Make Your Voice Heard: How to Form an Employee Resource Group (ERG)

Webinar Series

Make Your Voice Heard: How to Form an Employee Resource Group (ERG)

Webinar Series

Make Your Voice Heard: How to Form an Employee Resource Group (ERG)

In this webinar you will learn how to:

  • Build a business case for an ERG with your leadership team
  • Position your ERG as a business partner
  • Create a safe space for employees
  • Measure the success of your ERG

2020 has been a year of great change. It has also been a year of important cultural conversations, in particular, diversity in the workplace. In this webinar, we delve into the importance of championing diversity in the workplace and how an Employee Resource Group can give a voice and a platform to staff members in a meaningful way.

“Make Your Voice Heard: How to Form an ERG” is a timely webinar focused on giving you the tools to effectively form employee resource groups & affinity groups. Panelists will share best practices and lessons learned, and help attendees to understand all of the company’s stakeholders, including consumers.

Join the conversation!

View On-Demand

Guest Speakers

Donna Alligood Johnson

Diversity Consulting

JAW LLC

Catalina Colman

Director, HR and Inclusion

Built In

Cliffondra Brown

VP of Customer Relations

RadNet

Michelle Bonavitacola

Director of Enablement

DailyPay

Webinar Transcript

Natalie:

I would now like to introduce our moderator, the president and editor-at-large at RecruitingDaily, William Tincup. William, take it away.

William Tincup (WT):

Absolutely. Thank you so much. We have a wonderful panel today and I can’t wait. We’ve got some questions that we’re going to be going through with the panel but also webinars are all about the audience. So, I think Natalie said it, please ask questions. It always makes for a better experience for both us and for the audience. So, please, if you can, click in and ask questions and if you want to direct those to Donna or Michelle or anybody like that, that’d be great as well.

WT:

Let’s do introductions real quick and we’ll just go from left to right. Catalina, would you introduce yourself?

Catalina Colman (CC):

Yes. Hi, everyone. My name is Catalina Colman. I’m the director of HR and inclusion at Built In, so very excited to be here and learn alongside with everyone.

WT:

And Donna.

Donna Johnson (DJ):

Hi. Thank you. I’m Donna Johnson and I am the president of my own consulting firm called JAWS LLC. Nice to meet everyone.

WT:

Cliffondra.

Cliffondra Brown (CB):

Hello, everyone. I’m Cliffondra Brown. I’m the vice president of customer relations from RadNet, and I’m very excited to have an opportunity to learn and to share today. Thank you.

WT:

Awesome, and Michelle.

Michelle Bonavitacola (MB):

Hi, everyone. My webcam’s having some issues, so I’m going to probably stay off so you don’t just see a yellow screen. I am the director of enablement at DailyPay.

WT:

Awesome. So, and we’ll probably get into people’s backgrounds just a bit more as we get into things. So, this is what we want to try to accomplish today. So, first of all, ERG, if you’re not familiar with it, by the time we get to the end of this webinar, you’ll be intimately familiar with it, which is kind of the idea, is to make sure we talk both in times of now, 2020, but also what we’ve learned from our ERGs and how we can create even better ERGs at our company, better experiences.

WT:

So, I’m going to start with the first question and the first question is how would you explain an ERG to candidates or employees? And Donna, let’s start with you and then I’ll go to Catalina.

DJ:

Thank you very much. Well, the most important thing that I can share with any candidate or employee about an ERG is that it is voluntary, it’s an employee-led group that has been supported and approved by the corporation or business to support the diversity initiatives.

DJ:

Now, the individuals who are part of an ERG are generally made up of common identities, things that they see themselves having in common and they really do focus on creating an environment that is inclusive and welcoming, not only to the employees that are currently there, but also in ways that encourage people who are interested in working at the company feel that this is an environment that they would feel really welcome to be a part of.

DJ:

If an ERG is really advanced, though, it can focus on not only an inclusive environment but building business initiatives that really will help identify and solve some of the opportunities that companies may see going forward, especially in those groups that have those common identities.

WT:

Can you give us just two or three examples of ERGs that you’ve seen or been a part of in the past?

DJ:

Oh, sure. Of course. Well, I personally helped start one of the business resource groups at my former company. It was for people of African descent. And I will tell you that the group of us, there were five people who worked with me to establish this group, were incredibly sensitive to both the inclusiveness of the business resource group, but also focused on the globality of it.

