Starting a staff network: sometimes it’s just good for people to know you’re there

Rob Springett · 14 June 2021

An LGBT+ flag flying outside the Met OfficeI joined the Met Office in the October of 2014 and as part of the induction day we a had tour of the impressive HQ building. On the tour, our helpful guide explained that there was a ‘’staff group for every need, whatever your interests are, you’ll find one’’

After a few weeks of getting settled in my new role on the Weather Desk, I started to do some digging to see if I could find an LGBT+ Network. To my surprise I found that the existing network had disbanded some three years prior to my joining. The archive of documents and news stories were there to see, embedded in the company intranet, but all looked rather out of date.

I didn’t make too many inroads into why and cracked on with my job until January 2015. I then contacted some of the original network members and had various coffee meetings to try and figure out why it had all gone quiet. The group seemed active in their work, so it was a shame.

To cut a long story short people had simply moved on, workloads got too busy, and there was some friction between the group and senior colleagues. I asked if I could have passwords and access to the old archives and documents as I wanted to try and keep things alive. They were keen and very supportive, so I did my best with the time and availability I had.

Scroll on another year, and with various IT upgrades, we adopted Yammer (kind of a corporate Facebook) as one our internal staff comms tools. This was a golden opportunity to create a new staff network. I jumped at the chance and created the Met Office LGBT+ Network. All done in my spare time of course. I sourced documents and links to provide a central resource for information for staff and their friends and family.

Everything snowballed from there. It took time to build. There were no regular meetings with a chair or secretary. I had to create the group to fit around my time and availability. In a 24/7 operational role it’s hard to get time out of the day to have meetings or get too involved. The LGBT+ Network as remained an on-line source and conversation starter and has gained recognition from the leadership. We also link to many HR resources and external third-party sites. It’s important to recognise your place. You’re not there to replace Human Resources or the People Team on certain matters but can offer support on difficult subjects and provide an alternative opinion.

We’ve been an active part of the Met Office Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy Group and soon to be new Diversity Council, along with all the other staff networks. We’ve been lucky in being recognised and supported throughout.

We now have 85 staff members, still no coffee meetings (virtual or otherwise to date) but this may change. The group has its own momentum now, which is what I wanted, and others now help with the administration of the pages so I can concentrate on other things.

February 2020 we assisted the Cabinet Office and Civil Service Local colleagues in hosting the first Civil Service LGBT Network Conference. It was an overwhelming success and we were shortlisted for the Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Awards 2020.

A disheartened colleague running another network approached me one day and complained that they hold regular meetings. Nobody turned up to the last one. I don’t hold meetings due to work constraints but said that sometimes it’s just helpful for people to know the group is there and that you exist. That’s all that matters.

Find out more about Prospect’s LGBT+ Network.

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