5 tips to effectively run an LGBT+ network
1. Make it a team effort
Although every network group needs one or two leaders to drive its mission forward, a successful network involves too wide a range of time- and resource-intensive activities for it to succeed without the support and energetic input of a team of people operating under the strategic vision of the leaders. As early as possible, efforts should be made to recruit such individuals into the network architecture, and empower them to make use of their skills and energy in achieving specific targeted deliverables.
2. Recruit and use allies
LGBT+ people exist, in most organisations, as a minority group. Therefore, to achieve the critical mass necessary to warrant attention and achieve the desired progress, the express and active support of non-LGBT+ people, i.e. allies, within the organisation, is essential. To that end, establishing an allies programme should be a priority for the network. This should focus not only on recruitment (e.g. through internal awareness campaigns and ‘marketing’) but also on how best to engage with and deploy those allies to progress the cause of LGBT+ inclusion (e.g. by providing training, educational events, helpful resources, visible collateral, etc).
3. Get support from Executives, Human Resources and Corporate Communications
The visible support of the network by senior executives within the organisation – including, but not limited to, executive sponsors – is invaluable in ‘virtue signalling’ to other employees that LGBT+ inclusion carries the sanction of those at the top, and should facilitate a cascading down through the ranks of similar support.
Active engagement with Human Resources is crucial for the network in facilitating necessary changes in, for example, employment policies and staff appraisal criteria which, if implemented optimally, should respectively require and incentivise staff to act inclusively towards LGBT+ colleagues.
And because getting the message out to staff in a meaningful and impactful way is essential to awareness and education – the basic building blocks of network success – it is vital that the network build an active and supportive relationship with the organisation’s corporate communications team, who can assist it in the production of materials for social media, events advertising, commemorating key dates etc.
4. Use SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound) objectives
Running an LGBT+ network is, in principle, no different from running any other team – and therefore, to succeed, effort needs to be put in to defining what the network is seeking to achieve, how it intends to go about achieving those aims, and what resources it will need to do so. To inform that, a network may, for example, try to establish what is perceived as best practice in certain areas (a benchmarking exercise involving reference to, primarily, external resources like Stonewall) and then devise a programme of activities and communications which it is believed should help those objectives to be realised. Naturally, an ex-post review process to assess how successful that approach has been will also be invaluable for future strategic planning.
5. Don’t be an island
As the best practice research noted above makes clear, no organisation is an island – they all operate in wider (e.g. industrial and geographic) contexts. Other organisations with whom you share one of those characteristics will be on the same journey, even if not at the same stage of it – and having the network reach to its equivalents in those, to share knowledge, resources, activities and costs, make sense not only in pluralising best practice but also in boosting critical mass (noted earlier as being important) and in keeping costs under control. In many industries, multilateral platforms (like Interbank for the financial services industry) exist as a good place to start, and efforts to develop one-on-one sharing relationships with other kindred organisations locally also offer excellent potential payback.
Geffrye Parsons, Managing Director & Co-Chair, Pride Network