Can employee networks help build an inclusive culture in your business?
Jane Hulme, HR Director, Unum UK
Inclusive workplace culture enables a diverse workforce to thrive by facilitating a place where everyone can bring their whole selves to work, feel comfortable and confident and have an authentic sense of belonging and collaboration. In turn, these valued employees feel appreciated, trusted and empowered, which are critical elements of engagement and wellbeing.
One such way you can help foster an inclusive culture in your business is through Employee Network Groups. Also known as Employee Resource Groups, these are a group of people who wish to represent and advocate for minoritized parts of the workforce on a voluntary basis.
Setting up Employee Networks can also create a community for employees to support each other, feel a sense of similarity and belonging, and can also play a critical role in advising decision makers in the company on inclusion & diversity (I&D) strategy and issues. Working collaboratively with HR and I&D departments, Employee Networks can greatly contribute to increase understanding of equity issues amongst employees, share information and frame future business behaviours.
To this end, the important contribution Employee Networks make to an organisation’s culture and strategy must not go unrecognised. Networks and all their members, leaders and supporters should feel that they are valued and rewarded for the positive change they are installing within the business. So ensure network achievements are also recognised as part of individuals’ appraisal process, objectives and KPIs. There is a powerful link between recognition and engagement, productivity and performance,1 so recognition for network achievements will make employees feel even more valued, appreciated and part of a caring and connected community.
At Unum, our Employee Networks play a key role in encouraging and supporting all employees to bring their whole selves to work whilst helping to facilitate employee engagement and meaningful dialogue about diversity and inclusion at work. All areas of the business have an Inclusion Business Champion, a member of the leadership community, who stays in the loop with network projects and amplifies the voices of those within. Support from senior leadership and a wider range of voices can help ease the pressure for network members and share responsibilities for spreading the word beyond the group, and we offer volunteering time each month to enable them to do this.
At Unum, we encourage a culture of sharing powerful employee stories that help enable our colleagues to understand and comprehend experiences and journeys of others. This then champions the way for more people to feel confident to be open and honest and bring their whole selves to work.
When up and running, a successful employee network can have lots of benefits to both a business and its employees and goes a long way to creating an inclusive and diverse environment.