This week marks National Inclusion Week, a chance to celebrate and encourage diversity and inclusion initiatives in our workplaces. This year’s theme is the ‘power of now’, a perfect opportunity to speak about an inclusion initiative that I have seen deliver rapid benefits: network groups.
Evolve has several network groups, designed to give colleagues a shared voice through which they can raise concerns and suggest new policies. They are a way for people to come together, share experiences and bounce around ideas.
I co-chair our Race Action Network and have already seen how it can create change over just a few months, as our other groups have as well.
First, they provide significant value just by bringing participants together and providing a forum to share thoughts and feelings. They offer a space for camaraderie and new friendships, and just the act of attending allows people to hear new perspectives and understand their colleagues better. With each meeting more colleagues have attended, showing just how much people value them.
Furthermore, networks enable people to identify shared problems and find solutions. For example, the Race Action Network has already identified the availability of staff training as something that could be improved, and has proposed changes to our Leadership Team as a result. Another of our networks has raised the idea of reverse mentoring – where senior staff are paired with more junior colleagues to learn about their work – which is being looked into now. Sometimes you need people to come together and share thoughts in order to realise that a particular issue is present. If you don’t share, people may think they are on their own.
Evolve is an inclusive, diverse place to work, but in any workplace there are things that can be changed. Network groups are important because wherever you are and whatever your role, you should feel empowered to take a place at the table and contribute to how things are done.
If you are thinking about setting something up, I would say a good rule is ‘see one, do one’. Speak to people who already run networks, either in your organisation or beyond, and learn how they did it. After that, gaining momentum and getting people to believe in what you are saying is really important. Even just finding one other like-minded person is a good start – if people can see that you’re passionate it tends to rub off, and before you know it you have a network.
Ultimately, networks can create valuable change, as well as giving colleagues a sense of community and togetherness. They are about moving forward and gaining something positive rather than just finding problems – I am really glad that I got involved with mine.
Aladine is Team Leader at Beacon House, and Co-Chair of our Race Action Network.