How Pronoun Training Can Build a More Inclusive Culture

Engaging employee resource groups (ERGs) dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community can help HR leaders drive education, awareness, and acceptance.

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Every year in June, people across the globe come together to celebrate Pride Month—a time to honor history, recognize the accomplishments, and share the voices of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ+) community. As members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies celebrate progress toward liberation and equality, many companies stand strong behind their associates in support.

While displays of support are critical in creating a welcoming environment for all employees, corporate Pride Month initiatives should be rooted in action and aimed toward furthering progress. Engaging employee resource groups (ERGs) dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community can help HR leaders drive education, awareness, and acceptance. ERGs can not only communicate the work being done both in and outside company walls but offer resources to help create a culture of inclusion—one where all employees feel empowered and supported to bring their whole, authentic selves to work.

Take Action Through Training

Essential to those resources is gender inclusivity and pronoun training, which is educational programming that seeks to develop employees’ understanding of the components of gender and how to use language as a tool for creating a gender-inclusive world. Employees’ gender identities and expressions may differ from traditionally defined gender norms. Non-binary employees who do not identify as male or female may use pronouns such as “they, them, and theirs” in place of “he, him, and his,” or “she, her, and hers.”

A lack of understanding from colleagues can create an environment in which non-binary employees do not feel comfortable self-expressing. That barrier can be hurtful and contribute to feelings of misunderstanding and miscommunication, which can negatively impact team collaboration and innovation, and even affect relationship-building with customers or business partners.

Just as a name builds self-identity, so do the pronouns a person uses. Ensuring employees understand and respect that importance, and helping them address biased tendencies, can help create a workplace where everyone can thrive.

Train in a Way that Resonates

Whether developing a training program in-house or joining forces with an outside organization, the first critical consideration should be the authenticity of the content. Ensure that you’re bringing in the appropriate subject matter experts to inform the content and delivery. In order to effectively train, the guidance you’re offering must come from a place of awareness and understanding. One organization ADP has collaborated with includes the Ackerman Institute for the Family. Through its Gender & Family Project, it offers gender-inclusivity training, consultation, and educational resources that can help companies deepen employee understanding of gender inclusion.

To determine the mode of training, consider other training programs within your organization and the success they’ve seen in changing behavior. Diving into the data will help you choose a form of communication that will resonate with your unique workforce, whether it’s animated videos, a guest speaker, an interactive workshop, or a combination.

Provide Opportunities for Progress

A core component of any training program is providing opportunities for employees to apply what they’ve learned. Employers should provide opportunities beyond the training for employees to share and recognize one another’s personal pronouns, including customizable e-mail signatures and editable profiles on intranets and employee communication platforms. Team leaders should encourage employees to include their gender pronouns if they feel comfortable doing so, helping to start open dialogues and foster understanding and acceptance. Engaging in leadership is important, as well, and can go a long way in creating a culture that embraces self-expression.

After a year of tremendous challenge and renewed calls for employers to support the well-being of their employees, it’s an important time to reflect on the role training can play in building an inclusive culture.

Lacey Ross-Prouty is the director of Internal Communications, supporting ADP’s Global Shared Services Organization. She is responsible for building and executing the internal communication strategy for nearly 9,000 associates across the seven OneADP Locations. Through L Ross-Prouty’s six years of tenure with ADP, she has worked in the front lines of Small Business Services and later helped build the communications framework and engaging culture of OneADP. In addition to her communications role within ADP, Ross-Prouty also serves as the co-chair of the ADP Pride BRG. Ross-Prouty graduated from Augusta University in Augusta, GA with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. She is also a graduate of ADP’s Emerging Leader Program. Ross-Prouty also has been recognized as a “Woman Making a Difference” by the Augusta iWIN chapter and “Associate of the Year” through the OneADP #hellogr8ness program.