Best Practice Operating Approach for Network/Affinity Groups

In their ideal state, network groups should support the company’s efforts to attract and retain the best talent, promote leadership and development at all ranks, build an internal support system for workers within the company, and encourage diversity and inclusion among employees at all levels. Moreover, networks should support career development and mentoring for its members, help each individual build upon their own personal network for success, and act as a guiding force in helping the corporation achieve work/life effectiveness

Commitment and Direction: Offer a strong message of commitment from CEO/ Executive Leadership Team that is clear, consistent and communicated throughout the organization; clear appreciation for affinity group business case; direct CEO and senior leader involvement.   

Authorized Groups: Reflect key employee constituencies and extending beyond race, gender, and sexual orientation to ability, faith, professional interests, and lifestyles; in addition to market segments, some drive eligibility off of Title VII classes.

Role of Affinity Group: Act as a “voice” for identity group; actively attract, develop, and retain talent; develop new business opportunities; promote the Brand; community outreach.

Integration Play an integral role in the Diversity strategy; have “formal” linkages across corporate entities and functions to leverage affinity group as resource; help build leadership pipeline; have active partnership with business units.     

Business Connection Actively engage in driving business goals: talent recruitment/ retention; employee engagement, personal/professional development; emerging marketing; and being the “face” of the company in the community.

 Organization Offer corporate affinity groups with chapters by identity groups, across geography (regional, global), in some isolated cases aligned with business segments; affinity groups well connected with each other and the organization.   

Governance Offer corporate standards with guidelines, bylaws and operating agreements; formal leadership selection (a combination of elections and “hand-picked” recommendations).

 Affinity Group Leadership Well trained in leadership and diversity and focused on results, executives across identity groups should be active, and strong and support relationships with advisors as well as share best practices and create an active connection to leadership development.

Executive Advisors Members of the senior leadership team should act as champions, assume a very active role and be accountable for affinity group progress/success. They should also receive an orientation to their role and the affinity group.

Funding: Provide annual funding tied to approval of affinity group’s business plan and past performance; generally see the return on investment value.

Resources:  Assign a dedicated resource in the Diversity Office. Provide some level of access to corporate functions, resources and facilities; corporate and diversity website highlights affinity groups, their awards and contributions.

Accountability: Offer continuous oversight by the Diversity Office and advisors; require annual business plan aligned with business and workforce contributions; use associated metrics/ measurements. Strong groups have a purpose and a plan. They often give advice and counsel to the company and to the senior diversity officer. These groups prosper with adequate budgets and management advice. Most network groups are involved in professional member development activities, business partnerships and community relations. They lead other employees toward better cultural understanding

Funding and Resources

Addressing budget parameters for employee networks requires formal guidelines that should be instilled as clearly articulated company policy. Business plans should be presented by these groups to help direct appropriate funds. Specific, goal-oriented agendas should be set with a funding plan. Investment should be shared in time and expense: business-related and public-relations activities sponsored by the company; volunteer efforts shared; social events sponsored by the membership.

Many network groups are financially supported by their corporations. Although employee network budgets appear quite limited, they often partner with operational departments, thus expanding their budgetary resources. The human resources department often assists with training and recruiting resources, while the marketing, community relations, and public relations departments are targets for marketing and related activities. In starting an employee resource group, funding must be a priority. 

Getting the backing of an executive sponsor will help get you get the resources needed to start. Ideally, you should choose a senior executive that reports directly to the CEO who can relay the requests.

In addition to funding, corporations often provide many other resources to their employee resource groups. In addition to needed financial support, they provide human resources to guide, support, and educate the network.

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Diversity, Inclusion, and Ally-Ship

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