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    • Three Actions CEOs can take to get value from cloud computing : Aura Solution Company Limited

      Leaders need to accelerate their journey to the cloud in order to digitize quickly and effectively in the wake of COVID-19. ​DOWNLOAD If you are a CEO, you already know what the cloud can do for your business in a post-COVID-19 world. You’ve probably even told your organization to get you there already. So why is your move to the cloud1 coming along so slowly, even though you may have been talking about it for years? It might be because you and your management team have yet to take a sufficiently active role, or provide the air cover your chief information officer (CIO) and chief technology officer (CTO) need. ​What’s on CIOs’ minds during the coronavirus crisis : DOWNLOAD CIOs and CTOs are on the front foot right now thanks to their crucial role during the COVID-19 pandemic. That makes this a good moment to further elevate top-team support for the cloud enablement needed to accelerate digital strategy, the digitization of the company, its channels of distribution, and its supply chains—all of which already needed to be moving more quickly than they were. ​After the first wave: How CIOs can weather the coronavirus crisis : DOWNLOAD The CEO’s role is crucial because no one else can broker across the multiple parties involved, which include the CIO, CTO, CFO, chief human-resources officer (CHRO), chief information security officer (CISO), and business-unit leads. As we explain in this article, the transition to cloud computing represents a collective-action problem—one that requires a coordinated effort across the team at the top of an organization. It’s a matter of orchestration, in other words, and only CEOs can wield the baton. ​The CIO’s moment: Leadership through the first wave of the coronavirus crisis : DOWNLOAD To get to cloud more quickly, CEOs should ask their CIO and CTO what support they need to lead the organization on the journey. Chances are good that three interventions will emerge: ​ establishing a sustainable funding model to support the investments required to get business value from the cloud developing a new business-technology operating model that exploits cloud for speed, agility, and efficient scalability putting in place the HR, compensation, and location policies required to attract and retain the specialized engineering talent required to operate in the cloud Together, these interventions will help the executive team unite around a coherent point of view about the business-driven value that the cloud represents, how to capture that value, and how to evolve the company’s operating model accordingly. Without this perspective, your company may continue to move too slowly toward cloud computing for a post-COVID-19 “next normal”—creating the risk of disruption from nimbler attackers. ​The CEO’s new technology agenda : DOWNLOAD The transition to cloud computing represents a collective-action problem—one that requires a coordinated effort across the team at the top of an organization. ​ Invest for business value During the past 20 years, IT organizations have adopted a range of innovations—for example, virtualization and Linux—that have made running business applications much cheaper and required only modest investments. Cloud adoption has a different economic profile. While exploiting cloud requires investment in building capabilities and migration applications, it’s more efficient in the long term, sometimes markedly so for companies that have not fully optimized their technology environment. ​ The biggest benefits accrue to the business from faster time-to-market, simplified innovation, easier scalability, and reduced risk. Cloud platforms can help deploy new digital customer experiences in days rather than months and can support analytics that would be uneconomical or simply impossible with traditional technology platforms. ​ Unfortunately, technology-funding mechanisms can stymie cloud adoption—they prioritize features requested by the business now rather than critical infrastructure investments that will allow companies to add functionality more quickly and easily in the future. Each new bit of tactical business functionality built without best-practice cloud architectures adds to your technical debt2 —and thus to the complexity of building and implementing anything in the future. ​ CEOs can help the senior team recognize that infrastructure investments in cloud platforms represent a source of competitive advantage rather than a cost to be managed. Once the top team gets that right, a lot else falls into place, including your technology-funding process, which begins shifting toward products or platforms rather than projects. Projects are one-time investments funded in a yearly boom-and-bust cycle. Products in general (and cloud platforms in particular) require more stable, ongoing funding and consistent “ownership” to optimize new functionality and mitigate technical debt. ​ The top-team conversation will benefit, too, from a prioritized, sometimes multiyear road map of domains in which the cloud will accelerate performance and digital transformation. This will help prioritize investments—and avoid defaulting to applications that are technically easiest to migrate. By asking which business domains (such as order capture, billing, or supply-chain optimization) would benefit most from the speed, innovation, and scalability that cloud platforms can provide, top teams can arrive at the highest-priority areas for movement to the cloud. ​ Cloud platforms can help deploy new digital customer experiences in days rather than months and can support analytics that would be uneconomical or simply impossible with traditional technology platforms. ​ Inevitably, resource-allocation issues will arise. Growth businesses, for example, may be most likely to benefit from the cloud, but they are the least likely to have high margins or excess cash to pony up for a cloud investment. More mature business units may have higher margins, but where, exactly, should they get the money needed for the cloud—by spending less on tactical functionality this year and next, or by reducing marketing expenditure? Does a legacy business have the legs to support a long-lived cloud investment? Should the CEO transfer money from one business unit to another, or accept lower margins when a business invests in the cloud? Such questions are unlikely to be asked, much less answered, without serious engagement from the CEO and other members of the top team. ​ A big financial-information provider, for example, determined that moving applications in its customer-facing business domains to the public cloud could enable much faster and less expensive entry into promising markets. Hosting these applications in the cloud meant that technology operations in a new country could be set up in a couple of weeks at a negligible cost, versus a couple of million dollars of up-front investment for each country. A health-insurance carrier, meanwhile, examined its current project portfolio and found that it could speed up the capture of several billion dollars in additional revenue by adopting the cloud. Moving the systems that help the insurer interact with healthcare providers was especially attractive because of the opportunity to accelerate the onboarding of new providers. ​ Then, once the investment is made, it’s up to the CEO to demand higher business performance in return for the cloud investment—no more deflecting blame for subpar outcomes to a subpar technology environment. If the strategic case for the cloud is real, it should translate into better performance. The CEO must demand that it does. ​ A new operating model Once the funding model is straightened out, companies must ground the new partnership between IT and the businesses in an operating model that reflects and supports their growing investment in the cloud. ​ Here, it will help to think about an integrated system rather than a set of individual technologies. Doing so implies organizational change across all of IT, and many of the business units and functions as well. This operating model combines cloud-based digital technologies and agile operational capabilities in an integrated, well-sequenced approach that can rapidly accelerate digital strategy and transformation. The model helps to coordinate end-to-end operations across silos—supporting customer and employee journeys, for instance—while taking technology out of