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​How can firms make networking events more inclusive in Australia?

When you think of networking and recruitment in Australia, the image that may come to mind is professionals mingling at social gatherings, exchanging business cards, and building connections over drinks. However, the landscape has evolved, and there is a growing need to make networking events more inclusive while still maintaining their appeal. In the wake of the pandemic, this conversation has gained urgency and frequency. So, how can firms in Australia create inclusive networking events and opportunities?


Understanding the importance of networking

Networking lies at the heart of recruitment and professional relationships in Australia. It is not just recruiters who value networking; 80% of professionals consider it essential for their career progression. Face-to-face interactions play a crucial role in establishing deep connections with clients, candidates, and colleagues. Whether it's informal work socials or more formal client networking opportunities, networking is key. However, it's crucial to ensure that everyone can participate in these events.


Challenges and considerations

Firms cannot force employees to attend networking events, and various factors such as scheduling conflicts or unappealing event formats can deter participation. This can have negative implications for individuals within the firm. Additionally, it is important to recognise that not everyone wants to consume alcohol at corporate events. According to Niznik Behavioral Health, 35% of employees do not want to drink at such events, yet 15.8% still do so. The demand for traditional alcohol-centric networking events has decreased. This shift is evident in the rise of the non-alcoholic drinks market, with sales of no and low-alcoholic beverages increasing by over 7% in 2022, surpassing the $11 billion mark.


Inclusivity is the future of networking events

The change in networking preferences is driven by Gen Z and women, and it centres around inclusivity. Inclusivity is not merely a buzzword or a checkbox; it is the future of networking events. Inclusive networking aims to make networking open and accessible to everyone, leveling the playing field and providing equal opportunities for all.


Creating inclusive networking events in Australia

To make networking events more inclusive, firms in Australia can take the following steps:

  1. Move away from alcohol-focused events: A decade ago, alcohol-centric events were the norm, but firms can now make a conscious effort to plan activities that cater to a wider range of preferences and interests.

  2. Host events during working hours: Traditional after-work networking events may exclude individuals with caring responsibilities. By organising events during working hours, firms can accommodate those with young children, elderly parents, or other responsibilities.

  3. Foster awareness and mindfulness: Firms should approach networking events with awareness and mindfulness. Rather than ignoring non-attendees, they should examine the barriers that prevented their participation or enjoyment. This may involve making adjustments such as accommodating religious practices, considering cultural backgrounds, or addressing the needs of neurodiverse employees.


Exploring further possibilities

These initial steps are just the beginning. When it comes to inclusivity in networking events, numerous initiatives can be implemented. For example, firms can ask attendees about their name pronunciation and preferred pronouns, consider diverse food choices, or take global time zones into account. Implementing these changes requires thought, consideration, and possibly more time, but the efforts will contribute to creating a more inclusive networking environment.


Broadening the organising team and seeking feedback

To ensure ongoing inclusivity, firms can examine the diversity of their organising teams and aim to broaden their representation. Having a spectrum of beliefs, values, and ethnicities on the committee will help keep inclusivity at the forefront of event planning. Additionally, seeking feedback from attendees and making iterative improvements based on their input can further enhance the inclusivity of networking events.


Taking small steps toward inclusive networking

Embarking on the journey of creating inclusive networking events may seem daunting, but starting small and making incremental changes is a valuable approach. Firms can make one change at a time, seek feedback, and then implement further improvements. If everyone adopts this approach, the world of networking in Australia will become a more inviting and inclusive arena for all who wish to participate.

For further advice, please reach out to our team here, for a confidential conversation.

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