DJ:

And so, when we talked first about building a business resource group, we talked about a group for African Americans but, in talking to other employees across the globe, we recognized that people of African descent are absolutely as challenged when it comes to having that inclusive environment. And so, we focused on not just the US but ensuring that we had a global footprint.

WT:

Oh, cool!

DJ:

Another group that came into place was one that focused on LGBTQI members of our community and it was incredibly important to bring a voice to those employees who may have felt that they weren’t really recognized, especially in countries and even in the United States where their rights are not equal across the globe.

DJ:

So, there are challenges that are particularly important in recognizing building an environment where those members of that community can really raise their voice to help create not only a safe environment, but also raise issues that impact them personally.

WT:

Love it.

DJ:

And the third group was really around disability and awareness. So, finding ways that you can attract and retain groups within those three [inaudible 00:05:44] value [inaudible 00:05:49].

WT:

And Catalina, same question. How would you explain an employee resource group to candidates or employees?

CC:

Yeah. For sure. I think Donna really gave her wonderfully robust response there. I would say, from our experience, we’re a smaller [inaudible 00:06:10] company. We’re about 200 employees. So, our ERGs have really started to take off this year. We’re pretty much in the infancy, toddler phase of it all and we have five groups right now.

CC:

The first group we established was Built In for the People, which is for anybody who identifies as black, indigenous, or a person of color. That is a group that’s near and dear to my heart. I’m a Latinx immigrant myself. So, in addition to supporting it from an HR perspective, definitely an active member of that group as well.

CC:

The parent’s ERG, United with Parent, also a member of that team, which, with everything that’s gone on with the switch to remote and having to transition to child care and at-work care has been critical to me just to have that community, again, to the purpose of the ERG, making sure that we have people that we can explain ideas with and have that safe space. As we said, specifically for that group, even to just scream into the void together has been helpful.

CC:

We have Built in Tribe, which is for our Jewish employees. We have our Built Out team, which is for our LGBTQ+ employees as well, and then finally, we have our Women United in Tech, which is actually our largest group because over 50% of our employees are female or identify as female.

CC:

So, we definitely have variety, especially within sizes. So, some of those teams are going to be smaller and their purpose is going to be different. So, it’s going to be more of that, for example, the parent’s team, more that sense of community. We do brown bag lunches where we just get on the Zoom call together and exchange ideas.

CC:

We had, last time there was a father who was traveling with his nine month old from Chicago to Boston for the first time and he just wanted advice on how to survive that trip. So, we spin a lot of the conversation around that.

CC:

Our women’s ERG are built out teams, Built in for the People. We’re focused a little bit more on advocacy and education within the company and then also charitable initiatives outside of the organization. So, we posted drag queen bingo, for example, with our build out team where we’ve raised funds for local LGBTQ causes or our women’s ERG, where we focused on how empathy really can help us support women and how we can support one another through shared experiences or having empathy.

CC:

And then we also, for example, it was Built In for the People, we focused on education and the role that racism plays in education. And I found, for example, and I was internal, we had a moment where we asked our employees, “Can you think about a time you’ve had a Black teacher,” and it was such an aha moment for people to realize and pause, how race plays a factor or the lack of in their lives and they’ve never even paused to think about the fact many didn’t have a Black teacher ever or they didn’t until college or high school or so on.

CC:

So, what we’re trying to focus on is really allow each ERG to decide what role they want to play, whether it’s internal, external support and to also be mindful of the evolution, because I do envision a world one day where Built In for the People for example, will develop into Built in Noire or Built Them Up in X. We have those groups that evolve as we grow.

CC:

Disability ERG is something that we’re also looking at including as well, so there will be evolution on these teams, but right now, we’re just allowing them to be a little bit more organic.

WT:

I love that. I love that. Both of your answers are amazing. Thank you so much and a primer for what we’re going to talk about, again, for the audience, please ask questions, if you can. That’d be great.

WT:

Second question that we have is why are ERGs a vital component to a company’s culture and Cliffondra, I’d like to ask you that first, so what do you see as the relationship between ERGs and a company’s culture.

CB:

Well, I think that it’s a huge correlation between the ERG and the company’s culture. First of all, just having an understanding of all of the nuances between of individuals from different perspectives within your organization. I think it’s very easy to think that one size fits all and that we are all very similar or to make the assumption that we all have equal access to all things, which really is not true. And it enables an organization to really open up the dialogue and conversations for understanding how best to support individuals throughout the organization.

CB:

For us specifically in our organization, we recognize quickly or we always knew that we were diverse, which was really a dynamic situation to know that we were a diverse company and then to look and then prove with facts that we were. We were excited and we were really, really, really jazzed about that.

