FI

A Look At Employee Resource Groups

In any organization, workers interact in a variety of ways that may not be directly related to the business at hand.  From hallway conversations to informal get-togethers for birthdays or other occasions, communication among employees is a key part of workplace culture.

Taking things further from a value-added viewpoint, an avenue for fostering employee communication that has proven advantageous in many organizations is the Employee Resource Group, or ERG.

 What Are ERGs?

An employee resource group is a group of people within a business, government agency or non-profit organization centered around a common interest or trait.  Common examples include gender, ethnic background, parenthood or sexual orientation.   Others focus on mutual  interests such as elder care, job responsibilities, exercise and wellness, dealing with cancer or another illness, or protecting the environment.

Typically, ERGs are employee-driven with open support from the employer, and in some cases with company oversight.  Their basic structure and approach may vary depending on the company, individual group, or the focus of group leaders.

ERGs may be known by other terms such as affinity groups, employee networks,  business resource groups, employee forums or employee councils. These groups can have just a few members, or number in the hundreds or even the thousands in very large companies.  The fact that they are voluntary works in their favor, as employees tend to see them as opportunities for engagement rather than some type of job-related requirement. In most cases, ERGs are underpinned by a commitment to foster a diverse and inclusive work environment.

What ERGs Do

The major purpose of most ERGs  is to facilitate learning and create personal growth and visibility opportunities within a  company. They provide a structured approach to networking.  Employee resource groups  create opportunities for people to take a visible role within the organization who may not have this  opportunity in their everyday job.

Such groups can also serve as a resource to the company in pursuing its goals. They may be useful as a sounding board or source of information for the company as it targets a designated market.

Benefits of Employee Resource Groups

ERGs offer a number of potential benefits, notes Michael J. Chamberlain, vice president, brand management & events for Catalyst, a research-based nonprofit organization that works to create more inclusive workplaces.

“ERGs can provide a source of mentors, roles models, sponsors, and connections as well as access to information about career strategies, opportunities and advancement,” he says.  “ERGs often showcase and develop the leadership skills and professional expertise of the constituent group.”

Getting Started With ERGs

Ergs tend to be created in two basic ways, according to Chamberlain.

“Some ERGs are established as a result of a grassroots effort in which employees and senior leaders interested in launching an ERG request corporate sponsorship by meeting with the director of the diversity and inclusion office or HR to discuss the viability of the prospective group,” he says.  “Others are established by senior leaders who recognize the value of ERGs and develop them to meet organizational goals.”

Chamberlain  recommends the following steps in planning an employee resource group:

–Understand the workplace context.

–Create a strong, organization-specific business case.

–Develop a mission statement, objectives, and guidelines.

–Identify the group’s leadership and membership structure.

–Determine specific areas for activity that are relevant to the group’s constituency.

–Identify metrics to assess the impact of the group’s work and report regularly to the executive sponsor, Diversity& Inclusion Office, and/or HR.

In the process of forming or supporting ERGs, Holly-Leigh Pitts, director of diversity for ING U.S., advises taking care in evaluating organizational considerations.

“Organization and alignment is critical,” she says. “There should be consistency in structure and common themes addressed across an organization, particularly if it has multiple locations or businesses.

The Executive’s Role

While the impetus for employee resource group is grass-roots involvement, it’s

important to have an executive sponsor behind an ERG, Chamberlain points out.

“The executive sponsor is a senior-level executive, preferably with line responsibilities, who champions the ERG,” he says. He explains that the executive sponsor advises the ERG, assists in the development of its strategic plan, acts as a sounding board for new policy design, and commits to attending specific ERG events.

“The executive sponsor also interacts with senior leaders on behalf of the ERG to inform them of the group’s mission, business objectives and progress,” he says.  “Executive sponsors not from the same constituency as the ERG benefit from exposure to managers and employees from cultural backgrounds other than their own.”

Future Prospects

The roles of these groups seem to be changing in a direction that benefits employers, Pitts says.

“The types of ERG’s continue to evolve from just ethnic and gender-based groups to organizations with a more focused purpose that are aligned with business priorities,” she notes.