quarantine and making the most of it across all lines of business. ​ A cloud-ready business-technology operating model has many requirements. Here, we focus on the few that need intervention from the CEO. ​ Improving business interaction Achieving the speed and agility that cloud platforms promise requires frequent interaction—for instance, to define and optimize customer journeys—between IT managers and their counterparts in the business units and functions, particularly those who own products and capability areas. CEOs need to encourage business leaders to appoint knowledgeable decision makers as product owners for each business capability. ​ Too often, business units appoint product owners who are too new or too junior, and who lack either the knowledge or the organizational throw-weight to make their decisions stick. Many of these product or capability owners are “process jockeys,” whose expertise is coordinating stakeholders and tasks. Look instead for more senior folks capable of thinking broadly and strategically. ​ Going agile in IT If your company is to gain value from the cloud, your IT department must become more agile, if it isn’t already. That involves more than moving development teams to agile product models. Agile IT also means bringing agility to your IT infrastructure and operations by transforming infrastructure and security teams from reactive, “ticket driven” operations into proactive models in which scrum teams develop the application program interfaces (APIs) that service businesses and developers can consume. ​ By asking which business domains would benefit most from the speed, innovation, and scalability that cloud platforms can provide, top teams can arrive at the highest-priority areas for movement to the cloud. ​ Counterintuitively, you should avoid inserting translators between IT and the businesses. Instead, look to organizational groupings that unite business, technology, governance, process, and people management. These quickly moving modular platforms should be run by a platform owner who takes end-to-end responsibility for providing a solution and operating the platform as a service. ​ Accounting for the risks Everything in enterprise technology implies risk. To mitigate security, resiliency, and compliance concerns relating to the adoption of the cloud, companies must be clear-eyed about these risks. Among other things, that means holding rigorous discussions about the best mechanisms for aligning the appetite for risk with decisions about the technology environment. Getting the organization to take the right tone on risk will require particular attention from the CEO. It’s easy to let worries about security, resiliency, and compliance stop a cloud program in its tracks. Instead of letting risks derail progress, CEOs should insist on a pragmatic risk appetite that reflects the business strategy, while placing the risks of cloud computing in the context of the existing risks of on-premises computing and demanding options for mitigating risks in the cloud. ​ Companies that get the operating model right can see dramatic improvements. These include better target-state economics and lower transition costs. They will also see improved agility and ability to innovate. One natural-resource company implemented agile ways of working for business-application development, infrastructure, and security. In particular, it invested in creating automated, API-based services that developers could use to provision workloads on cloud platforms securely and resiliently. As a result, the company started releasing new capabilities in days rather than months, while limiting risk and technical debt. ​ The right operating model combines cloud-based digital technologies with agile operational capabilities in an integrated, well-sequenced approach to rapidly accelerate digital strategy and transformation. Revisit talent As your cloud investment picks up speed, supported by a new, cloud-ready operating model, your CIO will no doubt be asking for the talent needed for cloud. Although cloud computing can dramatically boost the productivity of technology, it requires specialized and sometimes hard-to-find technical talent—full-stack developers, data engineers, cloud-security engineers, identity- and access-management specialists, and cloud engineers. Such talent can be hired externally or upskilled from within. Just make sure current HR policies and approaches don’t hobble your approach. The basis of performance management and promotion, for example, should be expertise rather than the number of direct reports someone oversees. ​ If your HR policies are not up to speed, you may need to provide some air cover for your CIO with the CHRO. Some policies, put in place a decade ago to contain IT costs, can get in the way of onboarding cloud talent. Over the years, companies have adopted policies that limit costs per head and the number of senior hires, for example, and that require the use of outsourced resources in low-cost locations. Collectively, these policies produce the reverse of what the cloud requires, which are relatively small numbers of highly talented and expensive people who may not want to live in traditional low-cost IT locations. The location issue is why CEOs who are serious about the cloud have suggested that their CHROs reverse policies encouraging the use of low-cost, commoditized tech talent. In some cases, this new direction takes the form of newly established tech centers, in places such as the US West Coast, which are specifically designed to attract cloud talent. ​ CIOs and CTOs have been among the heroes of the COVID-19 response by pivoting their organizations to enable pervasive remote working. The cloud allows them to play an even more critical role in making business strategies successful. ​ CEOs must also make sure their technology leaders get sufficient voice in senior forums and management process given the increasingly fast integration of digital and business strategy. At many companies, CIOs and CTOs have been among the heroes of the COVID-19 response by pivoting their organizations to enable pervasive remote working, often in a matter of days. The cloud allows CIOs and CTOs to play an even more critical role in making business strategies successful. ​ Compared with traditional IT managers, successful CIOs and CTOs in this environment will be both more plugged into a company’s digital transformation and more technologically savvy. In a post COVID-19 next normal, these executives cannot rely on vendors to figure everything out for them. They must be open to new ideas and willing to learn, to take risks, and to fail fast and then quickly correct course when necessary. It helps if they’re compelling communicators who can inspire both business partners and their own teams to undertake dramatic change. ​ The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need for companies to adopt digital business models—and only cloud platforms can provide the agility, scalability, and innovation required for this transition. Although there have been frustrations and false starts in the enterprise journey to the cloud, companies can dramatically accelerate their progress by focusing investments in it where they will provide the most business value and by building cloud-ready operating models. ​ But they have to get there first. And that’s where CEOs have an important role to play—first by becoming more technologically savvy than they have been in the past and next by addressing the collective-action problem that often prevents companies from embracing new strategic roles for IT. If companies are to be successful in a digital next normal, their CEOs must ensure that their management teams understand the specific ways that cloud computing can raise revenue growth and margins and how, in close alignment, those teams will rally to capture value. 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    • Europe’s start-up ecosystem: Heating up, but still facing challenges : Aura Solution Company Limited

