How to make the most of employee networks

After starting a successful employee committee Amanda Nicholson, people change lead at Optegra Eye Health Care, explains how to make the most out of them.

Optegra’s HR team started a new employee network in March this year to highlight and celebrate inclusivity and diversity throughout the business.

The group, Be You, is run by a committee made up of diverse employees and was created to ensure everyone feels valued and has a voice.

Nicholson said establishing employee networks sends a very clear message to all staff that they are valued for who they are as well as what they bring to their work.

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To get the most out of an employee network, Nicholson said it must have the support of senior management.

She told HR magazine: “Senior leadership support is crucial to ensure a network like Be You has a real platform and is seen as critical to business success. 

“Establishing a core team who are passionate about how employees are treated is also important.

“A network doesn’t just happen, and it needs people who are committed to investing time and energy.” 

Keeping the network visible with communication, events and opportunities for everyone to get involved is also important to ensure it makes an impact, explained Nicholson.

So far, the group has focused on mental health, Ramadan and Eid and celebrated Pride month in different ways, all with the aim of developing understanding through sharing experiences. 

“The group has developed several successful initiatives including expansion of the network of LGBT+ employees, which is particularly important as many patients and also optometrists referring to Optegra are also from the LGBT+ community,” she explained.

Initiatives put in place by an employee network have the ability to make real change within a business.

Nicholson said: “Our Pride Panel was deeply affecting, with three of our colleagues sharing their very personal experiences of being LGBT+ at work and how many of their experiences, prior to Optegra, were not positive.

“They appreciated the opportunity to speak so openly, and hearing their stories was a privilege, knowing that they are able to be themselves and recognising that is celebrated by our business was incredibly inspiring.”

The Be You network has more than doubled in size since it first launched a few months ago, and Nicholson said she and the people team hopes it continues to grow.

“Our amazing colleagues see what we’re doing and we’re really happy that they want to be part of our movement.”


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