“I think that we’ve seen a transition from some of these acting primarily as social networks to think-tank type groups that have the ability to directly impact the business.”

Next Generation: Latino ERGs

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Next Generation Latino ERGs

Latino Leaders Magazine has brought together several companies to illuminate and teach readers about the importance of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), especially Latino ERGs. Specialist Robert Rodriguez gives his visions about the future and his top three recommendations for businesses with Latino ERGs.

Robert Rodriguez, PhD is the president of DRR Advisors LLC, a diversity consulting firm.   He is the author of the book, “Latino Talent” and is considered by many to be the leading authority in the country on corporate Latino talent management initiatives.

(1) Top Grade Now:  The days of Latino ERGs only being useful to Latinos at the director level and below must end.  While catering to employees at the individual contributor and manager level has served Latino ERGs well, Latino ERGs must broaden their appeal to more senior levels of the organization. This means Latino ERGs must attract high performers who are at the senior director and vice president levels like GE, McDonald’s and JPMorgan Chase are able to do.

Doing so accomplishes two things.  First, Latino ERG performance improves.  When an employee resource group includes senior level members, things get done at a much more strategic level. Second, these Latino leaders serve as magnets for others.  When employees see that the Latino ERG consist of employees who are highly regarded and have reputations as top performers, they will want to get involved as well. When Latino ERGs are successful in making themselves a destination for current leaders, they are better able to serve as an incubator for future Latino leaders.

(2) Benchmark Constantly:  A consortium exists that includes the leaders of the Latino ERGs at most of the top employers in the Chicago metropolitan area.  The group is called CLEO and member companies include Allstate, Baxter, Caterpillar, GE, Kellogg’s, Kraft Foods, MillerCoors and Walgreen’s to name a few.  CLEO members meet each quarter and they share best practices, explore ways to collaborate, address common challenges and participate in leadership development workshops together.

When any Latino ERG fails to benchmark on a consistent basis, they lose the ability to evaluate their performance against others.  They limit their possibilities by not analyzing external trends and they fail to build partnerships with others that they can leverage during their time of need.  Not to mention, they diminish their ability to learn from the experience of others.  The Latino ERGs of the future must not only benchmark, but they must do so on a regular, formal basis.

Corporations are also helping their Latino ERGs benchmark as well. In the past year, I’ve lead workshops at MetLife, Sodexo, The Home Depot, Intel, Fannie Mae and Marsh & McLennan on external ERG trends and best practices.  By providing an external point-of-view via benchmarking, these companies better equip their Latino ERG leaders to consistently improve.

(3) Establish an ERG Leadership Academy:  Another trend is that corporations are expecting more of their Latino ERGs.  Yet while the demands on Latino ERGs have risen, the training provided to Latino ERG leaders has not.  If ERGs truly are to meet their potential, leaders need development focused on their Latino ERG roles.

In listing these three recommendations, some of you may be wondering why I did not list making a deep business impact as a key to Latino ERGs.

This is indeed critical.

When Latino ERGs fail to make a business impact, they never gain the credibility and respect they deserve.  However, my opinion is that when Latino ERGs follow the three recommendations I’ve made above, they will be in a much better position to make a larger impact on their organizations as their scope and appeal broaden.

I believe the demand for top Latino ERG leaders still exceeds the supply.  That is why this issue is so critical- because only then will Latino ERGs make themselves a destination for current corporate leaders- as well as a talent incubator for future Latino leaders.

ING– Latino Employee Resource Group

ING - Felipe Munoz

Felipe Munoz, Minneapolis Chair

and Employee Benefits Trainer

How do you define the business case for employee resource groups to your organization?

I have heard our H.R. folks say that organizations with strong diversity management practices have proven to be more profitable.  That doesn’t surprise me at all.  At ING U.S., our vision is to be America’s Retirement Company.  To do that, we really need to put the customers first, and that includes understanding all of our customers, including those of multicultural backgrounds.  Our ERG’s help the company do that.

When Hispanics tell you that they are too busy to join the Hispanic ERG, how do you respond?