      More ventures are achieving unicorn status, and at a faster pace, but many more still aren’t realizing their full potential. What’s holding them back, and what can change that? ​DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT In recent years, Europe’s start-up ecosystem has seen a surge in the number of unicorns and the pace at which they are created. Of the 99 venture-capital-backed European unicorns, 14 were added in 2019 alone. These include Germany’s neobank N26, France’s healthcare scheduling service Doctolib, and Lithuania’s online used-clothing marketplace Vinted. Despite this accelerated activity, European start-ups still lag in achieving successful late-stage outcomes when compared with other start-up ecosystems. ​ To better understand the forces at work behind the outcomes of European start-ups, we conducted a cohort analysis that examines Europe, India, and the United States, using the latter as a benchmark for a healthy start-up ecosystem (see sidebar, “About our analysis”). We also assessed the trends and challenges affecting those ecosystems and interviewed start-up founders and investors to add context to our findings. Though our data is historical and conditions are definitely changing for the better, our analysis of Europe’s start-up ecosystem illustrates the ongoing underlying issues that entrepreneurs face. ​ A startling disparity Although change is happening quickly, according to our analysis Europe’s start-ups are still fewer in number, raise less money, and have a lower likelihood of success (which we defined as start-ups that reach Series C funding, go public, or are acquired). While Europe generates 36 percent of all formally funded start-ups, it creates only 14 percent of the world’s unicorns (Exhibit 1). Adjusted for population and GDP, the number of seed-stage start-ups that Europe generates is only 40 percent of that generated by the United States. ​ Historically, Europe’s ecosystem has been less effective than that of the United States at turning start-ups into late-stage successes. To analyze the steps between the seed stage and success, we looked at start-ups that received seed or angel funding between 2009 and 2014. For example, European start-ups were 30 percent less likely to progress from seed to a successful outcome (also defined as securing Series C funding or beyond, going public, or being sold), as compared to start-ups that raised seed funding during that time in the United States (Exhibit 2). ​ Further, European start-ups have consistently lower total success rates and show less progress through all series rounds when compared to US and Indian start-ups in aggregate (Exhibit 3). For instance, for the cohort of start-ups raising seed or angel funding between 2009 and 2014, the US and Indian ecosystems are almost twice as effective as Europe’s at moving start-ups from Series C to Series D funding rounds, or even Series B through Series C. For the same cohort, European start-ups experience lower success rates than those in the United States progressing through subsequent funding rounds. Being less successful at progressing through this funnel, however, doesn’t mean that Europe’s start-ups are outright failures. In fact, as measured by bankruptcy rates across rounds, European companies don’t fail more often than US companies (Exhibit 4). Rather, European companies are more likely to stall after a fundraising round, meaning they simply don’t advance to the next stage of funding or don’t manage a successful exit in the form of an IPO or some sort of acquisition. This happens to 10 percent more European start-ups than US start-ups after securing series A funding. While these companies may actually be growing and profitable, and thus self-funding, they could be sacrificing further growth potential. This effect may dampen the appetites of venture capitalists (VCs), for whom operating at a profit is not enough—as they tend to rely on big sales or IPOs to get high returns on their investments. ​ What holds Europe’s start-ups back? These striking numbers highlight the key challenges that work in concert to create drag on European start-ups. Five in particular have the greatest effect on nascent companies. ​ The domestic value pool is fragmented. At the most basic level, the fact that Europe is not a single market has profound effects on what start-ups must focus on in their early years. Europe may have lowered its borders and opened its markets, but it is still a collection of dozens of different countries with their own languages, cultures, and governments. For example, customer behaviors vary between countries, which can require brands to be rebuilt for individual markets. Distribution and marketing channels can be similarly challenging. Even accommodating languages and payment methods alone requires a greater investment of developer time than would usually be required of a start-up in the United States, for example. Further complicating matters is Europe’s regulatory landscape, which, though being streamlined, is both stricter and more fragmented than that of the United States. Depending on the industry and vertical, regulations also have wide variability. ​ Yet internationalization is unavoidable for Europe’s start-ups—to achieve valuations typical of US start-ups, European companies must expand quickly and early across many countries. For a European start-up to address a market that is similar in size to that of the United States, it would need to enter 28 heterogeneous countries (Exhibit 5). ​ The limitations of the domestic value pool, and what start-ups have to do to compensate for them, are also reflected in the geographical footprint of unicorn companies. Our analysis of start-up website traffic shows that about 70 percent of European unicorns had to establish a global or partly global geographical footprint to reach unicorn stage, as compared with just 50 percent of US unicorns. ​ Our data show that most European unicorns have had to expand not just beyond their individual countries but beyond Europe as well, whereas only half of US unicorns have expanded outside the continental United States. This means that European start-ups have to focus on wider internationalization earlier in their journey than do US start-ups. ​ Large funding rounds can be challenging. Historically, it has been more difficult for European companies to raise large funding rounds due to a lower supply of late-stage capital. As a result, it is harder for those companies to compete with significantly better-funded US competitors. We found that the problem was especially pronounced in the Series D and E stages (Exhibit 6). In our interviews with industry insiders, this difference was partially attributed to European investors’ risk aversion. ​ In recent years, as US funds have expanded their presence in Europe, European VCs have raised more money, and more private-equity funds have begun European growth-equity investing arms, European founders of leading start-ups report that they have more access to late-stage capital from global and local investors. Still, US businesses in comparable industries, with similar success metrics, are able to raise funding at significantly higher valuations than their European counterparts. One factor that could account for Europe’s historically lower supply of late-stage capital is the mix of funding sources: the biggest funders of European VCs tend to be governments and corporate investors, which have a different set of interests and goals from the biggest funders, such as large retirement and pension funds, of US VCs (Exhibit 7). ​ However, as Europe’s venture capital ecosystem matures and catches up to that of the United States, which has had several more decades to evolve since its emergence in the second half of the 20th century, the funding proportions are starting to change. As VC returns have gained additional momentum in recent years, pension-fund investments in Europe have significantly increased: 2.3 times more pension funds were committed to European venture capital in 2018 compared with the four previous years. In 2019, capital invested in rounds of $100 million and more in Europe was four times that of 2014. The continent also saw an increase in megafunding rounds of $100 million and more, and even six $500 million–plus rounds, in 2019. ​ Despite such signs of progress, founders and funders told us in interviews that the relative gap in ease of raising large funding rounds has not yet fully closed, making it more difficult for European start-ups to compete with significantly better-funded US competitors and to become leading global players. ​ These issues can make European start-ups more inclined to limit risk when pursuing exit strategies, including by spending too little on expansion. In some cases, rapidly growing European start-ups may have factored concerns about their abilities to raise large amounts of follow-up capital into the decision to be acquired by US competitors instead of trying to become global players on their