(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)
Having LGBT-friendly policies in your company is not only the right thing to do. It’s also good for business. That’s the conclusion from a report issued this week by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
The report, called Business Success and Growth Through LGBT-Inclusive Culture, found that LGBT-inclusive companies attract better talent and decrease employee turnover. It also found that those publicly held companies with LGBT-friendly policies have seen their stock prices increase by an average 6.5% compared with their industry peers. Data cited in the report shows that more than 4% of the US population – or about 10 million adults – identified as LGBT in 2016.
“We have long understood that inclusive policies can improve a company’s bottom line, but it has been difficult to measure how they impact corporate culture and overall employee satisfaction,” Carolyn Cawley, president, US Chamber of Commerce Foundation said in a press release. “Through in-depth surveys, interviews, and focus groups with 70 of the leading businesses from across the country, we can now see how critical indicators of success, like employee retention and recruitment, are positively impacted by an inclusive corporate culture that extends into the broader community as well.”
So what are companies doing to make themselves more LGBT-friendly?
Most of those that participated in the study – which included large corporations such as IBM, AT&T and Booz Allen Hamilton – said they have formal non-discrimination policies in place, train employees on LGBT awareness, and offer expanded family leave to include LGBT-employees’ family members. These companies also provide same-sex health and retirement benefits coverage and even reimbursement for fertility treatment. Many companies in the study said they financially contribute and cultivate partnerships with community and external organizations and even require their contractors to comply with their LGBT non-discrimination policies.
“The desire to implement programs that ensure all of our employees feel safe and secure in the workplace is simply the right thing to do,” said Hugh Welsh, general counsel, secretary and president DSM North America, a participant in the research.
But even as many companies are expanding their LGBT-friendly policies, there’s still a long way to go. Many employees at businesses around the country still feel uncomfortable disclosing their sexual orientation, particularly at work. The reasons, according to experts, are that no federal laws are in place to protect them against discrimination and local regulations vary by state. According to the report, approximately 40% of LGBT employees said they have been bullied at work because of their sexual orientation and another 41% have left their jobs for related reasons.
This lesson should not be ignored by small businesses. Although, according to the Chamber, 91% of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their discrimination policies, this is not a “big business” thing. It’s a competitive advantage. Seventy-two percent of full-time employees said they would leave an organization for one they thought was more inclusive. Is yours?
The takeaway for small employers is clear: having LGBT-friendly policies will help attract and retain talented employees. In fact, this type of inclusive company culture may be the difference between an employee choosing to work for you over a competitor. In these days of low unemployment and a scarcity of talent, every little bit helps. And besides, it’s just the right thing to do.