Many of my ERG members work in a call center or an operations capacity, so our service standards may make it difficult at times to break away from their job.  My response is basically: “I understand that it may be difficult to attend everything, but you should check it out because we may have brown bag lunches and after work events that you might want to consider.”

What is the best way to engage more senior level Hispanics into your Hispanic ERG efforts? Creating a relationship with senior leaders – Hispanic and non-Hispanic — is important.  Given the number of larger ING U.S. locations, how you do this can differ by site.  Here in Minneapolis, Fabian Gonzalez, vice president of multicultural sales for ING U.S.  Insurance Solutions, is our most senior Hispanic executive.  While he travels a lot, we’ve developed a relationship with him, and he is very approachable and supportive.

How has your career benefitted from your involvement in the Hispanic ERG?

Working with the ERG has given me opportunities to attend a variety of great events.  Some of these events included getting exposure to senior leaders of our organization. It has also allowed me to receive recognition and development opportunities such as career advice.

How does your Hispanic ERG help to groom the next generation of Hispanic ERG leaders?

As an ERG chair, I do as much as I can to encourage fellow members to take new challenges or roles. They also come to me with all sorts of questions. I give them all the support I can or provide them to someone who can help. I also encourage many people to take leadership opportunities because that can also lead to personal and professional development opportunities.

More about E.R.G.s with Holly-Leigh Pitts

Along with their attractiveness to individuals, these groups can be beneficial for employers, according to Holly-Leigh Pitts, director of diversity for ING U.S., a large provider of retirement and financial planning services.

“Given the changing face of the workforce, it is important to channel the power of diverse thinking,” she says. “Companies are able to tap into ERGs as sounding boards for marketing efforts, engines to educate employees and vehicles to generate greater engagement.”

Ultimately, supporting participation in employee resource groups can serve as a talent development tool, according to Pitts.

“Top talent is a competitive advantage and increasing this talent pool leads to improved innovation and performance,” she says. “ERGs can serve as a powerful advancement platform where talent management and business development interconnect.”

Pitts notes that employees who feel they can be authentic at work are more engaged, and adds that there is a clear correlation between engagement and retention.  And in the long run, that promotes stability and  cost savings for the organization.

 

SODEXO–SOL (SODEXO ORGANIZATION OF LATINOS)

Ray Headshot 2013

SOL – Sodexo Organization of Latinos is an internal employee network group whose mission is to enhance the quality of life for Latinos and facilitate interaction and communication among its members and community organizations, while promoting external awareness of Sodexo.  Originally established in 2003 with 90 members at launch, over the last 10 years it has grown to 427 members and nine chapters.  SOL’s mission is straightforward:

“A community dedicated to the development of Latinos through networking, education and mentoring while embracing our cultural passion”

Three key pillars frame the focus and alignment with the Sodexo enterprise:

1.         Professional development for their members

2.         Recruitment and retention of Latinos within the enterprise

3.         The strengthening of enterprise community partner relationships that impact the Latino community

Ray Torres serves as SOL’s National Chair and is the Director of Brand Management for Sodexo North America’s Offer Development Center. With more than 25 years of food service and hospitality industry experience, he is an expert in retail licensing and manages a portfolio of over 80 brands and celebrity partnerships.  Ray joined SOL shortly after coming to Sodexo in 2007 and is now in his second year as Chair.

How do you define the business case for employee resource groups to your organization?

Sodexo’s Employee Business Resource Groups (EBRG’s) create connectivity for employees with one another and with the company. EBRG’s like SOL are organized around a common dimension of diversity and shared experiences. They provide valuable professional development, networking and leadership opportunities for their members and as a result, we achieve greater business success. EBRG’s have been a catalyst for Sodexo and are key drivers as we progress on our journey to create a fully inclusive and open environment.  Senior leaders are fully committed to and visibly endorse these groups given their ongoing contributions in recruiting, retention and development of diverse talent.  The EBRG Commitment survey reflects that 74% of Employee Business Resource Group members attribute increasing levels of engagement to their Resource Group affiliation, 58% gained cross-divisional exposure, and 55% increased their desire to stay with Sodexo.  These outcomes demonstrate how EBRG’s are increasing employee and customer satisfaction.  Additionally, SOL’s three key pillars guide the group’s activities which align with company goals, therefore making the group a strategic business resource in achieving our social and environmental commitments.

