https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2019/05/08/celebrating-staff-networks-2/

Celebrating staff networks

Head and shoulders image of Rupert McNeil, Government Chief People Officer
Rupert McNeil, Government Chief People Officer

It is National Day for Staff Networks on 8 May. The day is something that we support every year across the Civil Service, and is part of a brilliant campaign that focuses on the value that employee networks bring to all sorts of workplaces.

The campaign is actually run by a former civil servant, Cherron Inko-Tariah, who, during her time in Whitehall, saw just how much employee networks were contributing to our being a great place to work. Now it is something that organisations from all sectors celebrate nationwide, and which gives us a chance to say thank you for all the voluntary work employee networks do to make our workplaces better.

We are fortunate in the Civil Service to have thriving networks both in departments and across government. To meet our aim of being the most inclusive employer in the UK by 2020, we need to make sure that everyone feels that their voice is heard, and that they have a safe space in which they can air any concerns or worries. Our networks are a key part of that.

Employee networks are also not only a space for dialogue. From the centre, we often shape ideas and deliver them in partnership with our networks.  The recent guidance around making sure that SCS interview panels have a diverse mix of people on them was developed with the cross-Government Race and Disability networks, for example. And our work to ensure that the Civil Service is an LGB&Ti inclusive employer will be given a boost by the brilliant work the cross-Government LGB&Ti network are doing on Pride 2019.

I am often asked whether it is divisive to have networks in place that focus on one particular group, or that play to one particular part of a person’s identity. After all, not many of us are just one thing – and the theme of ‘intersectionality’, and what it feels like to be part of multiple groups, is a really important one as we build inclusive places to work.

My answer is that we can do both. We can think about the way we work, the culture of our workplaces and how that affects everyone. And we can also think about how people from particular backgrounds might experience those workplaces differently for all sorts of reasons, conscious and unconscious.  

Importantly, all of our networks are open to everyone, and all of our network events are for everyone, not just those who identify in a particular way. And we have a vast range of networks catering to all sorts of groups and interests. So, if you aren’t part of one, it might just be worth trying it out. Find out more here, or look on your departmental intranet for those that meet near you.

I’m going to be chairing a new group of cross-government employee networks from June. This will help me not only understand the concerns of civil servants from across government and the issues they face, but will also help make sure our employee networks are central to any changes in HR policy or practice.

If you are planning an event for National Day for Staff Networks before that meeting, do share your stories with that group via the inclusion mailbox at inclusion@cabinetoffice.gov.uk or get involved on social media by using the campaign’s hashtag #leadingforchange.

Finally, I wanted to say a huge thank you to all of the volunteers who keep our networks running. It is hard to balance that with a day job, and I’m in awe of how you do it. Thank you.

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5 comments

  1. Comment by Ian Sexton posted on

    I appreciate that the Civil Service needs to focus on inclusivity for minority groups but the acronym seems to be getting longer LGB&Ti. You say not many of us are 'one thing', what does that mean? I would have thought that the majority of the population are 'one thing' if I am interpreting it correctly.

    • Replies to Ian Sexton>

      Comment by Julie Hawthorn posted on

      I think that what Rupert means by "one thing" is that for example I might be a woman who is bisexual, and also from a minority ethnic background with a disability. I wouldn't therefore have just one protected characteristic and that is where intersectionality comes in so we need to look across the whole spectrum of inclusion for individuals and at how we can get some of our networks working better together.

    • Replies to Ian Sexton>

      Comment by Joanne Towers posted on

      Hi Ian
      I'm a woman who is both intersex and lesbian. I'm more than one of the letters of the LGBTI acronym. The reason that the LGBTI acronym is sometimes expressed in different ways (sometimes it's LGBT+, LGBTQI etc) is to allow more people visibility and inclusion. LGBT+ infers that other people are included (Intersex and Queer identifying people) but the + symbol doesn't specifically say it.

      I suspect that we are all more than one thing - for example, I'm a colleague, a manager, and a Chartered Surveyor at work. At home I am a parent and a partner.
      Best wishes
      Jo

  2. Comment by Martyn Mellis posted on

    It's great to have the list of the cross civil service networks in one place - but I found it difficult, on some of the pages, to easily identify who to contact for more info. Would it possible, on the list of the networks, to have contact email addresses?

  3. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Thank you for promoting the terrific work that the various Staff Associations do to ensure that staff are being treating with equality and respect and that they come to work in the confidence that they can be authentic and that any unacceptable behaviour and acts of discrimination by others will be challenged.

    It is especially amazing the level of success that these Groups have achieved, when you consider that most of the volunteers already have super busy core roles as well having to find the time to fulfil this additional Diversity and Inclusion role.

    I can certainly say that within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, we are very fortunate in that we not only have some extremely proactive Staff Associations such as the Wellbeing Network, ENABLE, BAME Network, Women’s Association, etc. but also a fantastic level of support at Senior Level.

    Sir Simon McDonald our current PUS certainly leads by example and seeks to have regular interaction with the various Staff Support Group, as well as, attendance at Diversity and Inclusion events hosted in the FCO Main Building.

    Gavin Thomas, Chair of the FCO Wellbeing Network