Whitehall’s chief people officer has spoken of his belief that employee networks have a central role in turning the civil service’s target of becoming the UK’s most inclusive employer into reality.
Rupert McNeil said the civil service was fortunate to have “thriving” networks – both in individual departments and across government – and that they were a vital channel for both generating ideas and implementing strategies.
In a blog post marking National Staff Networks Day – organised by former civil servant Cherron Inko-Tariah – McNeil said the event was an opportunity to salute all the voluntary work employee networks did to make workplaces better.
McNeil also revealed that he will chair a new group of cross-government employee networks starting from next month in a bid to better understand the concerns of staff from across departments and make networks central to future changes in HR policy and practice.
“We are fortunate in the civil service to have thriving networks both in departments and across government,” he said.
“To meet our aim of being the most inclusive employer in the UK by 2020, we need to make sure that everyone feels that their voice is heard, and that they have a safe space in which they can air any concerns or worries. Our networks are a key part of that.”
McNeil said employee networks were more than just a space for dialogue.
“From the centre, we often shape ideas and deliver them in partnership with our networks,” he said.
“The recent guidance around making sure that SCS interview panels have a diverse mix of people on them was developed with the cross-government race and disability networks, for example.
“And our work to ensure that the civil service is an LGB&Ti inclusive employer will be given a boost by the brilliant work the cross-government LGB&Ti network are doing on Pride 2019.”
McNeil said he was often asked whether it was divisive to have networks that focused on one particular group, or that played to just one particular part of a person’s identity.
“Not many of us are just one thing – and the theme of ‘intersectionality’, and what it feels like to be part of multiple groups, is a really important one as we build inclusive places to work,” he said.
“My answer is that we can do both. We can think about the way we work, the culture of our workplaces and how that affects everyone. And we can also think about how people from particular backgrounds might experience those workplaces differently – for all sorts of reasons, conscious and unconscious.”
He added that it was important that all employee networks were open to everyone, not only people who identified in a particular way.