The Benefits of Support Networks
Getting the right support for all employees is vital in fostering in an inclusive and equal working environment for everyone. Whether they cater for LGBT, disabled, black and minority ethnic employees, or staff with mental health issues, employee support networks have been shown to provide great benefits for not only the employee, but the employer too. EHRC Research Report 36 – ‘Integration in the Workplace: emerging employment practice on age, sexual orientation and religion or belief’ states, “Networks (are) considered a key indicator of an organisation’s willingness to be inclusive of (minority) staff… (and) had resulted in some positive outcomes for staff… such as LGBT employees gaining the confidence to come out more widely in organisations.” Here are some of the reasons why businesses would do well to provide support networks for their staff:
Benefits to the Employer:
- Promotes Diversity – Demonstrates a commitment to equality and diversity and shows that the organisation values all its employees. It highlights that the organisation is a positive career choice and place to work, helping to attract and retain talented people.
- Encourages Compliance with Employment Law – Under the equality legislation, businesses are required to tackle all forms of discrimination in the workplace. Support networks for employees belonging to demographic minorities are a valuable way for the organisation to show its commitment to tackling all areas of inequality.
- Builds Employee Communication Channels – Support networks provide an effective engagement and consultation mechanism, facilitating communication between the employer and their employees. It will provide a point of contact for the organisation to discover the concerns of its employees and can be a useful resource for influencing policy and strategy.
- Enhances Reputation – With networks to support vulnerable employees, the organisation will be able to publicly demonstrate that it values its employees and service users.
Benefits to the Employee:
- Builds Communication Channels – Support networks give marginalised groups an opportunity to be heard. It will provide a forum for employees to discuss issues that specifically affect them. Providing such a forum for discussion is an important way of building a workforce that feels valued.
- Providing peer support – Networks provide a safe environment for employees to share personal and professional issues and seek advice, while providing mutual support.
- Promotes career progression – Networks will help to create an environment whereby employees feel safe to develop their skills and pursue career opportunities. Access to role models and mentors through support networks will inspire and build employees and volunteer’s confidence. It will also normalise the concept of career success for all employees.
Another benefit of support networks for both the employer and the employee is right there in the name – networks. By providing employees with the opportunity to connect with colleagues in different departments, at different levels and in different locations, they encourage personal and professional connections that will usher in new projects, new initiatives, new community outreach efforts, and new opportunities for all involved.
By: Simon Rowley
Cursed with a lifelong passion for writing, I’ve been throwing my time at it for as long as I can remember. I graduated from Bath Spa University with a Creative Writing degree in 2010, and since then have worked as a Digital Marketing Assistant for English Heritage. I currently volunteer in marketing and publicity capacities for Swindon 105.5, Girlguiding Wiltshire North and Swindon Climate Action Network, and contribute to the Swindon-based creative collective Tabula Rasa.