I dreamt up the title "Networkologist" some years ago. I had been making a business case for a peer support network for disabled staff to a large investment bank. They had been trying to establish a disability strategy for the best part of two years and nothing had materialised. Their workplace adjustment process was in disarray. Their Diversity & Inclusion manager was stretched. Everything seemed a bit glum. Someone said, "We don't even know how many disabled people we employ.....I don't think I've ever seen one here."
After a good hour of kicking around some ideas, my client asked me "So what do you really do? What do you call yourself?" I found myself answering "I'm a networkologist. I create the circumstances by which my clients can stimulate real conversations with their employees. We help our clients create networks in order to deliver change. You need the network before you improve your policy and practice. Not the other way round." He was a fast thinker. "I like that. We need one of those. You're in. Let's get going." Five years later, and after huge effort from their network leaders, theirs is one of the fastest growing staff network’s we work with.
On 23 February we run our Taxonomy event. Hosted by Barclays we help our PurpleSpace members - all Networkologists in their own right - get to grips with Networkology - the science behind creating purposeful networks.
I'm often struck by how folk can get themselves wrapped in knots about how to measure the success of a network....
- Is it about the number of members?
- Is it about how many events are run?
- Or the number of people who have attended an event?
- Or the number of folk dialing into a teleconference or webinar?
And of course these things do measure interest and interaction but they can never measure the deeper, and more profound indicators of success, like: How far individuals feel able to be themselves at work, how easy they feel able to ask for workplace adjustments and how positively assumptive they are that their employer will want to deliver those adjustments in order to help them do their job well.
No two Disabled Employee Networks (DEN) or Employee Resource Groups (ERG) operate in the same way. And no two leaders have the same skills. But knowing what ‘type’ of network you want to create and understanding the basic elements of great leadership, will help leaders create and shape a purposeful network. Using the principles of taxonomy (the practice and science of naming, describing and classifying organisms) we are always keen to share our experience of employee networks.
What I enjoy most about our events is meeting our future budding Networkologists and the way they swap ideas, swap email/twitter/LinkedIn details, have conversations with folk from different sectors all passionate in the same purple space and all wanting to know how you can help people be their best brilliant selves at work.
And so if they are asked, "So what do you do?" they might be moved to share, with confidence, that they too are a Networkologist.
Kate Nash OBE is the world’s leading authority in ‘Networkology’ – the science behind the growth of workplace networks/resource groups. She helps employers to mobilise networks across all the equality strands to support cultural change.
Most known for her work with disability networks, she set up an independent hub of best practice in the establishment of Disabled Employee Networks publishing the first best practice guide in 2009, with a Ministerial launch. She now works with 300 UK national employers running the most successful disability networks.
In October 2015 she created PurpleSpace – the world’s first professional development hub for disabled employee networks bringing together the 850,000 disabled employees from across employee networks.
For information about PurpleSpace and what membership entails feel free to contact Kate direct at email@example.com or to find out more about our Taxonomy event visit purplespace.org/events
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