Kirklees Council identifies that equality related employee networks play an important role in informing decision-making and enabling innovation. In doing so, they contribute to addressing systemic discrimination. The Council has networks of: BAME* staff; young staff; staff who are carers; staff with disabilities; and LGBT staff.
There are challenges in sustaining staff engagement in and leadership of networks in a busy organisation, ensuring line manager support for staff to engage in the networks, and adequately resourcing the work and ambitions of the networks.
This initiative is rooted in Kirklees Council’s ‘Inclusion and Diversity Strategy and Action Plan 2017-2021’. One outcome identified for the strategy is that the approach of the Council to Inclusion and Diversity is informed by feedback from staff and citizens. One measure of performance identified for this was that ‘employee networks are contributing to organisational priorities and change’. The Year 2 Action Plan committed to reinvigorating the employee networks.
The process of reinvigorating equality related employee networks has established the role of these networks as being to:
- Engage: take actions to reach colleagues and communities to help everyone understand the opportunity of difference.
- Embed: scrutinise Council policies and decisions to ensure inclusion is wired into the thinking so it becomes an everyday reality.
- Empower: signpost and support colleagues to ensure they are able to be the best they can be, feel valued and can add value.
- Equip: help people to learn about and celebrate differences and how they can make the council stronger.
- Evaluate: support the creation of workplaces where people feel safe to be themselves and to share information, and use the information to develop strategies and action to address inequalities.
- Evolve: help to measure impact and how the Council has made a difference and ensured inclusion is an everyday reality in the Council.
It is now strengthening these networks by: identifying an Executive/senior sponsor for each network with a role descriptor developed for these sponsors; re-establish an annual network operation budget; placing a network coordinator in human resources; and senior level messaging to change the culture of how networks are viewed and valued by line managers.
* Reference term specifically used in the UK context