· Features

"I'm no stranger to intolerance": LGBT inclusion, view from the top

LGBT senior leaders can use their positions to positively affect the lives of many young people

Whether it’s an employee’s age, gender, socio-economic background or sexuality, companies are waking up to the vast opportunities and benefits of harbouring a positive, diverse workforce. A culture of inclusion and freedom has been proven to improve creativity, morale, and employee wellbeing, not to mention attract and retain the most talented individuals.

I took an early decision to be out in the workplace and am no stranger to experiencing intolerance from previous colleagues. I remember my first job post-university, working in the manufacturing industry and hearing “backs to the walls lads” being shouted as I walked onto the factory floor. It was hard to deal with this at the time, especially as I was young and very naïve. But they soon exhausted their jibes and eventually accepted me for who I am: a fellow colleague.

Now I’m proud to say I’m an advocate for diversity across not only Hoseasons but also the travel industry. I was a little sceptical at first about how much good I could do. But I’m able to use my position to positively affect the lives of many young people who believe their sexual orientation will hold them back in the pursuit of their dream jobs.

The prospect of nurturing workplace inclusivity is a positive one, but it isn’t always clear what steps a company should take. At Hoseasons we have a balance of internal communication and employee training, and a wealth of external organisations and events.

We’ve worked with recruitment agencies to ensure they deliver a diverse candidate mix, established employee network groups, supported local events such as Norwich Pride, and provided a wide range of training – most recently mental health awareness sessions. We regularly canvas feedback from our teams to ensure we are listening to their needs.

Our employees are exceptionally proud of the huge strides we've taken marketing across the diversity spectrum. They are not only trained on LGBT subjects but live them on a daily basis via our marketing, including through our emails, vlogs, brochures, direct mail, and of course the many LGBT couples, families, and groups of friends we take on holiday every year. We also have diversity champions

We also work with LGBT charity Stonewall and have signed an exclusive partnership with Gay Star News (sponsoring their ‘family’ section), ensuring our LGBT-friendly image is promoted with a strong digital presence.

Even when trying to instigate positive change companies can still make mistakes. The most common error is perceiving diversity hires as a ‘box-ticking’ exercise. Companies must embrace the culture of diversity they’re trying to establish, which means seeing commitment across every department, from the boardroom to new hires.

Employees can spend so much time and energy hiding who they are and watching what they say that there is little ‘space’ left to focus on their day-to-day roles. But businesses that fully embrace diversity and inclusion are more innovative. This doesn’t just benefit recruitment, but also retains the best and most valued employees too.

Simon Altham is MD at Hoseasons