Networks designed to increase inclusivity across organisations need to have a global reach to be effective, according to law firm Norton Rose Fulbright global director of people and development Andrew McEachern.
Speaking at a staff networks workshop organised by LGBT and LGBT-friendly networking group Radius Business, McEachern highlighted “consistency of feel” as the most important factor when trying to create inclusivity throughout an organisation.
“Over the past 10 years our networks have been too focused on country or location,” he said. “We want to move them all, but especially our LGBT network, onto a global platform.
“We’re looking to build an online network so even where people are not in an area where there is a critical mass they can feel involved.”
Increasing diversity and inclusion is part of annual appraisals at Facebook, according to global director of learning Stuart Crabb. He pointed to the fact progress in this area affects individuals’ bonuses at the company, while also hailing the impact of “employee resource groups” within the organisation.
“With so much diversity in our client base it’s important to us that the organisation looks like the population that it serves, understands its needs and serves them,” he said. “The employee resource groups we have are essential as a way to help inform that awareness across the organisation.”
Crabb added that these groups have been especially effective in engaging Facebook’s African-American employees, leading to tangible results in recruitment and engagement.
“Engaging our own African-American employees and asking them what the recruitment experience should look like has been more instrumental than anything else we could have done to improve our processes,” he said. “For instance, how is training on unconscious bias affecting recruitment and retention of black and Hispanic employees? It can move it from something that can be a bit of a two-dimensional debate to something a lot more robust.”
PwC partner Robert Smid addressed the matter of funding for employee networks. He told the audience that he had noticed a shift from diversity being something “our clients expect” to a business critical issue in the past few months. As a result, funding for networks is becoming more widespread.
“We have central funding for all of our networks but there’s also funding available at local level,” he explained. “By supporting our employee networks we make sure we create a level playing field for everybody.
“We have also gradually come to realise that we are a better business if we are more diverse. We will make better decisions and respond better to crises. We will consider more options so there’s a true business case for effective staff networks.”
Although funding is one aspect, the most important traits for someone looking to start an employee network are “persistence, determination and never giving up”, added McEachern.
“You have to go after the circle of influence,” he said. “If the HR director is not available, go to the next person. If this doesn’t work you can go through the influence of competitors. With networks the two questions you need to have the answer to are ‘who else is doing it?’ and ‘how much does it cost?’
“The other end is trying to ‘walk with the angels’ without any business case. But many senior leaders won’t buy into this. You have to make a serious business case, whether it’s the bottom line or trouble with keeping people through a lack of these policies.”