own. For example, the German collective-buying platform CityDeal was acquired by Groupon after just six months in operation,3 and the Swedish payments company iZettle had been preparing for an IPO when it sold to PayPal.4 Of course, every case has its particulars, but for the highly profitable Finnish mobile-gaming company Supercell Oy, the founders stated clearly that they sold a majority stake to foreign investors (first SoftBank and GungHo Online Entertainment, and now Tencent) because they felt a “responsibility to pay out venture investors sooner rather than later.”5 These concerns can lead to missed opportunities: The former CEO of, the Dutch hotel reservation company that sold to Priceline in 2005, has said that had other options been available at the time, they might have held out longer for a next funding round. Today generates an estimated 80 percent of Priceline’s revenue. ​ Cultural values play a role. European start-ups face much greater pressure to perform, and to do so earlier, than start-ups in the United States, where having a failure in one’s past is typically seen as a badge of honor (or at least a rite of passage critical for gaining the lessons needed to ultimately succeed). We heard these sentiments echoed repeatedly in our interviews with founders and venture capitalists, and sentiment analysis of media coverage has shown, for example, that only about 17 percent of press coverage in Germany portrays entrepreneurship in a positive light, as compared with 39 percent in the United States. ​ European start-ups face much greater pressure to perform, and to do so earlier, than start-ups in the United States. ​ This lack of a “risk culture” in Europe can also drive some founders to take other, more conservative approaches that sacrifice growth potential. For example, they might narrow ambitions to merely building a sustainable business and regional disruptor. This could partially be driven by the stigmatization of start-up bankruptcy in several European countries, incentivizing founders to be more risk-averse in pursuing growth opportunities. This would put European start-ups at a stark disadvantage to their US peers, which more often aim for global dominance. ​ However, an increasing number of recent European success stories, such as Delivery Hero, Auto1, or N26, that focused on hypergrowth at the expense of short-term profitability, has shifted this culture. According to our interviews with founders around Europe, such success stories appear to be inspiring other European start-ups to follow a similar path. ​ Attracting the best talent can be difficult. While Europe has a tech talent cost advantage compared to the United States—salaries for software developers are as much as 50 percent lower in Europe than those in the San Francisco Bay Area or New York City8 —the continent’s start-ups often lack the tools to attract the best talent. Most notably, in many European countries unfavorable equity and stock-option rules make start-ups less appealing to potential employees. For example, more than 75 percent of the EU countries’ stock-option rules analyzed by the European VC firm Index Ventures lagged behind those of the United States. ​ At the same time, the significantly lower number of leading tech companies and successful hypergrowth start-ups in Europe reduces the pool of experienced executives and other talent that have hands-on background in building IPO-sized companies. The type of operational knowledge that comes from deep experience launching and exiting from successful start-ups is key to scaling companies through the late stages. ​ Innovation ‘superhubs’ are not as densely packed with resources as those in the United States. “Superhubs” such as Silicon Valley and New York City, which have a high concentration of entrepreneurs, tech talent, and investors, have played a very important role in the success of the US start-up ecosystem. Although London, Paris, Berlin, and Stockholm can be considered the leading hubs in Europe, they have not achieved the same concentration in terms of capital, knowledge, and talent. As a result, only about 30 percent of European start-ups have located their headquarters in a tech superhub—where they might have an easier time attracting talent and funding—versus almost half of US start-ups (Exhibit 8). Furthermore, surveys show that more than 60 percent of founders start their companies where they live or where they have family and support systems.10 Of course, relocating within the United States is not the same as relocating within Europe, given that in the United States the language and culture will generally be the same. However, if COVID-19 means that working remotely or from home becomes more common, this disparity might become less problematic and potentially could lessen the importance of superhubs. ​ Even though conditions are improving, the challenges facing Europe’s start-up ecosystem remain significant. To overcome them, there are three key areas in particular to consider. The first among these is harmonization and active policy making. Europe could continue to streamline its regulatory frameworks, which remain complex for start-ups to navigate easily. Many European start-ups are seeking to expand operations to multiple regions early on. Similarly, legal frameworks could be reassessed to allow European start-ups to attract and retain the necessary talent to build and scale new companies. Underpinning all of this could be a vision that aims both to defend Europe’s existing strengths and to build and support areas of potential growth. ​ Second, leveraging Europe’s assets, which include its public sector and its relative strength in the B2B arena, is critical to growing the start-up ecosystem. As large contractors, governments are key drivers with the power to support innovation. Through this lever, Europe can actively promote its start-up ecosystem. The B2B sectors offer particularly fertile ground here, as the continent’s entrepreneurs have already established a solid foundation of innovation by digitizing the activities that serve other businesses—and even more so now, as the coronavirus crisis has created an expectation that more business will be conducted digitally. Europe could also build on another relative strength, sustainability, as the business opportunities around the growing conversation of stakeholder responsibility continue to expand. Europe is a leader in this area and is well positioned to capitalize on this asset. ​ Third, Europe could look at how to support the culture and capital needed to further grow its start-up ecosystem. Entrepreneurs could take advantage of the improving conditions for start-ups to broaden their ambitions and aim for global leadership. Governments could further this through more risk-willing capital, and considering allocating more semi-public funds toward growing the ecosystem, as well as fostering collaboration between ventures, academia, and industry. It could also prove beneficial to improve conditions for capital and funding—for example, by leveraging European and global partnerships with aligned incentives to allow them to scale faster. Learn more about us #auraeurope #aurasolutioneurope #aurasolutionltd #aurapaymster #paymastereurope #europecorona #covideurope #auraeurope

    • Learning from lived experiences "LGBTQ+ voices" : Aura Solution Company Limited

