Why employee networks are critical to your DE&I strategy

Resource groups proving to be increasingly important

Why employee networks are critical to your DE&I strategy


By Ajay Mistry

Employee networks – also known as employee resource groups (ERGs), business resource groups, or staff communities – are becoming increasingly important in today’s workplace. These groups are designed to provide support, resources, representation, and opportunities for employees who share a common identity, interest, or goal and can have a significant impact on workplace culture, employee engagement, and organisational success.

ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups whose aim is to build and promote a diverse, inclusive workplace that is aligned with the values of the organisations they serve.

They are usually made up of employees who share a certain characteristic, whether it’s gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexuality, ability, etc. ERGs exist to offer help and support in personal or career development and to create a safe space where employees are encouraged to bring their whole selves to the table.

ERGs are extremely common in the insurance industry and are a feature at most mid-large organisations – and increasing in smaller firms. Jonny Briggs, group head of talent acquisition at Aviva, said: “Employee resource groups are fundamental to an organisation’s drive to be more inclusive. At Aviva we have six, and encourage all colleagues to join multiple communities to better understand the challenge and opportunities each face.”

Why are employee networks so important?

ERGs and employee networks can bring a wealth of benefits to organisations.

Katherine Conway, head of inclusion at Aon, said: “Employee resource groups are a critical part of any firm’s I&D (inclusion and diversity) strategy. They are a huge asset, helping drive an inclusive culture, building awareness and allyship, and developing the diversity of perspective that enables our businesses to thrive in a rapidly changing environment.”

One of the key benefits is that they provide a sense of community and belonging for employees. This is particularly important for individuals who may feel isolated or marginalised in the workplace. ERGs and networks can help to foster a sense of connection and support, which can lead to increased job satisfaction and employee retention.

They can also act in a valuable advisory capacity with a business on issues relating to their specific focus, giving businesses a better insight into the different communities within their organisation, how business decisions and activities may impact different communities, and what issues are important to different communities.

ERGs can also provide some much-needed diversity of thought to help businesses make better decisions and develop a company culture that creates motivated, engaged employees.

They can also serve as a valuable resource for professional development and career advancement. ERGs often provide access to training, mentoring, and networking opportunities that may not be available elsewhere in the organisation. Therefore, by participating in ERGs and networks, employees can gain valuable skills and experiences that can help advance their careers.

Chelsey Sprong, inclusion partner at Beazley, said: “Our employee networks play an important role in ensuring that colleagues right across the company – and in all different territories, functions, and levels of responsibility – feel they have clear channels through which their voice can be heard. They can get involved in tackling some of the complex issues that will help us to create a more equal and inclusive culture.”

Value outside the organisation

As well as offering numerous benefits to the internal running of your organisation, ERGs can also bring a lot of external benefits.

ERGs and networks can help organisations better reflect the diverse clients they serve. By encouraging diversity and inclusion in the workplace, ERGs can help businesses better understand and cater to the needs of their diverse client base.

A company’s brand reputation can be enhanced by demonstrating their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) through the support of their ERGs. This can help attract and retain customers who value these principles, as well as prospective employees who value inclusion.

ERGs are especially important to the younger generations such as Gen Z, who place a high value on diversity and inclusion. By prioritising DE&I, businesses can attract and retain top talent from this demographic.

Michaela Gibson, head of DE&I transformation & programme management, The Phoenix Group, said: “For me employee networks are the critical link between boards, [executive committees], and senior leaders and their employees – and also prospective employees. They act as the voice of the people, and without this vital line of communication, organisations’ DE&I strategies would be nowhere near as impactful and relevant to the needs to their organisation. 

“Employee networks are also vital talent attraction tools, and any organisation which fails to invest time and money into their employee networks, and in supporting cross-market/industry networks, is missing out on diverse talent which will go to their competitors who do invest in and support their employee networks,” she said.

Finally, ERGs can also act as a valuable link to community engagement and outreach by providing opportunities for employees to give back to their communities and build relationships with local organisations.

Cross-industry networks

At iCAN, our goal is to promote multicultural inclusion and progression, engage with allies, and celebrate the benefits of inclusion and diversity in the insurance industry.

We have a number of initiatives that can help organisations promote DE&I, better engage and retain staff, and develop more inclusive working environments.

You can find out more about us here: https://www.i-can.me/

There are other networks also offering valuable insights, help, advice, and support to organisations in the insurance sector, including the Gender Inclusion Network (GIN); iDAWN – Insurance Disability, Ability, and Wellbeing Network; the Next Generation Insurance Network (NGIN); Link (LGBTQ+ Insurance Network); and The Insurance Families Network (The IFN), who are currently working on their 2024 Edition of 50 over Fifty. You can access them all here: https://www.i-can.me/inclusion-lloyds


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