Advice for Employers and Recruiters
Affinity groups: value to employee and employer
At a recent People of Color Job Fair, employers touted their welcoming workplaces. Many referred to their affinity groups as how they are inclusive of diversity. If offered genuinely, affinity groups can bring value to both the employee and the employer.
Value to employees
- Take a rest from the code-switching. It can be lonely working in an office full of people who don’t look like you. Code-switching all day can be exhausting. (For those less familiar, “code-switching” is a daily practice for people who navigate two cultures. They adjust their dialect/language/mannerisms to fit into the surrounding culture without being questioned. NPR has a nice illustration of code-switching.) Affinity groups can offer relief for anyone who needs a space where it feels safer to express yourself freely. Groups are meant to bring people together who share a common interest or culture. Examples are veterans, women, African Americans and GLBT affinity groups. It’s about solidarity (“Why Women’s Spaces Matter”).
- Build your network. In your affinity group, you will probably find yourself networking with colleagues outside your immediate team. This can be helpful to your career. Especially for entry-level and younger employees, more experienced colleagues can give you advice and point you to resources.
- Build new skills. You don’t have to wait for a formal company training to learn new skills. Informal group discussions offer excellent opportunities to learn new tools, technology or best practices that can make you more effective and valuable at your company.
Value to employer
- Boost retention of employees. Engagement is king. For those who claim that affinity groups look more like segregation than inclusion, consider how relieving it can feel for an employee to join an affinity group and feel at home with other colleagues who “get them.” That employee, in turn, may feel more positive about her work, thus stick around longer. In addition, group members can collaborate with management to discuss issues of recruitment and retention, and shed light on how to improve your practices. In this example, GLBT employees helped shape their organization’s benefit policy for domestic partnerships, making them more competitive.
- Get new consumer insights. Affinity groups can collaborate with management to discuss marketing solutions for consumers from their own community.
- Low-cost learning and development. Affinity group members share resources with each other, best practices, and new tools and technology. This no-cost informal learning is a nice supplement to expensive formal company training.
- Reap the benefits of diversity. Multiple studies point to the increased productivity and profits of diverse companies. However, if your work environment isn’t inclusive, these benefits remain out of reach. If managed well, affinity groups can be part of your inclusion strategy.
Doing it right
- You can’t force affinity groups. They must be employee-led, and membership can’t be forced. If employees feel that the group has been too packaged without their input, you lose their buy-in and engagement.
- Give it time. The longer your organization has affinity groups, the more likely you will be able to align them to business goals.
Veteran’s Day is November 11! Here are a few companies who have created affinity groups for veterans. Want to keep up on the latest career and job search tips and trends for recent college grads? Stay connected to College Recruiter by visiting our blog, and connecting with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
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