7 ways to ensure your employee network is a success

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

At our conference last month, we learned from our speakers about the continuing importance of employee networks. It can, however, be a struggle to sustain the initial levels of engagement and motivation that accompany the launch of a network.  So how do we demonstrate the need for a network and continue to motivate volunteers to commit their precious time to the running of a network?  In other words, what is the secret to the success of the employee network?

Here are 7 things that our panellists agreed add to the success of an employee network:

1. Executive sponsorship is important.  It’s important to make sure networks are aligned with the strategy at the top, and senior sponsors can ensure that this is visible at the executive level.  It’s also essential to have strong allies who can facilitate strategic collaborations with HR and the Board/the CEO, and even external organisations, e.g., vendors or clients.
2. Invest and be inclusive.  Don’t let the network be one person’s passion project; networks need to be inclusive.  Have at least one network (for instance an environmental network) that is for everyone!  Budget is also important, whether for events or for internal activism, such as making the office a paper-free zone or adopting a feng shui approach to common spaces.
3. Visibility throughout the firm and cross-collaboration between networks can help with success.   Bringing together all the employee network volunteers once in a while is a powerful acknowledgment of the value they add.
4. Raising awareness of the purpose of the network is a good reminder of what it’s there for.  Any creative ways to bring attention to networks and  draw people in to find out more can also boost understanding of what they’re about and help reduce bias.
5. Reward volunteers for giving up their time for free.  Allow them to record what they do as part of their professional goals, including goals towards greater Inclusion.  Also, allow volunteers to leverage executive sponsorship, as it can be an incentive to get to know senior leaders through the network they support.  Many networks also have links to external organisations, and in this way they can create opportunities beyond the office.
6. Agree a network charter to make everything clear, including the purpose of the network, its remit, opportunities and collaborations.  The charter can also set out terms of reference and engagement with departments such as HR, and clearly set out the value that the network brings to the organisation and its business.
7. Celebrate successes and make them very visible throughout the organisation.  Show other potential volunteers and members what the network has accomplished and how it has added value to the people of the organisation as well as the business.

Employee networks are still as important now as they were 10 years ago, but how they achieve success has changed over the years.  What have you seen that adds to the success of your employee networks?

Suggested Reading

10 Bitesize learnings from our conference

ERGS and Staff Networks: Looking back and gazing forward