      Is your company a welcoming place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+1 ) employees? If you are like many other leaders, you might think that it is: your diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives are in place, some employees are out as LGBTQ+, and people seem to respect one another’s differences. The US Supreme Court made discrimination against workers based on their gender identity or sexual orientation illegal on June 15; your company has been actively fighting such discrimination for years. As one person we interviewed put it, some leaders at his company seem to have the following perspective: “We’re a really decent place. We don’t have any nightmare people. So we don’t have a problem. Right?” ​DOWNLOAD FULL EDITION But while diversity and inclusion have climbed corporate agendas over the past decade, many LGBTQ+ employees continue to face discrimination, discomfort, and even danger in the workplace. When it comes to true inclusion, everyday interactions with peers and leaders matter as much as organizational policies or formal processes. In short, your company may not be as inclusive as you think it is. ​ To learn how LGBTQ+ employees are faring in today’s workplaces, we compiled a broad set of data, both quantitative and qualitative. First, we surveyed more than 2,000 employees at a variety of organizations worldwide; respondents ranged from entry-level to CEO and included both LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ employees.2 To ensure that LGBTQ+ voices were prominent, we interviewed and conducted focus groups with members of The Alliance, a global network of LGBTQ+ leaders from public-, private-, and social-sector institutions.3 Finally, we drew on our ongoing Women in the Workplace research, which has shed light on the experiences of LGBTQ+ women. ​ Our research illuminates the everyday experiences of LGBTQ+ employees, many of whom remain in the closet. In this article, we share what we’ve learned about the challenges these employees face, including firsthand accounts and reflections from LGBTQ+ people about their work lives and environments. Such voices are essential to any conversation on inclusion, whether the focus is on ending gender discrimination, racial discrimination, or any other kind of discrimination. Listening and learning about employees’ lived experiences is the first step business leaders must take if they want to create fairer workplaces. ​ The voices you will hear in this article and the research we have conducted have led us to recommend six key changes to help improve workplaces for LGBTQ+ employees and for employees who have LGBTQ+ family members. Supporting a diverse workforce is easier said than done, we recognize. Our intent is to inspire integrated action that meets the needs of all employees. Executives who embrace this opportunity can become more effective leaders and boost the empathy, effectiveness, and productivity of their organizations. LGBTQ+ life at work today We’ll start with the unique workplace challenges facing LGBTQ+ employees.Foremost among them is coming out. More than one in four LGBTQ+ respondents are not broadly out at work (Exhibit 1). One interviewee explained that while she had overcome a number of difficulties over the course of her career,4 one of the biggest challenges she had faced was “coming out in the workplace as genderfluid and nonbinary, because I was one of the first people who had come out as that—certainly in financial services.” Coming out—and being out—matters. One interviewee described being out as key to forming relationships: “My successful professional relationships are underpinned by really getting to know the people I’m working with. When that’s happening, I want to be open about my identity. Otherwise, it’s hard to deeply relate to people and instill in clients a sense of confidence.” Feeling unable to come out, another interviewee told us, “contributes to lower workplace productivity, because it is stressful and debilitating.” ​ Often, coming out means more than simply letting people know that one identifies as LGBTQ+. As one person explained, “Coming out is going to the frontier of how authentic and transparent I want to be about who I am, in a way that creates as much freedom and ease at work as is comfortable and possible for me.” Only at his current workplace was he able to come out fully: “Recently, at a senior-executive retreat, I talked about growing up in an evangelical church as a child of immigrants, and then basically being told in college that I was disowned. (My family eventually came around.) I had never come out at work like that.” Still, he added, “Not everyone wants to go all the way to that level. And that’s fine too.” Our research reveals four complexities of coming out at work: Coming out is especially challenging for junior employees. Only one-third of LGBTQ+ survey respondents below the level of senior manager reported being out with most of their colleagues.5 As one person explained, “Being authentic once you’ve made it is easier than being authentic when you haven’t.” Yet even among senior leaders, many remain in the closet. Of the LGBTQ+ senior leaders we surveyed, one in five is not broadly out at work. Women are far less likely than men to be out. Only 58 percent of the LGBTQ+ women we surveyed (compared with 80 percent of LGBTQ+ men) said that they are out with most colleagues. One reason: existing gender discrimination. One interviewee reflected that, as a woman, “you always had to be perfect in terms of how you looked and what you did, and your work always had to be better than everybody else’s. So there was almost that thing of, ‘Why add anything else to make it more difficult?’” Coming out is more difficult for people outside Europe and North America. While three-quarters of North American respondents and 78 percent of European respondents were broadly out at work, only 54 percent of respondents from other regions reported being out with most of their colleagues. People who are open about being LGBTQ+ often have to come out repeatedly. Nearly half of LGBTQ+ respondents reported having to come out at work at least once a week in the past month. One in five respondents had to come out multiple times a week, and one in ten said they had to come out on a daily basis. One termed this the “multiple coming out conundrum,” adding, “I think straight people don’t get it.” A gay man at a Japanese multinational related: “It’s in my bio—I’ve been out about my family since I joined this company. Still, I have these dinner conversations with senior executives who ask, ‘Is your wife Japanese?’ It’s a constant.” The experience appears widespread: a lesbian partner at an international law firm reflected, “It makes life difficult because you’re coming out all the time. We all get those questions from clients, like, ‘What does your husband do?’” Having to come out repeatedly can take a toll. One interviewee described the effort in an earlier role as “psychologically draining.” Things are better in her current role: “Being someplace where I can just be out, know it’s OK, and take that noise out of the system, I do think has helped me focus.” It makes life difficult because you’re coming out all the time. We all get those questions from clients, like, ‘What does your husband do?’ All in all, coming out at work can be a fraught experience. Some 37 percent of survey respondents reported feeling uncomfortable at least once in the past month with coming out at work. In some cases, coming out may lead to abuse. One Canadian interviewee recalled, “My colleague overheard a conversation when I was making plans for the weekend and figured out I’m gay. My life was a living hell. She lobbed Bible verses over the cube. Since she was a senior person compared to me, I thought that my life was over.” ​ Unfortunately, coming out is far from the only challenge that LGBTQ+ people still face in the workplace. ​ Discrimination LGBTQ+ employees report substantial barriers to advancement, with many believing that they have to outperform non-LGBTQ+ colleagues to gain recognition. One interviewee shared an anecdote about developing a business plan for a struggling subsidiary. He had envisioned a new structure for the organization, built a team, brought in talent, and put himself forward to lead as CEO. Even though his business plan was implemented, he was passed over for the top job. A colleague he described as supportive told him, “It’s not going to happen as long as you’re a person of color and LGBTQ+.” The interviewee explained that he chose to persevere: “I just keep being the best that I can be in my current role. My results speak for themselves, and when the next opportunity comes, I’m going to put my hand up again.” Of course, not all discrimination is so blatant—but whether overt or unspoken, it remains limiting. ​ Our Women in the Workplace survey (which includes people of all genders) also points to barriers to advancement. Some 40 percent of LGBTQ+ women felt they needed to provide extra evidence of their competence. In addition, trans and nonbinary respondents were far more likely than cisgender people (men who were assigned male at birth and women who were assigned female at birth) to be in entry-level positions. It isn’t appropriate to have a family policy that gives me no family leave as a matter of right. I may well be the primary caregiver. Company policies can make life harder for LGBTQ+ employees. Only about half of Fortune 500 companies provide benefits for domestic partners, and fewer than two-thirds offer trans-inclusive healthcare coverage.6 LGBTQ+ employees may also face hurdles qualifying for parental