Mutuals praised for awesome networks that support staff

Inclusive networks developed within the mutual sector have been named as some of the top in the country. The Co-operative Group, John Lewis and Nationwide have all been...

Inclusive networks developed within the mutual sector have been named as some of the top in the country.

The Co-operative Group, John Lewis and Nationwide have all been highlighted in a top 40 list of Awesome Networks by Inclusive Networks, a hub that unites and shares best practice between groups.

These networks help foster diversity, inclusion and engagement for employees, and support professional and personal development.

Thomas Anderson, founder of Inclusive Networks and a former Co-operative Group employee who co-ordinated its LGBT network Respect, said: “The diversity of the nominations received in our first Awesome Network list is a celebration of the many authentic networks around the UK that have each made their mark and have a real positive impact on those people who engage with them, and in many cases, the communities where they operate.

“I’m thrilled that there is representation from many diversity strands and sectors and I look forward to seeing the list grow. From my personal experience, it is very clear that networks of all types can enhance the lives of those people who engage with them, as well as be of great value to the organisations that many of the networks represent.”

Those networks highlighted include:

Pips (Pride in Partnership)
Pips is the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employee network for John Lewis and Waitrose. Last year, the group rolled out e-learning diversity training to all 91,000 Partners, emphasising the value of understanding and embracing cultural differences. Chair Abigail Chicken said: “The John Lewis Partnership is widely recognised as a great place to work, so I am over the moon to have Pips recognised as an Awesome Network. We have been keen to champion diversity and inspire others to follow us, so 2015 will see the launch of new networks within other diversity streams – hopefully next year they will be Awesome too!”

The Co-operative Group provides a support network for female employees through Aspire. Established in 2012, the main aim around the network was to find out what barriers women perceived was in the workplace. Sharon Pegg, chair of the Network, commented: “Aspire gives those employees that wish to access it, the opportunity to network but it also provides events for members to learn new things and support their development. It also offers opportunities and a chance to dip in to other resources within the Group.”

Nationwide’s LGBT network Solcats aims to positively promote equality: from the recruitment of new staff, through to the retention and promotion of existing employees, as well as fundraising for LGBT causes. Chris Rhodes, Nationwide executive director and Solcats network sponsor, said: “At Nationwide we believe that people perform better when they can be themselves and this recognition supports all the hard work that Solcats do to ensure that our LGBT employees and customers feel respected and valued.”

The initiatives were welcomed by women and equalities minister Nicky Morgan, who said: “It’s clear that network groups can make a very real contribution to the workplace, helping create a culture which values diversity and attracts the best talent. It is of course up to individual firms how they recognise the work that network groups do, both inside and outside of the organisation, but I would certainly encourage any company to reward staff who give something back to the workplace and their communities.

“We know that networks are important – we’ve seen how the ‘old boys’ network’ used to dominate the workplace at senior levels. Luckily, things are now changing and there is much more diversity in the world of work. However, there is still a lot of benefit from both formal and informal networks.”

• To nominate other networks from across the sector, visit:

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