CB:

And then it became, “So, now, what do we do with that? How do we give all of those people all of this wonderful mix and melding of people a seat, if you will, at the table, but not only a seat. Let’s talk about having a voice and let’s talk about having a little bit of equity at the table.”

CB:

And I think that that’s sometimes the portion that gets a little missed. When we talk about D&I, it’s important for diversity because I will say diversity is great, yes. We all want to be invited to the party. I also say that inclusion is great because, yeah, I’m excited to be asked to dance, but when you really get to the core of it, I’m even more ectatic about having an opportunity for equity, which means I get to be on the planning committee and the things that matter to me specifically maybe as a Black woman and not even just as a Black woman, but as an American Black women, because much to what Donna said earlier, which was absolutely profound, not all Black people have the exact same experience just because we may have the same skin color. What may happen in another country for a Black person may be very different than the walk I’ve had here in America.

CB:

So, this is huge for us in our organization and we are excited to be able to have an opportunity to share what we know now and also to learn from people who have plowed the way before us.

WT:

I love it. Thank you so much. What a wonderful answer. Catalina, your take as well on how ERGs are kind of, how they help support corporate culture.

CC:

I think I’ve seen such a huge impact on how ERGs have played that role. We understand that not everybody has to clip on just for the shared experience. Again, even people with similar backgrounds or identities have very different life experiences.

CC:

But, particularly, I will say for us in our headquarters in Chicago, Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the United States. Let’s call it what it is, behind Detroit. That’s the facts. So, a lot of people have lived in bubbles and haven’t had any exposure to other people’s experiences. It’s very separated. I am actually a native New Yorker, so when I came to Chicago, I had a little bit of culture shock in that way, just not seeing the melting pot that I was used to. But I will say having the ERGs and saying, “Hey. It’s okay to have these conversations. Let’s talk about what’s going on in the world. Let’s not pretend these things aren’t happening out there.” People watch the news and then they come into the office and it’s like that’s out there. We’re in here.

CC:

So, it’s really shifted the culture in let’s acknowledge things. Let’s discuss things. And even people who aren’t within these groups, you can ask the questions. Can we allow this space now in our organization where people are vulnerable can ask the questions? They can even say the wrong things.

CC:

It all comes down to creating the culture and I think our ERGs have played a huge hand in this of saying, “If you get something wrong, say, ‘Thank you. I did not know that. I will do better next time.'” And really creating this evolution and let’s not pretend these life issues aren’t happening for people.

CC:

This year has been very challenging for many groups, obviously for Black American culture. For LGBT individuals it’s been very challenging, so let’s not pretend those things aren’t happening. Let’s show empathy for our colleagues, but see how we can support them. Don’t rely on them to teach you. We have Google. All these things are out there, but let’s add the conversation and let’s allow ourselves to really grow and learn and I think that’s been a huge part of our ERG [inaudible 00:15:20].

WT:

I love it. Donna, I got to get your take on culture and ERGs and kind of how they’re simpatico or not or how they support their corporate culture.

DJ:

Well, you have two great answers already, so I will just add a couple of thoughts that may come from a different perspective or direction. The first is Catalina already talked about the mentoring opportunity. If you are part of an ERG, the opportunity to talk to your peers, talk to your allies, talk to senior management, and get their take on how the culture can grow, change, or what impact the ERG might have is incredibly important in understanding how to navigate amongst your peers up to senior management is an invaluable mentoring opportunity.

DJ:

The second is that it gives management from all aspects a view into the future leaders of an organization. There are opportunities because people feel comfortable, safe, and passionate about the diversity initiatives in the ERG. You will find people step up to take on roles that they may not have been either offered or had the opportunity to do because of their position in the company or maybe they were at a level that someone assumed they weren’t ready or capable of taking on that new initiative. I’ve seen people who were quiet in business meetings speak up and present in meetings when it came to D&I and those opportunities exposed them to managers who then said, “Maybe I haven’t given that person an opportunity to really challenge themselves.”

DJ:

So, it’s both mentoring and the opportunity for both the individual to demonstrate leadership skills but also management to see those skills in maybe groups that they might not have touched before.

WT:

I love that. I love that, I love that, I love that. Okay. So, let’s talk 2020. It’s almost over. Literally have a number of days left, but D&I in particular, how has it changed this year? How’s that narrative or the arcs inside your companies, how have they changed this year? And Donna, let’s start with you.

