Three Capgemini colleagues explain how employee networks can be a force for social and cultural inclusion at work and beyond.
Alongside their day-to-day work, some Capgemini colleagues are also members of many different global networks where everyone is welcome to be a direct contributor or an ally. These employee-led networks bring together colleagues with similar interests, backgrounds, and challenges to provide support and encourage diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Here, three colleagues explain the personal and professional benefits of being part of an employee network.
Advocating for inclusion
Katherine Hudson is a change manager in digital transformation at Capgemini in Sydney, Australia. She is also co-chair of the Capgemini OUTfront group for Australia and New Zealand, and says being part of the network means she doesn’t have to separate her career from her wider life.
“I’ve been an active member of the LGBT+ community since I was 15 years old,” she says. “I can’t imagine a version of my life where I wouldn’t be active in it. To have the opportunity to be involved in it at my place of work, and not keep it separate, is really important. Being involved with something like OUTfront means you are doing something positive and contributing to the LGBT+ community.”
Katherine says the aim of OUTfront is to help current colleagues, clients, and people that might want to work for Capgemini in the future to understand how they can create an inclusive space for LGBT+ people within an organization.
“At Capgemini here in Australia, we’ve achieved employer of the year twice, which means we’re ahead of the pack and that we can help to define the agenda for the rest of corporate Australia when it comes to LGBT+. I think we’re at a point where we can go beyond simply creating a support network and inclusive space for LGBT+ people.”
“We’ve been hosting public discussions about LGBT+ mental health and are holding events to help non-binary, trans, and female-identifying people get together and support each other in their corporate careers,” adds Katherine. “We are also actively connecting with universities, clients, and other organizations to share good practices on inclusion. It’s really creating a movement within the organization to advocate for the rights and inclusion of LGBT+ people.”
A place for people to connect
Ernest Alumanah is a senior applications consultant at Capgemini in Houston, Texas, USA. He is also part of the African Americans and Black People Transforming Capgemini (AABPT) network.
“It’s really important to know that you can work for an organization that cares for its employees, and where needs don’t come second to the company’s goals,” he says. “When I look back at joining Capgemini four years ago, I was a little wide-eyed. I wanted to know how I could connect with other people who had the same interests as me and who could give me good career advice. My new colleagues pointed me towards this network.
“Since then, I’ve seen the group grow and accomplish lots of things. For example, we set up activities for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, where people go out and volunteer. We also work with the non-profit youth organization Junior Achievement to bring disadvantaged students into the Capgemini office and give them an introduction to what it might be like to have a career as a consultant. When I was that age, I didn’t know anything about careers like that, so to give them that insight is really rewarding.”
Ernest believes that the aim is to empower leaders right across the organization and share awareness of our culture. “The end goal is to promote diversity, helping to advance diverse talent within the company and attract diverse talent to the company.” And for Ernest, a vital aspect of a successful employee network is that it involves a wide range of people, at different stages of their careers.
“In AABPT, there are people who have just joined the company, but there are also senior vice presidents who are a part of it too. It’s an extra way in which an employee network works to make disconnected people become connected,” concludes Ernest.
Taking an independent approach
John Walmsley is the commercial lead for Capgemini’s UK public sector business and the co-chair of the CapAbility employee network for people with disabilities, and for carers and allies. “We take quite a broad view of disability,” he says. “It can include any long-term physical, mental, sensory, cognitive, or neurological condition or impairment that has a substantial negative impact on someone’s effective and equal participation in life, including work.”
John makes the point that, for an employee network to be truly supportive, the work it does must be for employees, by employees.
“It’s not about a company running a diversity and inclusion initiative through the HR function, or as part of a corporate social responsibility agenda. Of course, HR should be looking at diversity and inclusion in recruitment, promotion, and retention, and be supportive in helping employee networks get established.”
“There can be a top-down approach, where the company says ‘we should have an employee network, let’s create one’ and the HR team helps set it up,” continues John. “But there can also be a bottom-up approach, where employees band together and say ‘we’re a network,’ and then the network engages with the company.”
“With either route, there needs to be a separation between an employee network and the organization’s diversity and inclusivity team, and I think that’s really important.”
For John, an employee network such as CapAbility can work at a number of different levels. “The first is literally to network and connect employees together. “The second is to engage with an employer and advocate on behalf of employees. A third level is that it sends a strong message to current and future employees that the company supports the network and supports diversity and inclusion.”
The network, John adds, becomes “a voice and a means of representation within the business, and a positive sign of the business’s intent.” In effect, he says, a well-run employee network will deliver value and impact for its members, and for the business. It connects the individual with the organization and the organization with the wider world, with workplace inclusivity and diversity acting as a foundation that works for all.
Building an inclusive workplace for all
We drive engagement and empower our employees to be inclusive through the promotion of employee networks, and external recognition for their success. We believe the collaboration of diverse and multicultural teams promotes creativity and innovation, producing value and leading to an inclusive culture for the benefit of all.