The Amsterdam municipality aims to be an inclusive and diverse organisation with equal opportunities for all employees. Employee networks play an important role in this. They are the eyes and ears of the organisation and are in direct contact with the municipal management team.
There are four employee networks within the Amsterdam municipality, all founded by employees themselves. The Roze Ambtenaren Netwerken (RAN) is the voice of colleagues from the lhbtiq+ community. The Cultural Civil Servants Network (CAN) represents employees from bi-cultural backgrounds. The Urban Network of Civil Servants with Disabilities (SNAB) advocates for employees with a disability or chronic illness. And the Young Civil Servants Network (Jan) advocates for employees aged 35 or younger.
“Our main goal is that all employees can be themselves in the workplace,” states Marieke van Herwijnen (RAN). Mieneke van der Jagt (SNAB): “Everyone should have the same opportunities and be appreciated. Unfortunately, even in 2021, this does not speak for itself.” Sharon Trémour (CAN): “Inclusion is necessary if you want to deliver quality as a municipality. The more diverse your staff, the more different perspectives and the better we can understand Amsterdammers.” Lauren Steed (Jan): “Everyone’s qualities need to be seen and utilised.”
The four networks each represent a large constituency. In this way, they play an important role in picking up signals from within the organisation. And this bottom-up approach, in turn, is a crucial part of the Inclusion and Diversity programme at the municipality. Sharon: “We function as bridge-builders between policies…” Marieke: “We are the eyes and ears in the organisation. We signal what is going on and bring those issues to the attention of the organisation.” Mieneke: “With the aim of making the entire organisation, and especially the top and managers, aware of what our constituencies need in order to work happily and well.”
The networks meet regularly with their inclusion ambassador: a member of the municipal management team. They also sit down with some regularity with staff from the Inclusion and Diversity programme. Mieneke: “It is important for colleagues to be heard. We don’t solve problems ourselves, but stand up for the interests of our supporters. We answer questions or make an appointment and, if necessary, refer to the right person or the right part of the organisation.” Sharon: “Every year we make a plan with our activities and the themes we want to focus on.” Lauren: “In our discussions with P&O and the programme team, we directly influence policy.”
Connected to the organisation
Of course, employee networks also ensure that the different groups within the organisation feel at home and can connect with like-minded people. Mieneke: “Normally we organise well-attended networking meetings, now attendees actively participate in the chat at our webinars.” Sharon: “Even when we had to switch to online events, there was still a lot of enthusiasm for our activities.” Lauren: “Networking makes people feel more connected to the overall organisation.”
It is impossible to imagine life without it
Board members have received exempted hours and a budget for organising activities from the Amsterdam municipality since 2019. Partly as a result, they have been able to further ensure that diversity and inclusion are high on the agenda throughout the organisation. Marieke: “Awareness is only successful if it is actively propagated top-down. The mere existence of the networks shows the municipality: we think it is important, with us you can be who you are.” Sharon: “Management knows how to find us better and better. The networks have become an integral part of the organisation.”
Enriching the organisation
Of course, at the end of the day, there is still a world to be won. Mieneke: “We see ourselves and hear from our supporters that there are still many abuses when it comes to inclusive action and (digital) accessibility. So the network remains necessary. In addition, we enrich the organisation through our unique input and qualities.” Sharon: “Awareness-raising is important, but the composition of the workforce hobbles behind that. From a certain scale, the organisation is really not yet diverse enough. I hope we can make good strides in that in the coming years.” Lauren: “Everyone should be able to grow in their own way within the organisation.” Would you like to set up employee networks within your organisation too? And would you like to speak to someone from the Amsterdam municipality for inspiration? Then send an email to email@example.com.