Giving Minority a Voice: LGBTI and Non-LGBTI Employees

Surveys are a great way to efficiently and confidentially give staff in organisations a voice. They are a way of capturing and presenting the majority view – often touted as a key advantage in countering the ‘squeaky wheel’ by uncovering the view of the ‘silent’ majority. Research by Voice Project shows that when it comes to drivers of engagement, there can be more similarities across various types of employees than differences. However, the flip side of using organisational surveys in this way is that the voice of minority groups within organisations can get lost in the voice of others. For these employees, it may mean feeling they are not being listened to, causing them to become even less satisfied at work.

What can this look like within an organisation?

We surveyed 1,405 employees of a large public sector organisation, and asked employees whether they identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex (LGBTI). 96% of the employees identified as non-LGBTI and 4% as LGBTI, roughly reflecting the prevalence of LGBTI people in the population.

LGBTI employees’ experience at work was found in many ways to be similar to non-LGBTI employees. For example, LGBTI employees had the same level of job satisfaction as non-LGBTI employees. However, there were some distinct differences between LGBTI and non-LGBTI employees:

  • LGBTI employees reported slightly lower levels of wellbeing at work compared with non-LGBTI employees.
  • The perception that harassment and discrimination at work is prevented and discouraged was four times more important for explaining the job satisfaction of LGBTI employees compared with non-LGBTI employees.
  • The perception that the organisation was environmentally and socially responsible was four times more important for explaining the job satisfaction of LGBTI employees compared with non-LGBTI employees.

The results highlight that this specific group of employees may have unique experiences at work, and an effective intervention should be targeted to address some of these issues. For example, designing work practices or implementing services aimed to increase wellbeing, reduce harassment and discrimination, and increase the environmentally sustainability and social impact of the organisation.

In practice, how do you respond to everyone’s voice?

Resources and time are limited, so a real challenge for organisational development professionals is to decide how they can respond to issues affecting a large number of employees without ignoring individual differences. We recommend:

  • As well as key initiatives that will benefit the whole organisation, look at differences in survey results between discrete groups within organisations (e.g., work area; gender) and target interventions appropriately for specific groups where necessary.
  • Where resources and time are particularly limited, prioritise differences in higher-risk organisational practices and outcomes (e.g., wellbeing; bullying and harassment) before lower-risk areas.

Next Steps

For more information, see our available resources on action planning survey results, or ask about Voice Project’s Risk Analysis.

This research was presented at the 11th Industrial and Organisational Psychology conference in Melbourne. Download the PowerPoint slides below.

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