Network Groups

Are Network Groups Inclusive or Divisive? by Stephen Adams

Imagine a world where everyone got along and respected their differences., embracing people’s cultures and beliefs. What a world it would be! Curiosity, creativity and harmony flow through the world, celebrating collaboration and allowing voices to be heard. I am sorry to say this is not the real world. We encounter the complete opposite. When companies or people try to demonstrate positive behaviours, they are frowned upon and scrutinised for imperfections.

My first experience of inclusivity began in the 90’s, colleagues were encouraged to become a supporter or member of LGBT network group (Rainbow). I saw this as a great opportunity to walk in the shoes of colleagues from the LGBT community. I took up a mentorship role and worked with an amazing person. As we developed our relationship, we were able to share views, biases (from both sides) and we both grew and developed. I felt included.

Going forward to the year 2023, many organisations are losing sight of the purpose of network groups and their benefits. We are seeing the shift of accountability to resolve issues move to the network groups rather than the company taking accountability. This is creating a divide and distorts the purpose of the network groups. Non-minority groups are seeing this as unfair, unjust and how is this inclusive? On the flip side, some network groups see this as a great power shift, therefore, enhancing their seat at the table.

In many organisations, they have changed their recruitment processes to have a specified number of colleagues from certain minority groups. This is becoming extremely divisive and from speaking to many minority colleagues this is not what they need. The colleagues want a fair chance to be able to showcase their talents. A lens should be placed over the recruitment process to ensure it provides a consistent and fair approach to all colleagues. The recent case involving the RAF has highlighted this issue and how the pressure placed on recruiters because of these targets has resulted in discrimination against protected characteristics. RAF diversity targets discriminated against white men – BBC News

Companies need to tread this fine line, however involving colleagues from minority backgrounds can provide that consultancy approach to avoid isolating other groups.

In summary and these are my thoughts, I am a strong believer of network groups. Organisations now more than ever need to review the purpose of the network groups, why they are needed and the benefits to all.

Below are the benefits we see at Inspirational Coaching Limited of supporting network groups.

· Network groups have a special ability to foster greater employee understanding of equity concerns, information sharing, and mutual support. They provide workers who belong to underrepresented groups a voice. Networks are crucial to the design and execution of projects promoting diversity and inclusion.

· Networks are crucial for introducing role models who can share their path and their experiences in navigating the workplace.

· Participants in the network can talk about how they handled their careers and any obstacles faced and how they kept their obvious characteristics—like gender, colour, or disability—from impeding their potential to advance.

· Employee networks enhance an organisation’s external reputation, and networks that support workers can assist businesses in locating and interacting with diverse populations.

Policymakers frequently view these groups as being difficult to reach, and they suffer from poor inequities and results.

· Network groups are in a unique position to raise awareness of the needs and goals of the employee groups they represent.

· Networks enhance the working environment and can give employees a private location to talk about delicate topics. Networks can also offer guidance and details on any resources that are available at work.

· Additionally, they can offer advice on business prospects, marketing, the creation of programmes and products, as well as general suggestions for expanding the reach of customers and service users from other communities.