How can organisations embody the spirit of Pride and become more human centric?

By Stephanie Rix; HLB Chief People Officer


Pride celebrations typically take place throughout June, with much focus on the LGBTQ+ community during that time with the objective of raising awareness, education and creating a sense of belonging. Businesses may be heavily involved in the celebration, but leaders would do well to consider how their company approaches the issue of inclusion and diversity on a sustained basis to avoid the efforts being perceived as tokenistic or virtue signalling.

There's a moral imperative to adopt a human-centric approach, it's the right thing to do and there's also a strong commercial case.

Leaders are making a shift from the traditional mantra of treating people how you’d want to be treated, to treating people how they’d want to be treated instead, as individuals.

What is human-centric leadership?

Historically, organisations focused on creating shareholder value but leading organisations now focus on creating value across their stakeholders, which extends beyond shareholders to include customers/clients, employees, and the communities they serve.

After all, there's a risk that taking a shareholder-only view in that your company may fail to engage and potentially de-humanise your (broader) stakeholders. Human-centred leadership shifts beyond focusing solely on financial metrics to prioritising the needs of the individuals within your organisation.

Still, it's important to pay close attention to authenticity and representation in any outgoing LGBTQ+ promotional campaigns, as reported by GLAAD. Otherwise, inauthenticity could lead to a larger consumer backlash than not featuring LGBTQ+ people or storylines at all. As mentioned, there is a risk of a campaign being seen as virtue signalling if it is not underpinned by creating a sense of trust and belonging for your LGBTQ+ employees.

How can a more representative approach help companies thrive?

The research into taking a human-centred approach is compelling.

For example, McKinsey identified companies that rank in the top quartile when measuring gender diversity in executive teams (in 2019). They found that these businesses could be 25% more likely to have better than average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile. Further, this percentage has risen steadily from 15% in 2014 and 21% in 2017. When it comes to ethnic and cultural diversity, the figures are even more interesting. Here, top-quartile companies were more profitable than those in the fourth by a margin of 36%.

Harvard Business Review partnered with the Technical University of Munich for a multi-country survey of 1700 companies . They found that there was a statistically significant relationship between diversity and innovation. Companies with above-average total diversity scored 19 percentage points higher in innovation revenues and nine percentage points higher in their EBIT margins, on average.

What’s the business case for human centricity?

Let’s take a closer look at the reasons human centric approaches can benefit your business.

Better connections among staff lead to a better connection with customers

As LGBTQ+ rights and diversity take centre stage and your company introduces human-centric leadership and HR policies, your team becomes more connected. And these improvements can flow through to a better connection with customers.

When a company treats its customers as individuals and shows an understanding of the unique challenges or desires, trust and credibility will follow. These clients will feel understood and valued and are much more likely to engage with the brand. They could grow to become loyal advocates rather than just passive users.

Further, you can differentiate your company from your competitors as these strategies create positive and memorable interactions with the client. Customers who feel both understood and valued could provide positive word-of-mouth recommendations to others within their circle.

Employee performance and retention

When designing human-centric models try to get input from employees and make sure that the models are as flexible as possible. This should lead to better employee performance, less burnout and greater retention levels. According to one study by Gartner, employees are 3.8 times more likely to be high performers when human-centric work practices are in place. They’re also 3.2 times more likely to remain in position and 3.1 times more likely to have lower fatigue than otherwise.

Also, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation found that 53% of LGBTQ+ employees are more likely to stay at a company that has an inclusive culture. And LGBTQ+ pressure groups within the business can be beneficial in other ways. Cambridge University conducted a study that found that internal LGBTQ+ groups often persuaded management to take a more public stance in support of LGBTQ+ rights.

Better problem solving

Diverse teams are also smarter, validated by several studies. One, published by Economic Geography, found that cultural diversity spurs innovation. In a London Annual Business Survey, results reveal that where companies have culturally diverse leadership teams, they are far more likely to develop new products than those with alternative leadership.

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that groups with diverse members tended to raise more facts when presented with a problem and made far fewer factual errors during their assessment.

How to cultivate human-centric workspaces

Gartner says that between 15 and 20% of surveyed organisations already have three key elements as part of a full human-centric work model. These are flexible work experiences, empathy-based management, and intentional collaboration.

  • Flexible work arrangements allow employees to choose their work locations and hours to improve work/life balance.  A survey by FlexJobs reveals that 80% of people would be more loyal to their operation if they had flexible work options

  • Employee well-being programs could include mental health support, healthy eating options or fitness activities. 89% of employees of companies that implement these measures are more likely to recommend the business as a good place to work, according to the American Psychology Association.

  • Ask your LGBTQ+ employees about their experiences in the workplace, as per this example from JP Morgan, so you can further enhance equality.

  • Celebrate cultural events and diversity by observing key dates and holidays, especially during the Pride month of June. Recognition programs and celebrations can build a sense of community and belonging among staff. For example, think about having an official presence in one or more Pride parades in the cities where you have offices, and invite employees and their families to join in.

How HLB can help

There are many reasons to create a human-centric business approach. Your company can enhance employee engagement and retention, encourage innovation and boost customer satisfaction. As the references above show, all these benefits can foster a positive organisational culture and drive long-term success.

While Pride month is only once per year, see how your organisation can keep the human-centric initiative going and turn to HLB for advice. Our organisation works with companies to develop the best policies as they grow and we will be delighted to help your organisation become people-centric.

We’re always looking to take on good people and are proud of our own human-centric approach to business. Get in touch if you’d like further information about a career at HLB.