leave. A gay man who is having a child through a surrogate recounted: “I went through a painful process with my partnership, explaining that it isn’t appropriate to have a family policy that gives me no family leave as a matter of right. I may well be the primary caregiver. I should get the same eight months paid leave as every other partner. And I got it. But I shouldn’t have to explain that.” Other challenges present themselves on a daily basis; some LGBTQ+ employees do not feel comfortable using women’s or men’s bathrooms, and, in many workplaces, these are the only options. One nonbinary person (who does not identify as a man or a woman) put it simply: “I did not have access to restrooms where I felt safe.” ​ LGBTQ+ employees may also face discrimination from clients, vendors, or other business partners. One British interviewee recalled instances where a client asked that an LGBTQ+ colleague be removed from the team “because they were not happy a gay person was on their project.” This occurred even though the client company supported inclusion: “We raised the issue with the client’s senior management, because most of the people we work with would be shocked if someone said that.” The interviewee’s firm stood behind its LGBTQ+ employees: “We have a policy of not being neutral about this. If you can’t be your authentic self on a client team, we probably wouldn’t continue working with that client.” ​ These are travails that LGBTQ+ people face in countries that are ostensibly safe for them. When they travel, they can face overt discrimination, danger, and legal jeopardy. More than one-third of UN member states—including half of Asian members and nearly 60 percent of African members—criminalize same-sex sexual acts.7 In some cases, the penalty is life in prison or death. In certain countries, simply being transgender is illegal. Interviewees told us that they even worry about safety in places considered welcoming toward LGBTQ+ people. One British interviewee is “very careful in the US, because the reactions you get are unexpected.” Another executive was harassed in a central European country where she had previously felt safe. In fact, many LGBTQ+ people live in countries where human-rights abuses remain widespread. ​ Finally, LGBTQ+ employees face significant legal barriers when it comes to immigration, as many countries still do not recognize LGBTQ+ relationships. One interviewee went so far as to say that immigration laws had shaped his entire career, noting that “at a global corporation, the expectation is that you’re willing to move around.” I just keep being the best that I can be. My results speak for themselves, and when the next opportunity comes, I’m going to put my hand up again. Microaggressions For many LGBTQ+ employees, office life means navigating a series of microaggressions, such as hearing disparaging remarks about themselves or people like them. More than 60 percent of LGBTQ+ respondents reported needing to correct colleagues’ assumptions about their personal lives. Notably, four in five LGBTQ+ women below the level of senior vice president had to do so. Some LGBTQ+ people face the painful experience of being misgendered, or referred to by a pronoun that does not accord with their gender identity. LGBTQ+ respondents were also significantly more likely than other respondents to report hearing derogatory comments or jokes about people like them. One recounted an incident at a company event early in his career: “I interned at a company where I wasn’t out. At the all-company meeting that summer, one of the senior partners went on stage—there was a tradition where this partner would do stand-up comedy—and made a number of really homophobic comments. I thought, ‘This confirms that I shouldn’t come out here—and also that I shouldn’t work here.’” ​ Isolation LGBTQ+ people are underrepresented in corporate environments, and many report being an “only” in their organization or on their team—the only lesbian or the only trans person, for example.8 Being an “only” can fuel anxiety and isolation and can result in other disadvantages. For example, LGBTQ+ employees often lack role models who share their identity. One French executive told us: “I had absolutely no role model, because none of the gay guys wanted to be out in the workplace.” Fewer than one-fourth of LGBTQ+ survey respondents reported having an LGBTQ+ sponsor, and only about half of LGBTQ+ respondents (compared with two-thirds of non-LGBTQ+ respondents) said that they saw people like themselves in management positions at their organizations. ​ Interviewees described being pigeonholed as LGBTQ+. One interviewee recalled, “I got introduced to somebody at a party, and he said, ‘Oh, you’re that gay lawyer from Atlanta.’ I replied, ‘I really think of myself as a whole lot more than that.’ But that’s how people will label you.” Another interviewee expressed concern that his firm was putting him on display to burnish its progressive credentials: “For many years, I was the only openly gay partner in quite a big firm. You have to deal with them wanting to roll you out.” ​ Others reported being consigned to positions related to their identity. One interviewee described an incident at a global board meeting: “I was the only person of color and one of only two LGBTQ+ members, and the only panel they asked me to join was the diversity panel. The meeting was about growth, and my title was chief growth officer.” Six keys to making the workplace friendlier for LGBTQ+ employees The first step toward improving the experiences of your LGBTQ+ employees is to understand their challenges, including those we’ve outlined so far. All leaders should stay connected to what it means to be LGBTQ+ at work; this type of learning never ends. ​ Some companies have already recognized the importance of this kind of learning at the top. The multinational law firm Linklaters, for example, piloted a reverse mentorship program in 2018 to deepen senior leaders’ understanding of LGBTQ+ people (as well as ethnic minorities and people from different social backgrounds); the firm launched a second round of the program last year.9 Our research suggests that reverse mentoring is effective. It allows leaders to ask questions and engage in open dialogue. One focus group participant reflected, “There’s this climate of fear. Reverse mentorship is really important because it gives people the opportunity, safety, and space to make a mistake.” The experience can be transformative, even for executives who are already promoting inclusion. ​ Another participant described mentoring his company’s president: “He’s not homophobic or anything like that. He’s pretty open. But he never realized what needed to be done. It was only by engaging more, by having a direct example of what it means to be gay in the workplace that he realized, ‘I need to get more involved, and visibly involved.’” ​ Having policies on the books is not enough. One executive at TD Bank described the reaction of the bank’s former CEO when he learned that a senior executive was out at home but afraid of coming out at work. “He took a step back and said, ‘What am I doing? I’ve failed as a CEO.’ TD was the first bank in Canada to offer same-sex spousal benefits to employees, in 1994. We had this policy in place, and yet this executive didn’t feel comfortable coming out. Our CEO asked, ‘What am I doing wrong?’” ​ As the TD Bank interviewee put it, “Policies and procedures are just one part of the D&I mix. You’ve got to execute and you’ve got to live it. We weren’t living it at the time. That’s where he woke up.” At the time, TD Bank had about 50,000 employees. When the CEO asked HR how many people had claimed benefits for same-sex partners, the answer was eye-opening: “Ninety. It was abysmal. People thought Big Brother was watching them.” The bank’s CEO doubled down on TD’s diversity and inclusion efforts. ​ So what does “living it” mean? What steps should a leader take to make the workplace more comfortable for LGBTQ+ employees? ​ 1. Don’t stumble into microaggressions Be careful not to make assumptions about people’s personal lives or risk misgendering colleagues or clients. At the most basic level, this means not automatically asking women about husbands or boyfriends, and men about wives or girlfriends. Instead, use terms such as “friend,” “spouse,” and “partner.” Also, ask for and then use the pronouns that each individual uses to self-identify. As one Latinx queer/LGBTQ+ leader put it, the goal is to avoid “shaming people for who