Staff networks are an excellent way for employees to feel connected to their team and part of a support network. Whether you are a business owner, a manager, or a staff member in a large organisation, if you feel part of your identity is underrepresented in your workplace, or you feel more could be done to support a particular group of people, consider setting up a staff network.
Staff networks are successful because they provide two essential elements to a workplace: they provide a like-minded community who share an identity and they work to fight discrimination or inequality, creating a better environment for all. This dual-purpose means that staff networks need to be supported and encouraged from the top. If you are an employer, consider creating the space and time for your staff to meet and organise in a staff network.
What is a staff network?
A staff network is a supportive and welcoming space for employees, outside of their management structure, to come together to create change in the workplace. Usually, the staff network is centred around an unrepresented and protected characteristic, which results in unfair treatment or discrimination in the workplace. For example, an organisation might have a women’s staff network to support all female staff and develop ways to tackle gender inequality in the workplace.
Staff networks carry out the essential tasks of creating new equality, diversity and inclusion policies and putting pressure on those in charge to implement them. For example, they might be responsible for encouraging a quota of BAME recruits or running a series of events for Pride month.
How to set up a staff network
If you feel that part of your identity is underrepresented in the workplace, you feel you could do with some extra support from people who share your experiences and then set up a staff network!
- Find out whether there are any existing staff networks in your organisations. Even if they are not relevant to you, they might be able to help you with the logistics of setting up a network.
- Reach out to other colleagues and staff across your team to determine whether others feel there is a need for this particular network.
- Ask for space, time and a budget to run the network. While it may seem more manageable and more desirable to set up the network alone, your employer should support you with a budget to run the network and time out of your schedule.
- Create a list of aims of the network depending on what you want it to achieve. For some people, a network is predominantly about pastoral care and providing a safe space to share the difficulties of being in the minority. Whereas others have a much more policy focus, working to create systemic change in their workplace.
- Decide on a regular structure for your network, making it easier for people to join and commit to being part of the group. Think about when you will meet, where you will meet, who the network is open to, and how you plan to implement change.