DJ:

Well, I am working with other companies and I will tell you that one of the conversations that I’ve had most recently is a change in the dialogue. In the past, it’s been about inclusion. How do we ensure that everyone feels that they have that seat at the table and their voices heard? How do we make sure that all members of our organization understand that the inclusion part is as important as diversity?

DJ:

Today, I’m hearing more conversation around how do we talk about race? How do we ensure that people feel comfortably having that conversation in our company because we now know and it could be driven by the pandemic and the fact that people are working remotely, but they’re connecting in ways that we may not have insight into to talk about how they’re feeling. They talk about what’s happening in their neighborhoods and what they see on TV.

DJ:

And so, how do we ensure that we are part of that dialogue and can help our employees navigate through that as they focus on getting through 2020 and back to 2021 in whatever form that may look like?

WT:

Awesome. And Catalina, again, kind of how the narratives have changed of D&I in 2020? You can go back to ’19 if you want to, but how have things changed for you?

CC:

I think impact of 2020 has been huge for our organization. It’s been a little bit of silver lining. One, I think, like a lot of companies, we’ve slowed down our recruiting efforts, especially the first half of each year. We’re picking up again now, but it allowed us to have some breathing room to think about, as a people team, what were the priorities? And DEI has always been an important part of the company, but we’ve really had the breathing room and space to be strategic about it.

CC:

So, we’ve build a DEI roadmap. We looked at understanding how DEI impacts every single employee touchpoint so we’re looking at performance reviews. Do the questions empower women to really advocate for themselves? Are we phrasing these questions in ways that managers are going to be specific enough to get feedback? We’ve seen studies that people of color actually do not get appropriate levels of feedback and then, that leads to surprise terminations because they didn’t know how to get better if they didn’t get that feedback that their colleagues might be receiving.

CC:

So, really training our managers in every single aspect. Recruiting, performance management. Looking at our compensation. “Yeah. We think we’re fair. We think we’re equitable,” but what does the data say? Let’s look at the numbers, and not only from a gender gap disparity, but across the board. I mentioned that the majority of our employees are female. Are we promoting women at the same rate as we are the male counterpart?

CC:

So, really taking the time to look into, through everything, one, because our strategic initiatives changed early on, and, then, two, we really have to acknowledge the murder of George Floyd this year. Really brought everything to the forefront and completely changed the landscape, I think, for a lot of HR organizations.

CC:

Again, it went from, “Let’s pretend these things aren’t happening,” or, “We don’t want to say the wrong thing,” to, “No. We have to talk about these things. We have to acknowledge what’s going on in the world.” And I think that was a huge shift and that also led us to put that in writing, add an inclusion value, and really call out that we wanted our employees to bring their whole selves to the workplace, that we believe in making sure that we’re creating an equitable place.

CC:

And, then, we’ve already seen and I know people will sometimes just say, “Oh, corporations are just putting words up.” We have seen the impact from candidates. We’ve had candidates say, “The way you’ve addressed this has influenced my decision to come to your company.” Or on the flip side, we’ve had candidates who have declined and said, “Would I be forced to believe in what the company believes in?” “Well, it depends what you’re talking about.” If you believe we want everybody, everybody’s entitled to their opinion, nobody’s forced to post anything, but a non-negotiable is that this is an inclusive and equitable workplace for underrepresented, marginalized communities and we will not compromise on that. That is not a negotiable and we actually just lost the candidate not too long ago surprisingly in the year 2020 to a conversation like that but we did not falter as a company because we went back to our values.

WT:

You would have lost them eventually if not as a-

CC:

Yeah, and they think he would have-

WT:

… candidate, you’d had lost them as an employee.

CC:

Yeah. We would have had a whole other [inaudible 00:22:40] to go along with it, I’m sure.

WT:

That’s exactly right.

CC:

But I think, again, that’s a filtering process I’d like to have. So, I think that has had a huge shift and even though both of those experiences, COVID, and again, the murder of George Floyd were terrible experiences and I wish they didn’t have to go through that to get where we landed but the silver lining is that, as a society, as companies, we have advanced and that has really pushed things to the forefront that were long overdue.

WT:

Wonderful. Cliffondra, what do you think?

CB:

Oh! It’s such a great question. So many great answers and I’m also sitting in the seat of learning as well as sharing, but I can tell you, what it’s done for us in our organization is we really quickly got real comfortable with being a whole lot uncomfortable. I will tell you that. That is our mantra. I mean, we got to get real comfortable with being uncomfortable.