they authentically are.” ​ “Microsupport” can help to reduce microaggressions. For example, asking everyone at company events to include their pronouns on their name tags signals support for the LGBTQ+ community, helps educate employees about using individuals’ personal pronouns, and reduces the chances that attendees will mistakenly misgender someone. ​ 2. Set a meaningful public example Avoiding microaggressions is just a start; you need to inspire confidence in your commitment. Refer to LGBTQ+ relationships the same way you refer to other relationships. A simple mention of an LGBTQ+ employee’s relationship, such as “Pauline’s partner Eva,” signals an awareness of and respect for different types of relationships and can have an outsize impact. One respondent reflected: “When a cofounder of our organization makes a reference at a company meeting to, say, a gay colleague’s husband,11 that normalizes the relationship for the entire organization. That one extra step creates a powerful sense of belonging.” ​ Display visible symbols of support, and encourage employees to do the same. One LGBTQ+ leader told us that seeing such signs of solidarity had made a lasting impression: “I was just in Australia for Wear It Purple Day, when everyone who supports the LGBTQ+ community wears purple. One of the accounting firms had the best campaign. It was very simple: everybody got one fingernail painted purple. They had nail-painting stations all over the lobby of their building! It was easy; it took five seconds. And it was the highest form of LGBTQ+ solidarity that I’ve ever seen in the business world. I would encourage every company to use this type of tactic. It doesn’t cost anything, and it’s easily shareable on social media.” There’s no need to wait for a celebration to show your support; for example, ally stickers displayed on employee laptops and office doors throughout the company can be incredibly powerful signals year round. How do we respond to a high-value client telling us that they’re withdrawing millions of dollars? Isn’t the customer always right? Sponsor LGBTQ+ events such as Pride. One executive explained that sponsoring Pride had sent a message both inside and outside his organization: “We were supporting Pride. This is gay. There was no hiding. We did it not only to tell the community that we were supportive, but also to tell employees that we meant business.” Of course, sponsoring Pride is only part of the effort; you also need to walk the walk—for example, by providing benefits and protections for your LGBTQ+ employees and working to foster inclusion throughout your organization. ​ Make your public commitment tangible, even financial. Supporting LGBTQ+ people can mean putting money on the line. “In 2008,” explained the TD Bank executive we mentioned earlier, “we went to market with a same-sex-couple ad in mainstream media. We had people coming at us, calling us a ‘devil bank’—and the beauty of that is we stood firm and told the bigots and homophobes, ‘This is nonnegotiable. Take your business elsewhere.’ Other banks at the time stood back and watched, thinking, ‘Is TD going to sink or swim?’ Now, in Toronto, everyone is fighting about who has the best rainbow during Pride. We moved the dial on the conversation.” ​ The initial fallout was one reason the ad had lasting power. The bank truly had something to lose: “Churches withdrew millions of dollars from some banks,” the executive recalls. “Branch managers were calling me, crying, ‘My scorecard is going down the drain.’ How do we respond to a high-value client telling us that they’re withdrawing millions of dollars? Isn’t the customer always right? It was a moment of truth for the company. But we got direct, authentic messaging from the top to tell those clients, ‘It’s nonnegotiable. We are disappointed, actually, that you are disappointed. We are angry that you are angry. Take your money elsewhere.’” ​ 3. Educate your team Setting an example is important, but education can help ensure that your LGBTQ+ commitment is lived throughout the organization. Employee training—including during onboarding—can decrease the frequency of microaggressions, root out unconscious bias, promote respect toward LGBTQ+ colleagues, and equip employees to recognize and respond to inappropriate behavior. One interviewee reflected, “We’ve given people the skills to engage with other people in a more effective way. We’ve done inclusive-language training with all our people. That’s generated not only knowledge but also conversations about where lines blur and what’s acceptable. It hasn’t always been comfortable, but it’s been very positive for the organization.” Our research suggests that such training is effective: LGBTQ+ survey respondents whose organizations provided employee training on inclusion and unconscious bias were 1.4 times more likely to feel very included in the workplace (Exhibit 2). It is particularly important to provide such training to the people who make personnel decisions. As one interviewee explained, “The sweet spot—and I think this is where some organizations fall short—is middle management, which is historically made up of able-bodied, straight white men who are responsible for hiring, promoting, and firing. They don’t understand that inclusion also means them. They’re not considered diverse, so no one talks to them; we talk around them. We don’t tell them the business case, we don’t include them, we don’t win their hearts and minds—but we expect them to be inclusive. And they disengage, because they are afraid of saying the wrong things. I would say 90 percent of them are good people. They just need to be educated.” ​ Another reason why it is critical to train managers is because they directly shape employees’ day-to-day experiences. One focus-group participant, an executive based in China, reflected: “Besides your company culture, there’s the middle-management factor. When I talk to our people, I ask, ‘Hey, why don’t you feel comfortable coming out?’ Quite often, the response is, ‘I know you’re positive, but you don’t spend the day with me. I spend the whole day with my team and my project manager.’ The support of that project manager on a day-to-day level matters a lot, but we haven’t really worked on that yet. There’s still quite a bit of unconscious bias at that level.” ​ 4. Strengthen your pipeline Building an inclusive organization starts with recruiting and hiring a diverse set of employees. As one focus-group participant noted, “You can do a lot of things around inclusion, but you’re not going to get there if you have foundational issues with how you bring people in, onboard them, and retain them. You need to work on hiring and promoting a diverse group of individuals.” ​ Blind résumé screening—removing names, gender signifiers, and affinity-group affiliations—can help reduce unconscious bias in hiring decisions. In the words of one LGBTQ+ executive, “You need to make sure the hiring process is gender, color, and every other type of blind it can be. You have to have enough numbers in your hiring panel, and then just go on qualifications.” Hiring is only one piece of the puzzle, however. Rigorous management of your talent pipeline means tracking representation at every level and understanding where drop-offs occur—then tailoring your interventions accordingly. ​ Efforts to recruit diverse candidates and promote diverse employees have a measurable impact: LGBTQ+ survey respondents were 1.4 times more likely to feel very included if their employers had organization-wide targets for recruiting diverse employees, advancing them, or both. You can do a lot of things around inclusion, but you’re not going to get there if you have foundational issues with how you bring people in, onboard them, and retain them. 5. Sustain support networks Our research highlights the importance of some programs and initiatives that many companies already have in place. Resource groups for LGBTQ+ employees, for example, “enhance the employee experience” and should not be overlooked. Ally groups are also critical; as one interviewee put it, “You need to get your allies engaged, because they help to move the agenda. Our agenda would not have moved if it weren’t for allies. In fact, our acronym used to be L-G-B-T-A, for allies.” He noted that there is strength in numbers: “There are so many silos: LGBTQ+, women in leadership, visible minorities, et cetera. If we all work together, most of the time, we’re the majority.” (As another person noted, ally groups also “allow people