Do NOT talk amongst yourselves…

Picture this – you are part of a internal network at work, let’s say a women’s network focusing on gender balance and you want to gather data on the good and the bad of events and training focused on improving female representation at higher job grades. Or, you want to change the perception and adoption of flexible working across the workforce. Grass roots stuff – not corporate policy and central HR stuff but a local learning and development aiming to drive gender balance.

Who do you engage with? Why the network members of course.

Okay, anyone else? Well no, we have the network to help us understand such matters and make the change that’s needed.

Readers, this is not the answer. Yes, it is AN answer, and it is a valid one to a point. However, by talking to only network members you are potentially missing a huge swathe of valuable input. Also, quite often, the changes you want to make are across the wider community – the ones both in and out of the network. If someone has subscribed to your network then they’re already on board. They are the easy targets so to speak. Valuable targets absolutely, do you want and need their input, completely, but you cannot ignore the wider community. To do so both hampers your impact and in most cases misses those who most need to make the change your driving.

Let’s take flexible working as an example. A corporation can have great policies, they formally communicate these to the management community and ensure that job design, internal and external recruitment procedures and interview training are supportive of this. Their HR can do a wonderful job of working with managers to see where roles can be done on a flexible basis and ensure roles are designed accordingly.

But it’s still not enough to make it happen in reality. This is where the network comes into play. The network can get out to the boots on a ground and find out why flexible working isn’t well adopted, what the concerns are and the reservations, both from an individual perspective and a managers. The network can get under the skin of the matter, particularly if it’s a local network and therefore is be focused on a specific area.

However, if you only do this work within the network, with those that are already signed up and actively support gender balance, then most likely you’re working with those that already support flexible working and look for ways to make it happen. Not exclusively, admittedly, but a sizeable portion are already a good way down the path. You need to get out to the wider community. You need to engage those outside your network. Do NOT talk amongst yourselves.

How? Well, that’ll be a subject of a future post…

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