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Embracing authenticity in the workplace

Engagement | Wellness

Posted on: Wednesday June 29, 2022

by Julie Stayte, Chief People Officer

One of the lesser discussed but ultimately positive results of the pandemic, and the ensuing period of working from home, is the increase in authenticity in the workplace. Cultivating a culture of inclusivity and authenticity can be difficult to establish, but it’s important that employers try for the sake of staff mental and emotional health. 

Personal Group’s Chief Wellbeing Ambassador Hon. Col. Dame Kelly Holmes MBE (mil) recently came out as gay. In her feature in the Sunday Mirror, she shared how after 34 years of keeping this secret, she finally felt ready to let the world know. Reflecting on her time serving in the military she said:  

‘’I feared I’d be outed, judged or jailed... but now I am finally free.” 

Creating a supportive environment where staff can bring their true self to work is a key pillar of any Wellbeing Strategy. 

So, what exactly is authenticity at work? 

‘’Authenticity at work is when employees feel safe, secure, and comfortable showing up as their whole selves. To fully show up authentically, employees need a deep sense of belonging and psychological safety.’’ [1]  

Before the pandemic, there was a clear line between work and home. Cut to global crises and multiple lockdowns. And in no time at all, virtual meetings took place from spare rooms and kitchen tables, often with babies on laps, dogs barking, and an occasional handyman in the background. Through this, the hardline between our work and home selves changed. In its place, we’ve developed an understanding that colleagues are more than the title in their email signature, much more in fact. So, it’s true that to a certain extent it’s down to the individual to show up to work authentically. Ultimately though, it's the workplace environment that determines whether this is possible or not. Authenticity at work doesn't mean employees should be expected to divulge their personal lives, it simply means they have the choice and freedom to do so if they wish. 

For many minority groups, conforming to the majority has been a prerequisite to success. In honour of Pride Month, we're focusing on the LGBTQIA+ community. Employers must prioritize the safety and inclusion of every member of staff and consider the ways they can help make their staff feel secure at work. All year-round, not just for Pride month.  

Building a workplace to be proud of 

Hire people for who they are 

Finding new hires that’ll mesh well with the existing team and company culture can be challenging. A well-executed recruitment process will allow recruiting teams to get under the skin of candidates and understand whether they’ll be a suitable fit. Companies should hire people for who they are, and not pressure them into becoming an entirely different person or worse, concealing their identities out of fear. To achieve authenticity, companies should instead ensure the external message they’re projecting aligns with the lived experience staff will receive. This can begin with realistic and honest employer branding. 

Avoid virtue signaling 

When topics are trending online, and a particular hashtag captivates the globe – it can be tempting to join in. In the short term, there’s potential engagement and exposure to be gained. However, when companies jump on the bandwagon of any trending topic without considering whether the cause aligns with what they stand for - it often backfires. This practice has become known as virtue signaling. The Cambridge dictionary defines virtue signaling as ‘’an attempt to show other people that you are a good person, for example by expressing opinions that will be acceptable to them, especially on social media’’. [2] 

Virtue signaling is tempting but it can be harmful to a brand and its existing employees that fall into that group, especially if there isn’t any tangible proof of their support for that cause. Each year we see spectacular displays of solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community, famously through companies integrating the LGBTQIA+ rainbow flag with their logos. That’s not to say all companies who publicly show support for the movement are participating in virtue signaling. Some companies authentically live and breathe Pride. Avanti West Coast - a client of Innecto - the consultancy arm of Personal Group – was named as one of the Top 10 inclusive UK companies at the British LGBT+ Awards in 2021 for their commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community. [3]  

Create security through policy 

Company Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals are commonly decided at the highest level, giving them the potential to affect real change. When selected correctly they can prove a company’s genuine intentions to improve a particular issue. Weaving the importance of employee safety along with diversity and inclusion into ESG goals is an opportunity to build trust and authenticity. It’ll help companies remain accountable when faced with inevitable barriers to change. Additionally, it will provide reassurance to prospective and existing staff alike. Company policy and ESG goals need to reflect the present cares and concerns of the UK workforce if they are to be well received and truly impactful. 

Navigating the world today is challenging but staying abreast of the winds of change is essential. As a leading provider of employee benefits, Personal Group's team of experts is available to help you Transform your employee Wellbeing Strategy.  

Contact us to get started. If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to our blog for weekly thought leadership straight to your inbox. 


[1] Authenticity at Work: Everything You Need to Know (betterup.com) 
[2] VIRTUE SIGNALLING | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary 
[3] Tesco - Top 10 Inclusive Employer or Company 2021 - British LGBT Awards 

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