Intel Finds Business Advantage in Supporting Transgender Workers

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By Genevieve Douglas

Strong support for transgender employees at Intel Corp. is paying off in a number of ways.

A motivation behind these policies is “attracting and retaining the best talent” by making Intel a more diverse and welcoming workplace, Keith Epstein, HR legal representative for Intel, said at the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference in New Orleans June 20. Most importantly, “we’ve had nothing but support from executive leadership” in developing policies and processes for transgender employees, making it a successful endeavor, Epstein said.

Policies and programs, like those at Intel, that support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees are important because they communicate diversity and inclusion values to prospective employees from all different backgrounds, Terri Hartwell Easter, principal of T.H. Easter Consulting and a former practicing attorney, told Bloomberg BNA June 23. When companies are recognized for their support of LGBT employees, it can often communicate to minority and diverse job candidates that the company is probably a good and safe place to work, she said.

Alternately, organizations that don’t support employees from diverse backgrounds create “a real deterrent” for anyone who values diversity to work at that company, she said. “You should not go to work for organizations that don’t celebrate who you are, because you probably won’t be successful there,” Easter said.

In the past year, Intel has pursued plans to create gender-neutral, “multi-stall” restrooms in each building at each of its work sites in the U.S., Epstein said. The company has also expanded its health benefits for transgender employees to cover procedures that are deemed “cosmetic” but are recommended by health-care professionals, such as laser hair removal, voice therapy, Adam’s apple shaving, and breast augmentation, he said.

The Business Case for Diversity

Research has demonstrated that fully diverse and inclusive organizational cultures result in more effective, and many times more profitable, enterprises, Bettina Deynes, vice president of HR and diversity at SHRM, told Bloomberg BNA June 23. The “ultimate goal” should be to establish and nurture an organizational culture that consistently offers equality and mutual respect for all employees, she said.

The key to developing and nurturing a fully diverse and inclusive work environment is “a thorough understanding and appreciation on the part of all employees for the rich differences and strengths of all of the cultural and lifestyle choices of all employees, including LGBTQ employees equally,” Deynes said. This can be effectively achieved through training and development programs designed to communicate these fundamental values, she added.

Unfortunately, according to Deynes, the current state of diversity training and development can leave LGBT employees out, she said.

“Professional job seekers that are potentially long-term, high performers will gravitate toward organizations that are not only strong culturally, but also that have demonstrated the business success resulting from this strong culture,” Deynes said.

A Step-by-Step Plan for Success

At the outset of developing policies for transgender employees who wanted to transition in the workplace, the Intel HR department “had a learning curve,” Eva Breslin, an HR legal representative for Intel, told conference attendees. “It wasn’t a perfect process,” and the HR team knew it needed to be better informed on what other companies were doing and learn as much as possible to understand legal requirements and best practices to create positive outcomes, she said.

But with research and the opportunity to work with employees who were transitioning, Intel developed best practices for transitioning transgender employees. “Now I have tools that I can use, and we have something we can give to managers and HR workers,” she said.

The main principle around this process is “partnership,” Breslin said. First and foremost, it is important for HR to understand what an employee’s needs are, Breslin said, and also that HR is appropriately managing the work environment and doesn’t disrupt business. “This is a unique and individual process,” she said.

Breslin outlined the process:

  •  An employee communicates with or is referred to an HR representative to seek assistance and guidance on transitioning genders. HR provides resource materials to the employee, and they meet to discuss the employee’s plan.
  •  A comprehensive plan is created that includes timelines for the transition and a communication plan for the employee’s manager, immediate work group, any customers (both internal and external), and the rest of the worker’s management chain. There also needs to be a plan for the name and gender change for the worker’s email, ID badge, benefits update, and archived documentation.
  •  HR and the employee determine an implementation timeline based on the employee’s preferences. The employee may choose to take time off and may prefer to tell co-workers about the transition or have a manager communicate the changes, she said.
  •  Once a transition has occurred, or been communicated, it’s important for HR to check in with the employee to ensure that expectations were met and whether there are any issues or concerns.
“This has really worked, and it’s been pretty successful,” Breslin said. While there are still challenges, transitioning employees feel supported and comfortable, she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at gdouglas@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at tharris@bna.com

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