Writing in Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business Report, Teri C. Tompkins, Nancy C. Wallis, and Kent Rhodes examine Gen Y and networking.
Employee network groups, also more recently called affinity groups or employee resource groups, can be beneficial to both management and employees. First formed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, network groups typically focused on race and gender.
Today network groups are more likely to be acknowledged for improving overall company performance as they are to be credited with improving recruiting and retention efforts and with providing an avenue for broader perspectives regarding company performance. Texas Instrument’s (TI) diversity director Terry Howard says, “I think employee networks are part and parcel of any effective diversity strategy. I can’t imagine working in an organization that didn’t have them.”
In spite of the benefits of network groups, the 2005 Workplace Diversity Practices Survey Report by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) states that still only 29 percent of companies support network groups. And where network groups do exist, often companies are underutilizing their potential. Nonetheless, companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Eli Lilly, and Ford each have multiple employee network groups which increases the likelihood that these companies are friendly, not just tolerant, to groups that can experience marginalization in the workplace. Such groups make it more likely that all employees will have a voice and thus contribute to a more collaborative, vibrant, and participative environment.