Employee Networking Groups

Employee Networking Groups (ENG) Can Add Value to an Institution’s Bottom Line

By Rosie M. Peterson, BS, PAHM, Director, Institutional Diversity Initiatives

Employee networking groups can be beneficial to the culture of an organization and its bottom line. Many of these groups often start because of an employee’s need to network with other employees with similar interests and needs. Many of these groups quickly become a model of service to the institution in the area of recruitment of talent, morale boosting, retention and professional development. In addition to all of the aforementioned benefits for the institution, employee networking groups help to provide a positive image of the institution in the community.

In a Pulse Survey conducted by the University of Minnesota (UM) to understand employees’ experiences in their employee networking workgroups, a set of questions were asked regarding their work interdependence and social interaction. The researchers asked questions such as, "How much do members of your workgroup depend on other workgroup members for help or assistance to do their work?" They also examined the nature of the employee's work group and the interdependence of work within the work group. The results of the survey indicated that the work interdependence was moderate across all campuses and job classifications. Below are the results of the survey indicating the level of work interdependence and social interaction across the UM campus.

  • Survey results on work interdependence.
Work Interdependence
  • Survey results on social interaction.

To assess social interaction, the researcher used questions such as, "How often do members of your workgroup spend breaks or lunch socializing with one another?" The results of the survey indicated moderate levels of social interaction between employees within their workgroups across campuses and job classifications.

Social Interaction

The result of the survey above indicates that employees tend not to abuse social interactions and workplace practices by participating in an employee networking group. On the contrary, these groups can be an important tool for the institution to improve skill sets and communication among internal networks and create a positive climate of inclusion with employees of richly diverse backgrounds. Employee networking groups can take various forms with regard to age, religious beliefs, professional goals, ethnic background, sexual orientation and other similar demographics. Because of the positive climate created by these groups, members are secure in supporting one another and discussing workplace issues they may face.

Many ENGs are usually grass root in their origin to support the interest of participants with similar interests. With this thought in mind, organizers of ENGs must make it clear that group membership is open to all employees and complies with the institution’s anti-discrimination policies and applicable laws. To help promote an environment conducive to freedom of expression, many employers make the recommendation that the executive champion of a particular ENG should not be a member of that group.

In 2009, the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement (ODCE) hosted a Networking Luncheon for staff women of color. The event became quite emotional as the participants realized the large number of women of color on the UT Dallas campus. Since UT Dallas is a compartmentalized campus, one can become isolated and feel marginalized. Many of the women at the event shared very personal stories of professional struggles and the need to meet more often to network with each other. As I walk through the halls of UT Dallas, I encounter many of the women who attended the event, and more times than not they want to reminisce about that single event that was so powerful in making them feel good about working at UT Dallas.

Communicating a collective and inclusive understanding of diversity and its benefits across campus is paramount to the mission and the business case of the ODCE. To support this important goal, ODCE has teamed up with Dr. Edward E. Hubbard, of Hubbard and Hubbard, to conduct an interactive workshop. Dr. Hubbard is an internationally recognized expert in diversity measurement. He is one of the first metrics authors in the field of diversity and has authored more than 40 books. This training is designed to provide participants with practical and realistic tools to develop an effective plan for a strong business case for Employee Networking Groups/Business Networking Groups (ENG/BNG). Dr. Hubbard will demonstrate an analysis for a Diversity Return on Investment (ROI) based on his ENG/BNG model. This workshop will help participants to determine ROI values and to calculate the ROI impact of ENGs. Participants will be able to diagnose an ENG/BNG case study and the use of each Diversity ROI step for application in their organizations. Participants will also learn to apply and shape ENG/BNG Best Practices to generate ROI values and build an ENG/BNG Diversity ROI implementation plan using their own initiatives for immediate application when they return to their institutions.

In an effort to attract and retain a diversity of talented people at all levels, it is important for the ODCE to support activities creating a welcoming campus climate in which to promote and celebrate diversity at UT Dallas. If you would like to have more information on Employee Networking Groups or the workshop above, please contact Rosie Peterson at ext. 4560 in the Department of Institutional Diversity Initiatives.