Last month, Diversity Insight writer Tammy Binford explored the legal issues involved when employees must juggle work and special-needs parenting collide. Now, she looks at how employers can help their employees balance work and their obligations as parents of special needs children.
When Tanuj Gupta joined AstraZeneca in 2006, he didn’t know many of his coworkers. “When I found out there were Employee Network Groups, I thought it was a great way to meet more people within the company,” says the executive director of external medical relations. And it was: “I met a fantastic group of people and got involved in the core activities of the group.”
In 2007, those people asked Gupta to help lead the group, the South Asian Network, and he continues to do so today.The South Asian Network is one of AstraZeneca’s 16 Employee Network Groups (ENGs), which include several ethnic groups, an Eldercare ENG, a Military Support ENG, a Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual ENG, and a Special Needs Advocates ENG. (Incidentally, the groups with the highest memberships are the Women’s, African-American, and Chinese-American ENGs.)
Margaret Rivera, AstraZeneca’s senior manager of diversity, helps oversee 16 successful employee network groups. Here are her tips for making such affinity groups work:
1. Don’t force it. “Companies . . . should understand that the most successful employee groups often start out as grassroots organizations — they are volunteer organizations,” she counsels.
2. Make sure they’re tied into the overall diversity strategy.
Many employee network groups form, fail to attract significant membership or support, and disband.
The Asian American Professional Association (AAPA) at Henkel of America is not one of those: It was formed in early 2005, and its presence in the corporation continues to strengthen.
“Our workforce must reflect the communities we live in and the markets we serve and wish to serve,” says Kim Kemper, vice president of HR, shared resources, and global diversity head at Henkel. “Our employees’ collective but unique backgrounds whether by gender, education, ethnicity, geographic location — among many others — are valued and contribute to our business results.”