Staff networks are groups of colleagues who have come together to support and collaborate with one another.
They are formed on the basis of a shared characteristic which could make them vulnerable to discrimination, such as gender or race.
They are a powerful tool to support staff and enable innovative approaches to strengthen organisations. Employers who value diversity and inclusivity might benefit from staff networks since these empower businesses and their teams to achieve their full potential.
Why are staff networks important?
Staff networks have the potential to shape the behaviour of their organisation. By making use of their ideas, experiences, and dedication, colleagues can come together to help create change in their workplace and support managers in implementing it. Organisations like the NHS and Cancer Research UK value and embrace the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion of their workers through staff networks.
Employee networks help staff members feel more included at work and can directly improve morale and happiness in the workplace. Research from CBI shows that diverse teams are 83% more innovative than non-diverse teams and can make decisions 60% faster. Staff networks allow colleagues to have honest conversations about work, discuss improvement plans and evaluate achievements. They are crucial to ensure an inclusive environment.
How can employees empower staff networks?
While it’s important that staff networks are created and ran by the staff themselves, employers can play a key role in supporting them. Employees can empower staff networks in a few ways:
- Consulting and holding regular meetings with network members – employees can send feedback from their meetings (with appropriate permission) to their HR representatives and address any potential concerns or suggestion.
- Including everyone in the network – even though staff networks are formed within subgroups of employees, it is good practice to include everyone interested in discussion topics.
- Identifying a clear area of improvement and setting small, achievable targets – these can eventually evolve into more substantial causes.
- Nominating a board of representatives who will lead and communicate the network strategies to other departments.
Tips for establishing a staff network
If you are looking to establish a staff network, there are a few aspects that you should consider:
- Identifying a clear purpose for the network and who it is for – you should think about the reasons why a staff network is needed in your workplace. You could talk to your colleagues, exchange ideas and take advantage of your workplace’s insights to ensure you establish areas of improvement correctly.
- Seeking senior staff’s endorsement – having the support of a senior member of the team is crucial to every staff network.
- Promoting inclusivity in the network – all staff members should be aware that the network is open to everybody who identifies with your group. You should educate and develop awareness about your cause across the personnel.
Examples of staff networks
Employees can form different types of staff networks, depending on what areas of their identities are least supported at work, or makes them most vulnerable to discrimination.
Some examples of staff networks include:
- BAME Staff Networks – providing a voice for staff from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.
- Disability Staff Networks – enabling staff to discuss disabilities at work and creating suitable environments for disable workers.
- Menopause Support Groups – raising awareness and providing information for colleagues and managers working alongside those experiencing menopause.
- LGBTQ+ Networks – promoting good relationships between LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ staff.
For further information on how to improve EDI in the workplace, you can visit our dedicated page.