DfT staff networks – leading the way for inclusion

The Department for Transport (DfT) family is home to a vibrant range of staff networks. From their longest-running groups to their newest, they recognise the vital part networks play in making the department a great place to work.

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Rachael Yokoo-Laurence (Head of Diversity and Inclusion) shares more about how the staff networks at DfT are leading the way for inclusion.  

Each part of the DfT is different: different operating environments, job roles, professions and locations. We have a significant presence in London, but we have staff all over the country, with over 40% of our workforce in Swansea. We do everything from improving road and maritime safety to investigating accidents and issuing driving licences. We support innovation and low-pollution modes of transport, and our staff work in all sorts of environments; from ships at sea to contact centres.  

We want to play our part in creating a brilliant Civil Service by working with other departments to achieve our shared aim of becoming the most inclusive employer in the UK by 2020. 

That’s why helping our networks develop and grow is a key part of our recently published Diversity and Inclusion strategy: Different People. One Team. We want our networks to be amongst the best in the Civil Service and the transport sector. We know that to help our mature networks continue to lead, and our new networks to grow, we need to invest in their success.  

Crucially, we think that the skills needed to lead a great network go beyond what’s currently available. One of our key activities over the last year has been to roll out a development toolkit across the DfT family to help our network leaders get to grips with things like succession planning, running communications campaigns and making an impact on social media. We’ve worked hand-in-hand with our networks every step of the way to ensure the offer meets their needs and addresses gaps they’ve identified. And the geographical spread of our network leaders means that we’ve had to think creatively about how we can make the toolkit available to everyone. 

Mapping the route – the maturity matrix

We’ve focused on helping our network leaders answer three crucial questions: 

  1. How do I understand my network’s strengths and areas for development right now? 
  1. Once we’ve identified our development needs, what support is there to help us progress? 
  1. How can we track our progress over time? 

The first step on the journey is for the network’s leadership team to get together (in person or virtually) and work through our new Maturity Matrix tool. The matrix helps networks measure progress on the journey to maturity. The tool measures network’s level of capability in three key areas: controls, connections, and change. Once effective controls are in place, networks can start making the connections they need to enact real change 

  • Controls are the processes put in place to ensure that the administration of a network runs smoothly and efficiently, and that fairness is built into every layer. Controls cover things such as the committee structure, business plans, and budget management systems. 
  • Connections are how a network uses its links across its business area, the department, and the wider world. Collaboration with champions and other networks is key here. 
  • Change is how a network works with the business to help us build a truly inclusive culture for all. It ranges from hosting events intended to educate staff on a particular issue, to collaborating with the business on large-scale transformation projects.  
Where are we starting from and where do we want to go?

The maturity matrix is a visual tool that lets networks plot themselves on the four stages of the journey for each element: Foundation, Growth, Consolidation, and Leadership. 

  • Foundationthe earliest stage of network development, the foundation stage is all about getting your network up and running and familiarising yourself with the basics.  
  • Growth where things start to pick up, and regular events and committee meetings start to take shape.  
  • Consolidation a network at consolidation stage is mature enough to confidently work with HR, share advice across the department, and put together a business plan.  
  • Leadershipa network at this stage uses its wide range of knowledge to consistently host intersectional events that go beyond the department, as well as being able to clearly articulate its aims (through a manifesto or vision) and resource requirements.  
Not a straight line

We understand that the process of network development is not linear: people move on, priorities change, and what seems certain one day may not hold true the next. We certainly don’t expect networks to hit all the stages one after the other in quick succession and then remain at the Consolidation/Leadership stages forever.  

Networks will not only pass through the stages at their own pace, but may even drop back a stage or two depending on changes to the committee or business area. But we hope that with help from the development offer, HR, senior champions and other networks, our networks will all eventually settle at the consolidation stage, with some maintaining ongoing leadership level.  

Accessing the development offer

With network leaders based everywhere from Southampton to Swansea, all with different day jobs and different intranet systems, we knew that in order to create a development offer everyone could access, we’d need to think outside the box. That’s why we’ve used Trello. You’re probably familiar with Trello as a free online project management tool, but did you know that it can also be used to create a personalised online learning journey? We’ve created a template board that contains everything a Staff Network needs to know to help them progress on a journey to maturity, along with some guidance on developing the individual skills needed to excel at network leadership. If you’re a network leader and would like to try the matrix and the offer out yourself, simply create an account on Trello, then copy our template to make your own version of the board. Once you’ve done that you can invite your team to collaborate with you and personalise it to suit your own network’s development journey. 

We’re excited to work with our staff networks and help them develop, grow and lead the way for inclusion in our organisation. 

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