to engage with the LGBTQ+ community without necessarily having to come out of the closet.”) ​ Our survey also confirms that sponsorship is essential: the LGBTQ+ senior leaders we surveyed were more than twice as likely as their non-LGBTQ+ peers to credit sponsors with having aided their advancement. One interviewee drove the point home: “We all talk about sponsors, and we’ve seen all the articles and the literature, but it’s for real. Unless people are pulling you up, you’re not going to advance.” Sponsors need not identify as LGBTQ+; in fact, while nearly half of the LGBTQ+ senior leaders we surveyed had three or more sponsors, 80 percent had no sponsor from the LGBTQ+ community. Given the lack of LGBTQ+ sponsors, non-LGBTQ+ sponsors play a particularly important role. ​ 6. Strengthen your policies Finally, there are key policies that have become standard at workplaces that promote comfortable and safe environments for LGBTQ+ employees. Implementing the following policies signals clearly that your company invests in and supports LGBTQ+ people: ​ domestic-partner benefits a nondiscrimination policy that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity a family-leave policy that treats all parents equally health insurance that covers hormone therapy and gender-confirmation surgery for employees seeking to transition medical leave for colleagues who are transitioning HR systems and documents that are inclusive of all genders and personal pronouns all-gender or gender-neutral restrooms so that employees can use the facilities where they feel most comfortable Business benefits Our research did not set out to prove the business case for an inclusive, diverse workgroup with substantial LGBTQ+ representation. But, in the course of our interviews, our respondents made clear that there are at least three very tangible business benefits to building a workplace that is LGBTQ+ inclusive. ​ Boosting recruitment and retaining talent Showing visible signs of support for the LGBTQ+ community can help with recruitment efforts. One focus-group participant, a gay investment-banking executive in Hong Kong, described the impact of diversifying the company’s recruiting teams: “I had HR nominate a ‘diversity and inclusion ambassador.’ Every time we’d do a road show, we had someone there who represented those values. We found that if a candidate had an offer from several leading investment banks, the chance of us getting that talent got a lot higher. Having someone like you there who’s actually within the business makes such an impact. The best people have multiple job offers, and by having that ambassador we get the best talent.” Diversifying your recruiting teams should be done thoughtfully so that your “ambassador” is not tokenized; the goal is to deepen diversity and inclusion, not to make a show of your commitment. ​ Our research suggests that inclusivity matters to job seekers, both LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+: nearly 40 percent of all survey respondents said they had rejected a job offer or decided not to pursue a position because they felt that the hiring company was not inclusive. ​ As our Women in the Workplace research underscores, building a welcoming workplace is also key to retaining employees. Compared with their closeted peers, LGBTQ+ women who are out at work are half as likely to say that they plan to leave their current employer in the next year. ​ Driving business Many LGBTQ+ employees believe that greater workplace inclusivity translates into business opportunities for their companies. One leader we spoke with has a unique title: Head of LGBTQ2+13 Business Development. He believes that promoting inclusion both inside and outside the organization has won business for his company: “I lead a team of people whose job is to drive business from the LGBTQ2+ community. It’s pretty much LGBTQ2+ customer segmentation. We show the ROI [return on investment] and the business side of diversity. We wouldn’t be able to do that if we weren’t also engaging our colleagues and the public.” ​ Another LGBTQ+ executive told us of a marketing campaign that influenced where he directs his dollars: “I was walking down a jetway that was plastered with [an airline’s] latest marketing campaign—and there were these two men, and one was leaning into the other. Many corporations are now trying to market more to the LGBTQ+ community, or to present inclusive imagery. But what struck me was that there was nothing oblique here. I think back to the days of, ‘Are they a couple? Are these gay people? I’m not sure.’ I usually fly with another airline. Unless I see that airline do that, this airline is getting my business.” What struck me was that there was nothing oblique here. I think back to the days of, ‘Are they a couple? Are these gay people? I’m not sure.’ Cultivating capabilities The LGBTQ+ people we interviewed felt that there are a number of skills that are particularly strong among members of the LGBTQ+ community. One interviewee described the effect of having to come out constantly: “If you haven’t got very much EQ [emotional quotient], you get a lot more! You build it by being sensitive to situations and the people you’re dealing with. Because you always have to choose your moment and read the room.” ​ Others described themselves and fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community as particularly resilient and empathetic. One LGBTQ+ leader said, “I think when you’re an ‘other,’ you have more empathy than people who have never had to deal with adversity. Things don’t come easy for us.” ​ Building an inclusive environment helps LGBTQ+ employees reach their potential and bring all of their skills to bear. Moizes Palma, chief risk officer of HSBC Argentina, is an ally executive. He reflected on the benefits of driving LGBTQ+ inclusion: “Our greatest values are respecting people and accepting them as they are. I am working to help people at all levels of our bank understand what really matters: not your sexual orientation or gender identity, but your character. The results are so significant; it’s not only about productivity, but also about lowering the number of people with mental-health issues and seeing people happy at work, with no fear of being themselves. Our efforts have helped leaders and employees to work more effectively and perform to their full potential.” ​ For Palma, inclusion is personal: “I still remember one team member saying that she felt more protected at our bank than in her own home. That was very touching. I was able to see in practice how an inclusive environment can change the lives of our people—and how a company with truly inclusive values can help both one person and the entire society.” ​ Every leader has the opportunity to start making important changes now. As one interviewee noted, choosing to use more inclusive language, working hard at self-growth and education, and providing employee training “are not necessarily a heavy lift financially. There’s a lot of simple work that needs to happen right now.” ​ Another interviewee echoed this sentiment: “Many of the small, day-to-day things are most meaningful in creating an inclusive atmosphere. They determine whether someone feels like they are truly at the table with everyone else or their seat is six inches back.” When employees see company leaders express support for LGBTQ+ rights, refuse to tolerate discrimination, and hold that ground when the going gets tough, they believe that their employer will support them if they choose to be open about their identity. LGBTQ+ survey respondents were 1.6 times more likely to feel very included in the workplace if company leaders had clearly put diversity and inclusion on the strategic agenda. ​ Other changes will take longer to implement. One LGBTQ+ executive told us, “I’ve got a company full of leaders who are really well-intentioned, want to make progress, and have what I call ‘healthy impatience.’ I say to them, ‘Hey, some of this inclusion infrastructure is going to take some time to build.’” In fact, he pointed out, leaders must continually work to create an inclusive environment: “As we increase our diversity, inclusion actually gets harder; as we bring in different people, everything that we’ve done to date will no longer be sufficient—and that’s actually a great thing.” As one interviewee put it, leaders have a “duty to try to change the world so that everyone can live their life in full color.” Learn More :

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