When Hispanics tell you that they are too busy to join the Hispanic ERG, how do you respond?

It seems like now more than ever we are all doing more with less and there are simply not enough hours in the day to do it all.   My advice is to always keep opportunities and options available to help further your professional development and competitiveness.  Not every member sits on a committee or actively participates in events, and that is acceptable.  SOL’s members, whether passive or active have the ability to tap into our professional development resources such as our “Career Management Strategies for Latinos” signature series, Federal Heritage Month events that provide diversity and cultural awareness and Career Planning Workshops that help to prepare our members for the next stage on their career journey.  Members have access to these resources from our E-library so even with the busiest of schedules, they can benefit from the materials at time that is convenient for them and at their own pace.

For those members who can find the time to be a bit more active, their opportunities are even greater.  Those members are honing their leadership and engagement skills by participating in a committee, volunteering time at a local community event, networking with members and leaders inside and outside of the company and obtain exposure to other facets of the organization that they would not normally have been exposed to.  These are just a few examples of activities that not only give great personal satisfaction, but pay dividends towards member’s personal and professional growth.  It is a very small time commitment that can yield great returns.

What is the best way to engage more senior level Hispanics into your Hispanic ERG efforts?

Having senior level members engaged in EBRG efforts is important and extremely motivating to the group.  They serve as role models in a setting that makes them approachable and on an equal level with other members because of group’s common dimension of diversity and shared experiences.

My experience is that most senior leaders are quite generous with their time towards EBRG efforts even though they have many of the busiest schedules within the organization.  Most of the time it’s just raising their awareness of how they can bring value to the group and asking for their participation with enough advance notice.  Because of their tight schedules, it is important to make sure their time is focused and leveraged for the group’s greatest return.  Executive sponsorship of a committee or for a chapter is a terrific way for senior leaders to make a positive contribution.  They are paying it forward by providing guidance and sharing their experience while supporting and championing the group’s goals and objectives.

How has your career benefitted from your involvement in the Hispanic ERG?

Many of our members and several of our leadership team have received promotions over the past 18 months, including myself.  I have no doubt that my involvement with SOL has made me more valuable to the organization in an increasingly competitive environment.  My involvement with the group has exposed me to individuals in areas of the company that I would not have been engaged with otherwise.  My extended network has helped me tremendously in connecting dots quickly, identifying resources and creating business solutions in ways I may not have previously thought of.  I have had the opportunity to interact with company leaders at the highest level of the organization and demonstrate my leadership skills.  My affiliation with the group has exposed me to members of other EBRGS outside of our company as well as senior leaders in business and government, therefore broadening my network and awareness beyond my four walls.  I recall a recent meeting with leaders of a large global restaurant company whose commitment to Diversity and Inclusion was equally as strong as ours.  My firsthand knowledge and experience gained through SOL allowed me to evolve the conversation beyond the agenda to a much richer business conversation that demonstrated even greater alignment between our two organizations.

My family is living the “American Dream” today because of the hard work of my grandparents and the opportunities others have provided them with along the way.  My grandparent’s journey inspired me to join SOL as a small way gives back to the Latino community.  For me, there is no greater satisfaction than knowing our members are working together to help others achieve their “American Dream”.  The residual effect of this has provided me professional benefit, but I have to say the personal satisfaction I have received outweighs the professional benefit a thousand times over.

How does your Hispanic ERG help to groom the next generation of Hispanic ERG leaders?

This year, SOL has partnered with Sodexo’s Talent Acquisition Group to launch a professional development webinar series: Focus on Your Career. Our goal was to provide our members with the guidance and skills needed to map out their careers within Sodexo so as to be positioned for success.

