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More employees want to build a sense of community through staff networks.

Employee interest in staff networks has risen in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the catalyst of #BlackLivesMatter’s reinforced emphasis on diversity, equality and inclusion concerns, and mental health awareness, according to UK DEI leaders.

“We’ve seen a massive uplift in our employee attendance of all our staff network events since the pandemic,” Jo Portlock, D&I director at Lexis Nexis Risk Solutions, told Recruiter in an exclusive interview. Lexis Nexis has 35 networks in terms of geographies and chapters, which cover 15 areas of diversity.

“Previously, our staff networks were run out of our five biggest offices, so we always knew we were only capturing about 50% of our employee population, and that was very skewed towards London, Atlanta (US) and Boca Raton (US), which are big locations. “But coupled with the pandemic, people want to build a sense of community and want to stay connected, and want to think about their own self-learning,” Portlock said. “They want to find a community, and also celebrate and recognise important activities and events such as holidays.” Networks, she said, “really fulfil that need and provide outreach to a bigger, mobile community”.

Cherron Inko-Tariah, previously of the UK Department for Communities and Local Government, is founder of the Power of Staff Networks and a consultant working in the networks arena. Asked if networks divide employees into groups more than bring them together, Inko-Tariah said: “That’s an age-old argument because, by their very nature, they’re separate. But I would say that sometimes people will only communicate when they feel safe. “And if a network can create a psychologically safe space for people to communicate… and start to articulate some of those lived experiences and share those with the wider organisation or with the decision-makers to influence policies and influence behaviours, then that starts to narrow the gap between those who are under-represented and those who are in the majority group. So I don’t feel that they do cause a separation. “That’s the beauty of the network.” Inko-Tariah said that she is working on a network survey to see both how many there are in the UK but “to see the type of impact they’re having on UK plc and UK public service”.


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