With the support of the business, LGBT employee groups — also known as employee affinity groups, resource groups or business networks — provide visibility to the business goal of LGBT inclusion. LGBT employee groups first emerged in the early 1990s with the former AT&T Corp.'s LEAGUE.
Today, the vast majority of employers rated in the Corporate Equality Index have an employee group or diversity council that includes LGBT issues. At the most basic level, such groups focus on retention of LGBT and allied employees, but they can also support business opportunities with LGBT consumers and other initiatives.
These groups are usually given a budget and access to resources such as an e-mail address, a presence on internal employee-only websites (intranets), meeting space and focused opportunities to communicate the business value of LGBT inclusion with the broader organization. Most employee groups include an executive champion — a senior manager who helps hone and identify the business goals for the employee group and ensures visibility of these issues with other executives. Generally, groups also have a liaison to human resources to ensure that regular workplace concerns can be quickly and effectively addressed.
LGBT employee groups span organizational structures and provide a clear line of communication between employees and management, working to ensure that policies and practices have their intended effect. In addition to giving guidance and input on workplace policies and practices, these groups also help provide a sense of safety and acceptance for LGBT employees within the workplace by maintaining a visible presence and establishing that LGBT employees are respected and have a voice within the organization.
By recognizing the LGBT members of its workforce through an employee resource group, an employer supports a positive environment in which LGBT employees feel comfortable and valued. Employee groups can:
- Develop and implement internal policies and practices
- provide input on non-discrimination policies, benefits (partner benefits and transgender-inclusive benefits), diversity training, leadership development (see: CEI criteria)
- serve as an alternative source for information such as the availability of benefits
- facilitate open communication between employees and management to ensure policies and practices have their intended effect
- Programming and Visibility to foster a sense of safety and acceptance for LGBT employees in the workplace
- provide support and offer services and programming for LGBT employees and applicants
- provide training and educational programming about sexual orientation and gender identity
- promote the contributions of LGBT employees
- develop relationships with other employee groups
- identify LGBT organizations for employee charitable donations/employer matching programs
- Recruitment and Business Strategy
- work directly with LGBT groups at colleges, universities, graduate schools and professional associations
- sponsor external educational, networking and community service events consistent with the organization's mission
- establish relationships with external organizations to provide pro bono services and in-kind donations to extend the brand and enhance internal competence on LGBT issues
- Leadership Development
- provide leadership opportunities to identify talented employees
- establish mentorship programs
Established Employee Resource Groups
Common LGBT Employee Group Names
Eployee group names are, often, acronyms that incorporate LGBT equality and often incorporate the business name. Group names should strive to include all LGBT workers, rather than limiting to lesbian and gay employees.
- EQUAL / Equal
- LGBT Business Network / LGBTN