A global survey of about 8,800 people in 19 countries tells us that the first 12 months at a new job are a critical time for LGBTQ+ employees to present their authentic selves in the workplace. Overall, 70% said they came out either during the hiring process or their first year, with 10% coming out after that and the remaining 20% staying closeted on the job.

Those who do share their identity at work are more comfortable speaking up, being themselves, and building close friendships at work. It makes sense. Previous research from BCG and elsewhere has shown that inclusive cultures—where employees can reveal their authentic selves—are linked to less employee turnover and more productive teams.

The goal has to be to create an environment where employees feeling comfortable being themselves from day one—and the great news is that it can be done. By fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion during recruiting, onboarding, and in the day-to-day environment, companies send a signal that they take inclusivity seriously.

Here are five steps that can help encourage employees to be out at work:

1. Ensure that the right HR policies and supportive infrastructure are in place and are communicated effectively.

2. Focus on building a truly diverse workforce, including making targeted outreach to LGBTQ+ candidates and giving them support throughout the process.

3. Immediately connect LGBTQ+ employees with mentors who can help them navigate their careers and be a resource in managing any concerns or issues.

4. Create a respectful, inclusive culture, with a structured program in place for allies that offers, among other things, sensitization training on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

5. Include regular and frequent expressions of support for, celebrations of, and events that recognize the Pride movement, and support broader LGBTQ+ rights and inclusion as a regular component of the company’s calendar.

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