We offered three webinars designed to help our employees as they seek to grow their careers with Sodexo. These highly interactive webinars were led by Executive Recruiters from Sodexo’s Talent Acquisition Group. Close to 100 members attended these sessions over a six week period.  Each of these webinars was focused on a specific area aimed at grooming our members to efficiently manage and grow their careers.

Resume Essentials

This webinar was designed to help build a compelling resume  tailored to the job opportunity, and will stand out to recruiters and hiring managers as they review candidates for positions at Sodexo. Following the webinars, our executive recruiters offered to provide one-on-one guidance to any members who wished to have private, individualized consultations.

Interviewing Skills

This webinar helped individuals prepare for an interview and effectively and convincingly communicate their relevant knowledge, skills and experience to the interview panelists.

Career Planning and Professional Networking

This webinar was intended to help map out our members’ career path, creating a plan to gain the competencies, skills and experience needed to be competitive for future opportunities, and build and leverage within their professional network.

SOL closed out Hispanic Heritage month this year with a program hosted by Dr. Robert Rodriguez titled, Networking & Branding 2.0: Leveraging EBRG’s to Increase your Capability, Visibility and Promotability.  The program was designed to teach members how how to leverage an EBRG to gain new skills and capabilities through their active participation.

As part of our business plan this year, the team is exploring a mentorship program within the company and externally for Latino college students.

By raising awareness through personalized programs, sharing success stories, and leaders acting as good role models, it is our hope we inspire others to raise their hands and become tomorrow’s EBRG leaders within and outside of the organization.

AT&T/HACEMOS

Hacemos

 

Delia Hernandez- Associate Director- Learning Services HACEMOS- National President

  • How do you define the business case for Employee Resource Groups to your organization? 

At AT&T, our inclusive culture is what drives our company’s success.  AT&T recognizes it’s vital for our company, with a large reach and global presence, to provide a platform for employees to connect.  Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) have become a precise link to creating an environment of inclusion.  AT&T knows the value and goodwill that ERGs provide in furthering the company’s goal, values and interests.

  • When Hispanics tell you that they are too busy to join the Hispanic ERG, how do you respond? 

The beauty of encouraging Hispanics to join our HACEMOS ERG is that we know our culture is one that embraces community outreach, people and creativity.  Joining a Hispanic ERG allows employees to feel involved with the company and connected to fellow employees. ERGs, like HACEMOS, provide networking opportunities and access to professional development.  HACEMOS focuses on providing valuable events and opportunities for our membership.  Our members want to engage in an organization that offers activities that have a direct personal and professional benefit.  Joining a Hispanic ERG provides a sense of ‘familia’ and a sense of fulfillment.

  • What is the best way to engage more senior-level Hispanics into your Hispanic ERG efforts? 

AT&T senior leaders, including our Chairman & CEO, are very active in our ERGs. They serve as sponsors and advisors for our ERG, as well as for the other 10 AT&T ERGs. They host and participate in the annual ERG Conference and they serve on various diversity councils.  We also encourage Hispanic senior leaders to engage in our efforts by recognizing those who make a significant impact on diversity and inclusion through the quarterly Champions of Diversity Award.  This honor is bestowed upon those who demonstrate role-model behavior, while supporting AT&T’s diversity and inclusion efforts and our Employee Resource Groups.

  • How has your career benefited from your involvement in the Hispanic ERG?

HACEMOS has served as a platform to showcase talent and skills.  The platform has provided HACEMOS members the opportunity to promote their individual brand and skillset to AT&T leadership.  Our members have been able to develop new skills, and enhance existing ones, through the various opportunities available through ERG activities. This visibility has generated many promotions and networking opportunities that have flourished into productive professional relationships.

  • How does your Hispanic ERG help to groom the next generation of Hispanic ERG leaders? 

HACEMOS hosts and participates in various programs that help develop and groom the next generation of Hispanic ERG leaders by exposing the future leaders to top executives and preparing them for career advancement.  The following highlights some of the programs we offer:

Mentoring Circles.  HACEMOS has a long history of mentoring its members.  We offer a national program of mentoring circles at the chapter level where senior Latino employees mentor junior members  on how to succeed at AT&T.  As a result of this program, there have been a number of employee promotions. This, in turn, creates a more cohesive organization, heightens morale and develops membership.

