BT Employee Networks - The 'Big Conversation'
The following article describes 'The Big Conversation' - a 3-day on-line event organised in early 2014 by BT Group to raise awareness of BT's Employee Networks across the organisation.
Our commitment to BT’s Employee Networks is a key element of our inclusion strategy. We have a multi-generational workforce and 7 Employee Networks representing Women; Faith (Christian & Muslim); Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans; Disability; Carers and Ethnic Minorities based around the UK and, in many cases, globally.
We wanted to celebrate the networks, have a conversation about inclusion and raise awareness of the networks across BT. With over 6,000 people in our employee networks, we realised getting everyone together wasn’t an option.
We had previously used online collaboration for a pan-HR event in June 2013 and because of the success we had then, we decided to use online technology to reach out to a large number of people and deliver an online Big Conversation.
Each of our seven networks provided content for the discussions and, together with the Inclusion team created an online, interactive event. We piloted the event at the end of January with just network members and then held a pan BT event in February.
We also had the support of BT’s Inclusion Champion Dan Fitz who is also Group General Counsel & Company Secretary.
The Big Conversation over the 3 days was engaging, interesting and thought-provoking. The range of debates highlighted the power of networks and how, with a robust mandate and purpose, the networks can help the business and individuals grow successfully.
The Big Conversation was easy to sign-in to involving an online drop-in approach. We encouraged people to be challenging and share their thoughts, feelings and ideas. I’m pleased to say that they delivered this!
BT people could comment on some of the Big Conversations, start a Big Conversation or watch one of the very moving and inspiring videos.
We received over 200 comments on the test run day of The Big Conversation on 29 January and gained a number of learning points for the pan-BT, global Big Conversation on 26-27 Feb.
We learnt from the test run and built in improvements – such as a general area for additional conversations, fluid links and more dynamic questions.
We asked some robust questions such as -
And the feedback we received was very encouraging –
Do you see being different as a barrier to being successful in BT and if yes, why?
Why would you see it as important to recognise and support different faiths in BT?
Why is it important to recognise and respect that we are not all the same (e.g. Heterosexual, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans)?
Why is it important to look at ways to encourage more women, ethnic minorities & people with disability to go for senior positions in BT?
“I believe good communication is a major factor and the Big Conversation is an opportunity to communicate in a condensed time-frame! It's up to us all to perpetuate that initial progress.”
“As a full time carer, for me, BT has made a massive difference; the use of remote working and flexible hours is a great benefit offered by the company.”
“I think it's about giving people the space and respect to have their faith. It is part of the whole person.”
So, why did BT people get involved? Well, a number of reasons -
Employee networks provide additional social contact across BT
The networks can offer mentoring opportunities & a chance to make a difference beyond the “day job”
Networking is an incredibly powerful social tool to influence people & be made aware of new job opportunities
We asked our people to not be shy, get involved and be part of a great online big conversation and celebration of our BT Employee Networks
We also asked how the networks can share ideas to help BT become even more inclusive and grow the business.
Chris Grant, BT Lead inclusion advisor at the time said “Employee networks offer a two-way communication channel between the business and its members. This provides both individuals and BT with a great opportunity to learn and share knowledge across diverse communities enabling BT to develop new opportunities and meet the needs of its people and customers more closely. In effect, the collaboration between BT & our Employee Networks is a win-win situation”.
So, what were the core elements?
So, how did it go?
Opportunity for non-members to find out more about employee networks and join networks
BT introduction video
We publicised the online event across the whole of BT on a global basis
12 Hot Topics debated, across all protected characteristics
32 videos and podcasts loaded up on a range of inclusion subjects
36 “Did You Know” interesting facts and figures
Section on volunteering
Opportunity to recognise colleagues
Useful links to various tools and support mechanisms around BT
Direct involvement of the BT Employee Network chairs
The results of the Big Conversation have been amazing. We now have approximately 1000 newly active or new network members, 612 people got directly involved in the 2 days, 564 comments were provided and page views hit over 14,000.
I’m a member of the Inclusion Team & the Disability Network and I feel proud that we delivered something unique, collaborative and informative to help take inclusion forward.
So, what does the future hold?
We do see this as an opportunity to use the Big Conversation going forward as a landing area for the Employee Networks & an infrastructure for future events.
I hope that this will be an innovative platform for the future to help our BT Employee Networks become an even more powerful driving force for inclusion, collaboration, innovation and further growth in BT.
Mike Conlan, BT Inclusion and Wellbeing Practitioner