specific LGBTQ policies, procedures, and systems already in place, as well as those that could be developed to improve the workplace climate. This first step requires an objective audit assessing what your business has achieved to aggressively cultivate a LGBTQ inclusive workplace culture. Tools like the CEI will empower your team to take stock of what already exists to support LGBTQ employees, and assess how that has lead to workplace culture improvements. This exercise will also enable your leadership team to envision what’s possible to further improve the workplace climate for LGBTQ employees.

2. Ask Employees. After you have identified LGBTQ specific policies, procedures, and systems, reach out to your employees and ask them to share their opinions. Depending on the size of your business, this process can be accomplished through a variety of methods. These may include anonymous online surveys, informal 1:1 interviews, randomized focus groups, or targeted meetings with LGBTQ specific employee resource groups. No matter the method you choose, be sure to ask each employee selected about their opinion of how effectively the business has implemented existing policies, procedures, and systems. A simple, yet telling way to gauge effective implementation is to first ask if employees are even aware of all the accomplishments your leadership team has identified under the first step. If employees are unaware of these accomplishments, a good place to start is by engaging your communications team to help amplify existing supports and specific benefits for LGBTQ employees.

3. Establish a Baseline. With both an understanding of what is already in place to support LGBTQ employees, along with employee feedback, your business now has a LGBTQ diversity & inclusion baseline. Things that a baseline could include are a complete listing of LGBTQ specific policies, procedures, benefits, employee support groups, etc. Understanding what already exists, will help the executive team determine how to market progress, and also create a foundation for measuring progress towards attaining future goal. As the Tony Robbins’ quote from above implies, without establishing a baseline, a business can easily rest on its laurels and remain stagnant while its competition continues to lead on global diversity and inclusion accomplishments.

4. Introduce Benchmarks. With an existing baseline, your business can now develop aggressive LGBTQ diversity & inclusion benchmarks, and measure progress towards achieving these goals. Start with benchmarks that can easily be measured, like your employees’ awareness of specific LGBTQ workplace protections and benefits for same-sex couples and transgender healthcare (should such policies already exist). Consider setting aggressive HR goals, such as ensuring that all recruiters understand the specific LGBTQ employee benefits. Success for this goal will be achieved when discerning LGBTQ candidates ask pointed questions to recruiters who are equipped with the skills and confidence to succinctly answer these candidates’ questions. Taking a look at the Corporate Equality Index (CEI) measures will help identify basic benchmarks to build upon.

5. Know When You’re Done. The third step of the TEAMS Transformation Method™ is complete when you are able to walk away from the process with a clear baseline and aggressive benchmarks. With these items in hand, you can begin to do the transformational work to create a more inclusive workplace for LGBTQ employees. You’ll also have a better understanding of important LGBTQ diversity & inclusion achievements, existing blind spots, and employees’ opinions on how well you’re doing. Most importantly, your leadership team will have a better understanding of actionable steps required to cultivate an environment where LGBTQ employees are valued and feel welcomed to contribute their talent, ideas, and experiences.

If you’re interested in learning more about the TEAMS Transformation Method™, please be sure to save the date for Thursday, September 22 at 11 am PT/ 2 pm ET. I’ll be hosting a Q&A webinar focused on engaging LGBTQ employees. During the webinar, participants will have the opportunity to share comments and questions related to this topic. In advance of the webinar, interested participants may share their opinions on the subject, all of which will help inform the webinar discussion. Save your seat today by visiting:


Rhodes Perry

Rhodes Perry is a nationally recognized expert on LGBTQ and social justice public policy matters, with two decades of leadership experience innovating strategy management, policy and program solutions for corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. At his core, Rhodes is an entrepreneur, where he most recently established Rhodes Perry Consulting, LLC, a national diversity and inclusion consulting firm that uses an intersectional approach to collaborate with leaders on creating solutions in the practice areas of strategy management, issue advocacy, and stakeholder engagement. Previously, Rhodes founded the Office of LGBTQ Policy & Practice at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, and prior to this assignment he served as the founding Director of Policy at PFLAG National where he led the policy strategy and advocacy efforts for the organization’s 350 chapters. He cut his teeth serving as a Program Examiner at the White House Office of Management & Budget, where he improved upon federal benefit programs designed to provide assistance to low-income communities. Rhodes earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Gender Studies from the University of Notre Dame, and obtained a Master of Public Administration from New York University.