After implementing a hugely successful initiative to build support for the LGBTQIA+ community in and outside the workplace, QBE Pride has been nominated for this year’s Michael Kirby LGBTIQ Inclusion Award at the AHRI Awards.
Members of the QBE Pride Committee have been nominated for the prestigious Michael Kirby LGBTIQ Inclusion Award, after their efforts to improve employee education around LGBTQIA+ inclusivity became a shining example of how employee-led diversity and inclusion initiatives can lead to meaningful change.
When the QBE Pride Committee was launched in 2015, one of its core objectives was to increase visibility for members of the LGBTQIA+ community among QBE’s workforce of 11,000+ employees. The committee is made up of two full-time dedicated co-chairs and around 14 volunteers from within the business.
“We were looking to profile and spotlight LGBTQIA+ people in the workplace and ensure that our diversity and inclusion was multifactorial, and that it had personal and lived experiences intersected into it,” says Kimberley O’Reilly, co-lead of the QBE Pride committee and Manager, Injury Management at QBE.
The committee has achieved a great deal since its inception, increasing the profile of LGBTQIA+ people and their stories across the organisation and in the wider community. This year saw QBE become an Australian Workplace Equality Index Platinum qualifying employer in LGBTQIA+ inclusion, after four consecutive years of winning Gold status.
As well as increasing visibility and psychological safety, the committee set out to boost employee morale and engagement by letting them know that they did not have to hold back their identity at work.
“There’s a lot of evidence that if people cannot bring their whole selves to work, they’re not as productive, they’re not as engaged and relationships with others at work can be impacted,” says Catherine McNair, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing.
“That was the starting point. But as QBE Pride started to build a profile internally, we started to get approached by various teams throughout the business. These were people who wanted to support their team members, or people that were looking to support the customer experience. This gave us an opportunity to work with customer-facing teams and build their confidence in having respectful conversations.”
“There’s a lot of evidence that if people cannot bring their whole selves to work, they’re not as productive, they’re not as engaged and relationships with others at work can be impacted.” – Catherine McNair
The committee’s exceptional training initiative to respond to these calls for support is what earned its nomination for AHRI’s Michael Kirby LGBTIQ Inclusion Award, which will be announced at the annual ceremony in December this year.
Learn more about this year’s AHRI awards here.
QBE Pride’s strategies to improve education for staff stayed true to the objective that the committee was founded upon: increasing the visibility and inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people in the workplace by encouraging them to tell their stories.
One of the ways that the committee facilitates these stories is by conducting fireside chats.
“We hold these meetings with staff in and outside the committee,” says O’Reilly. “We pick a topic, and we ask people to tell their stories and ask each other questions. We lean into partnerships with other people outside of QBE as well to facilitate the chats, because it’s about linking our people to other forms of support. We don’t have all of the answers, and people need support outside of work as well.”
The conversations facilitated by the committee occur in a non-judgmental space where employees can ask questions and learn from each other. They are also offered guidance on allyship and creating a safer environment for colleagues and customers.
“It’s about making sure we have resources for supporting vulnerable customers and people and processes that support the information that they share – for example, pronouns, salutations or gender identity,” says O’Reilly. “We need to make sure we are receiving that information, thanking them for it and then recording it and supporting their specific needs.”
As a visible way to improve psychological safety in QBE’s culture, the committee introduced lanyards for employees to wear to identify themselves as an LGBTQIA+ ally. The lanyard demonstrates that employees and customers can feel safe approaching this person for support.
QBE Pride also boosts community awareness by celebrating ‘anchor events’ such as Pride Week and Mardi Gras, and using them as opportunities to increase visibility and conversation around ways to support the LGBTQIA+ community.
“Thanks to some of our buildings being revitalised, we now have digital signage, so we’ve been able to light up the QBE signage in rainbow at some of our offices for things like Pride Month, Wear it Purple Day and other events throughout the year,” says O’Reilly.
“We put a lot of effort and investment into the background as well as lighting up that rainbow, but as somebody within the queer community, walking down a street and seeing a rainbow, you think, ‘Yep – that’s a place I want to be.’ We want that for our staff, but we also want that for the communities we support.”
Keeping the conversation going
For HR professionals looking to undertake similar initiatives to educate employees, O’Reilly stresses the importance of making sure the conversation never stops evolving with the times.
“The LGBTQIA+ space is an ever-moving landscape,” says O’Reilly. “When it comes to diversity and inclusion, we must continue to learn and do more. And that poses challenges, because as we learn more, we know that there’s so much more to do.
“It will take time to discover how best to support people as new information comes to light. We work tirelessly to continue to make progress, and we’re really proud of what we have achieved, but we know we will continue to evolve with the support and commitment of [leaders] at QBE.”
“It’s not just a one-off. It’s not just appearing on days of significance. It’s been seven years of hard work, and people being vulnerable and courageous enough to step forward.” – Catherine McNair
The fact that the education given to employees is timely and agile is one of the most celebrated aspects of the initiative.
“The feedback we get consistently from our staff is about how proud they are to work for an inclusive employer, who values visible representation and ongoing education,” says McNair.
For McNair and O’Reilly, QBE Pride’s AHRI award nomination is a celebration not only of their recent training initiatives, but also of the tireless work the committee has done since its inception to create change.
“It’s not just a one-off. It’s not just appearing on days of significance,” says McNair. “It’s been seven years of hard work, and people being vulnerable and courageous enough to step forward.
“It’s important not to underestimate how vulnerable you need to be to share your personal story. It’s always really affirming for the team when they get feedback back from people who were given the courage to step forward. I think that really speaks to the success of this team and why they have driven the change that they have, and no doubt will continue to do.”
Don’t miss the chance to attend this year’s AHRI Award reception, hosted in Melbourne. Reconnect with your HR peers and celebrate all the hard work that has gone into helping organisations to be prepared for new ways of working. Book now.