June is Pride Month, a time to remember the 1969 Stonewall Riots, celebrate LGBTQIA+ culture, and highlight the need for LGBTQIA+ rights. While we’ve made some progress in the past 53 years, it’s clear that there’s still much work to be done.
For example, 78% LGBTQIA+ survey respondents said their company represents itself as celebrating diversity and being inclusive around issues affecting LGBTQ+ employees. But 74% of those respondents said their company is more concerned with the appearance of being inclusive than it is with taking action and making impactful changes. Only 26% of those respondents said their company truly prioritizes diversity, equity, and inclusion with focused initiatives and progress tracking.
This Pride month, make a commitment to overhaul your People programs to make real progress toward diversity, equity, and inclusion. While many organizations focus on things like recruiting and compensation, it’s important to consider other areas—like employee onboarding—as well.
Here are some things you can do to build a more inclusive employee onboarding experience for LGBTQIA+ employees and other marginalized groups.
1. Ask preferred names and pronouns
While you may need an employee’s legal name for tax purposes, some may prefer to be called by another name for various reasons. Some may not identify with the name given to them at birth, and others may simply prefer to use a nickname. Ask new hires their preferred name, and use it when you introduce them to others and provision accounts.
You can also create a more welcoming space for people of all genders by providing the opportunity for each new hire to share and use their pronouns. This allows each person to self-identify so their pronouns and identity aren’t assumed by others. As it stands, only 56% say their company actively encourages employees to share their pronouns in places like company media, email signatures, or social media profiles. Alternatively, 37% say pronouns are not discussed, and 7% say their company culture discourages them from doing so.
2. Introduce new hires to your team
Consider sending a new hire questionnaire to get to know your new team members a bit better. Ask about things like where they grew up, where they like to vacation, if they speak any other languages, and what they do for fun. Send some fun tidbits in a welcome email that goes out to the team, so current team members can connect with new hires over similarities.
Provide new hires with an org chart and people directory so they learn more about their new colleagues and where they fit into the organization. This can help your new team members feel more connected to their colleagues from the start.
3. Learn dietary preferences
Employees may have dietary restrictions due to religious or ethical beliefs, or for health or personal reasons. This may include food and beverage choices. Ask new hires to share their dietary preferences before their first day of work so you can plan accordingly. This may include:
- Office beverages: Coffee is a staple in many offices, but not everyone drinks caffeine. You may also want to offer decaffeinated coffee, tea, or a wider variety of beverages. Be thoughtful about mix-ins as well, as some employees may only drink non-dairy or no-sugar-added coffee creamer.
- First-day lunch: It’s common to take new office-based employees out for lunch on their first day. Understanding dietary preferences can ensure that everyone invited can have a nice meal. For instance, a BBQ place isn’t an ideal choice for a vegetarian. If you send a gift card for remote team members to enjoy lunch on their first day, consider sending from UberEats or GrubHub rather than a specific restaurant so your team members can choose something they like.
- Team outings: Remote and office-based employees may gather for team outings, and being aware of food sensitivities and preferences can help you plan an event that’s more inclusive for everyone.
Small touches, like ensuring that coffee, meals, and snacks are respectful of employees’ dietary preferences, can promote inclusion and make all employees feel more welcome.
4. Accommodate workspace set-up preferences
Encourage employees to set up their workspaces in a way that allows them to be the most productive. This may include preferences for computers, desks, chairs, and software. For instance, lumbar and coccyx support for pregnant women, and height adjustable desks and accessible plug sockets for people who use wheelchairs.
This should extend to remote team members as well. Asking about their preferences ahead of time or providing them with a home office stipend can allow them to set up an office where they can be productive and comfortable.
5. Offer inclusive employee benefits
Employee benefits are often reviewed and selected during the employee onboarding process. Build an inclusive benefits package and communicate it to your team members so they know what’s available and how they can utilize it. This may include:
- Generous paid time off policies. A diverse team will have different needs for paid time off (PTO). Build a more inclusive PTO policy by offering unlimited time off or building individual policies around things like medical leave for transitional procedures, parental leave, and adoption leave. You may also offer floating holidays so people from various religions, nationalities, and races can take time off to celebrate the holidays that matter most to them.
- Flexible work: Disabled professionals, working parents, and many other employees can benefit from flexible work options like remote work, flex hours, four day workweeks, and part-time work. If you offer these benefits, take the time to review related policies during the employee onboarding process.
- Inclusive health insurance: Choose an inclusive health insurance plan that covers things like transgender care, mental health services, and hearing devices. If you offer these benefits to team members’ families, you should also offer a benefit extension to domestic partners and same-sex couples. Help employees understand how to access all of the healthcare benefits available to them.
6. Include a DEI onboarding session
Discussing DEI throughout your recruitment and onboarding processes demonstrates that it’s a priority for your organization. Build a DEI session into your employee onboarding plan to share the highlights. Use this session to review:
- Your DEI policy, including your code of conduct and the consequences for disrespectful behavior.
- Your DEI goals and the progress you’ve made toward them.
- An introduction to your employee resource groups (ERGs), including how to get involved.
7. Build an employee development plan
Take the time during the employee onboarding process to set employee goals, discuss potential career paths, and set a development plan. Employees and managers should have a mutual understanding of what success looks like, and what it takes to move to the next level. This ensures more objective feedback and promotions, which is particularly important for marginalized groups who are underrepresented in leadership roles.
8. Check in often
It’s a best practice to check in with new hires on days 1, 7, 30, 60, and 90. Have an open and honest conversation about how things are going, and make it a point to specifically ask if each new team member feels included. Dig into why or why not. It’s useful to understand what’s working so you can double down, and what’s not working so you know where you can improve.
You may also consider an employee onboarding survey to gather anonymous feedback. Some prompts you may want to include are:
- I feel like I belong
- I can be my authentic self at work
- My company values diversity
- Perspectives like mine are included in decision-making
- My company believes that people can greatly improve their talents and abilities
9. Plan for the remote employee onboarding experience
If you have a remote or hybrid workforce, it can be tempting to apply the same employee onboarding process you have for office workers. This would be a mistake. Remote employees can’t walk down the hall and ask you a question about benefits. They won’t meet colleagues by running into them in the kitchen. And they won’t be able to join your ERGs live.
Think through the ways you can improve your remote employee onboarding experience so it’s on par with that of your office employees. For instance, document all of the information you have about employee benefits, so remote employees can access it asynchronously. Utilize Slack apps like Donut to facilitate virtual meetups. And create an ERG just for remote employees.
Final thoughts on crafting an inclusive employee onboarding experience
A great employee onboarding experience should be constantly evolving, based on feedback from your team. For instance, you may learn that you’re cramming too much into the first day, or that your first day experience isn’t as exciting as you’d like. In that case, you can get the paperwork completed during the employee preboarding period and spread other events out over the first week. Take care to build a streamlined and repeatable process that can be applied as you scale, so your employee onboarding experience is consistently amazing for everyone on your team.