engage magazine issue 005 \\\'07 - Page 14

14 DIVERSITY NETWORK Employee Networks ‘If you are thinking of starting a diversity network - read this first’! 10 years ago if someone would have predicted there would be diversity based employee networks providing support to colleagues based on their gender, faith, culture, disability or parenting and caring responsibilities- funded by their employer- they would most probably be laughed at. Yet in the last several years this is exactly what has taken place, especially in some of the largest and most respected firms globally. From banks to legal firms, from accountancies to the Civil Service, diversity employee networks are everywhere and growing in number. Originally started in the US as affinity groups to provide mutual support to minority groups, diversity networks are now a global phenomenon and have taken on a role of their own, often providing a range of vital services to their organisations. Often started by colleagues from the bottom up, top down senior sponsorship has also proved an ingredient to their ongoing success. Internally these networks are often engaged by their organisations in thought leadership, consulted in policy review, host internal educational events and provide mentors to their members. Externally they are used to drive business development through client events, assist in diversity recruitment and forge links with the community. Most networks are run on a voluntary basis by leaders and committee members drawn from the business working internally with their diversity professional or HR teams. Often network leaders face the challenge of balancing their business responsibilities, ‘the day job’, with network demands. Too much time spent on their employee networks might detract from their day job and could lead to their disengagement or fatigue towards diversity. When the right balance is found, leading a network can provide a personally rewarding opportunity to contribute to colleagues and the success of an organisation. Below are some practical tips for leaders looking to set up a diversity network that they might consider before starting out. Tips for starting a diversity network 1. Have Co-Chairs Leading a network is a voluntary job, above and beyond your day job. It takes considerable time and leadership. Having a Co-Chair ensures that the responsibility is not just on one person’s shoulders and it gives you the flexibility to share tough times when business demands mean you cannot be so present for the network. 2. Have a Cross Business Committee It helps when starting a network to ensure that all parts of your business are represented. This way the whole firm is connected and we are able to agree initiatives that will support everybody. engage | uk ISSUE FIVE 2007