Leadership Lunch Time Series.  HACEMOS established the Lunch Time Series to allow our members to develop by providing them with the opportunity to interact with AT&T leaders.  These leaders hold high positions within AT&T; specifically, they are Executive Directors, Area Vice Presidents and State Presidents.  The leaders provide insights on the necessary skills and preparation needed for business- both now and in the future.  They share their career knowledge including accomplishments and how they  prepared themselves for their current roles.

ERG Leadership Academy.  AT&T hosts a two-day national workshop, instructing top level ERG leaders on how to grow each of their ERGs and to learn leadership skills.  This training also provides ERG leaders the opportunity to network with senior leaders at receptions and dinners conducted during the academy.

Exposure to Hispanic Leaders and Initiatives.  HACEMOS understands there are important national initiatives that affect the advancement of Hispanics.  More importantly, HACEMOS recognizes the opportunity to get involved and contribute to the progression by staying engaged.  HACEMOS members have consistently attended national LULAC and NCLR conferences, participated in the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce ERG recognition programs and Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility symposiums amongst many other events.

Chrysler LinC (Latinos in Chrysler)

Corp Photo

Susan Alonzo- President of LinC 

  • How do you define the business case for employee resource groups to your organization?

We are evolving our group from an ERG (Employee Resource Group) to a BRG (Business Resource Group) and we have organized our board in alignment with the 4C Model Framework: Culture, Career, Community, and Commerce.  This new concept aligns a specific committee with the Company’s strategic priorities and connects the group expertise with the organization needs, creating more value for LinC and Chrysler.  We are moving beyond networking to perform activities that help our company’s business objectives as they relate to Culture, Career, Community and Commerce.

  • When Hispanics tell you that they are too busy to join the Hispanic ERG, how do you respond?

I usually agree with them that Chrysler is a fast paced company and each individual has continually increasing responsibilities but that it is also those reasons that we cannot afford not to join to distinguish ourselves and take advantage of the unique leadership opportunities offered by joining/leading the ERG / BRG.  With the dynamics of our company and our customer changing we are offered a unique opportunity to contribute to our company’s efforts to connect with that changing customer and employee just through our unique backgrounds and experiences.   From a Career standpoint, there are many benefits through participation through our mentoring program and speaker series on leadership development as well as management team exposure.  The company continues to grow and to be successful and there is no better time to help the company be truly diverse.

  • What is the best way to engage more senior level Hispanics into your Hispanic ERG efforts?

The best way to engage more senior level Hispanics is to collaborate with talent acquisition to have better representation at higher levels.  I think it is also important for us to connect participation with the ERGs to the company’s Performance and Leadership Management Process so that active members can truly see that their work/engagement is important and valued.  We are having a year-end event to recognize these outstanding achievements made through our ERGs which is a great start to recognizing these extra efforts because the individuals really do sacrifice their personal time for the benefit of the company.

  • How has your career benefitted from your involvement in the Hispanic ERG?

My career has benefitted from my involvement through participation in the mentoring program and the overall opportunity to practice the leadership principles of “leading change” and “leading people” through my involvement with the ERG.  The leadership opportunities presented throughout my career involvement with the ERG have truly challenged my abilities and forced personal and professional growth.

  • How does your Hispanic ERG help to groom the next generation of Hispanic ERG leaders?

We are rebuilding our organization.  After the bankruptcy period in 2009, the group lost momentum.  This year our goal was to create a solid foundation and we did. Our next step is to rebrand our group from CHEN (Chrysler Hispanic Employee Network) to LinC (Latinos in Chrysler).  This will give the group the opportunity to do some marketing to attract new members and start growing the organization.

Our organization bylaws offer a process to ensure continued growth and sustainability.  The ideal situation is to have members lead a project within a committee and slowly build on the leadership experiences along the way with the support and guidance from the Board and our Diversity Office Liaison.  Our Diversity Office Liaison is a key role within Chrysler that provides the ERG with guidance and support in all our efforts.