CB:

And I will speak from a personal level on this perspective being a person of color, being a person from a marginalized group of individuals in the United States. The murder of George Floyd was huge in our organization. And I have to say, for the first time, I began to have conversations with my bosses and really powerful people in our organization to actually ask me, “Talk to me about your walk.”

CB:

And it struck me because they asked lots of questions, lots of questions with regarding work, lots of questions. “How’s your family,” because they’re all safe and they’re comfortable and they don’t make waves.

CB:

But what happened was George Floyd made us have a ripple effect, but a ripple effect in a great way. For us to be able to open up a dialogue that for so many years were taboo and I’m sure that most people on this panel can remember when you don’t talk about race, you don’t talk about religion, you don’t talk about sexual orientation, and you certainly don’t talk about religion ever, ever, ever, ever, ever. We have the right to tell you that.

CB:

But the conversations, they’re being had with or without you and the conversations may not necessarily be in this space where it’s always appropriate. And for our organization specifically being in health care, we deal with people when they’re their most vulnerable.

CB:

And something that Catalina said is about allowing people to be their whole self. We need our team members to be their authentic self when they come to work to feel supported, to not only feel heard, but to have an understanding that we were giving them all the time, the tools, the trainings, the techniques, everything they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

CB:

And those are where the real rubber meets the road, because when our patients come to us, they want to do business with people who understand them. They want to do business with people who won’t allow them to be their authentic selves. And you’re not going to send your representatives into a health care facility when you’re vulnerable. You meet the real person and we wanted our team members to be able to engage in a healthy dialogue, conversation.

CB:

Maybe I’m taking care of somebody who doesn’t look like me, doesn’t think like me, doesn’t think like me, doesn’t talk like me, doesn’t walk like me, doesn’t believe what I believe, or do what I do, but I have an understanding and appreciation for what it is that they’re bringing to the table and I know how to service them. And that was most important for us here in our organization.

WT:

I love that. I’ll give you an outside or a different perspective. When Me Too first started, I had a dear friend of mine, I was on her podcast and she asked me flat out. She goes, “What do you think?” I said, “Well, as a middle-aged, pear-shaped white guy, it’s my time to sit down, shut up, and listen and just hear stories, ask questions, learn.” There’s a lot of things that I don’t know and didn’t know. So, learning those stories was important.

WT:

This year kind of feels a little bit like that for me. It’s the same things where I’m just not as much talking, more listening to people’s stories and listening to, you said, “Their walk.” I love that. Listening to people and gathering, just making it obviously not about myself but also understanding that there’s many layers, many layers and many complexities to this and we haven’t unpacked a fraction of it yet, but at least, hopefully, we’re starting. Hopefully 2020 has pushed us into this place.

WT:

The next question is and I’ll start with Michelle because I can see her now so it’s, “What ERGs have you been involved with in starting and/or would like to start and then what are some of the expected kind of challenges or triumphs during the foundational stage?”

WT:

So, the question is just personally, what would you like to start if you haven’t already or something that maybe you have started. And I think where that question comes from on both sides is okay, you start something. What are the challenges look like generally and what are some of the successes look like generally?

MB:

Yeah. That’s a great question. So, at DailyPay, I participated in the creation of DailyWoman, which is our ERG group for women with my colleague Jamie, and we continue to cochair it. I think from the creation at the time that we created it, there’s probably 20 something people at the organization and maybe five to seven women.

MB:

And so, early on, I don’t know if we’ve had as many obstacles as I know some of the existing ERG groups that are formulating now at DailyPay come through, but I think the obstacles that we are facing is of course, Jamie and I have ideas of what we want to solve for or talk about in our ERG, but I think Donna, Cliffondra, Catalina have all talked about just because you may look like we are all women, we have very different experiences and so I think always trying to have everyone who’s participating in the group have a voice in the group and what they want to get out of the group is going to be important.

MB:

Donna mentioned giving people more visibility. So, that is a hundred percent one of the missions of DailyPay is really to help people grow professionally. I think in doing so or trying to get them to grow professionally, giving them more visibility across leadership is critical to get that done. And so, constantly trying to figure out how to do that better is a challenge but I think the biggest victory is when it does occur and you have that moment of whether it’s a leader reaching out to Jamie or I saying, “Wow! I never knew that person had that skill set,” or, “It was such a great and vibrant speaker,” or whatever it is that we’re allowing them to highlight about themselves. I think those are the moments that makes everything worth it.

MB:

And yeah, I think the last thing is just, again, always just trying to figure out how do we continue to get everybody a voice at the table and even working with the other ERG groups at our organization, how do we make it not just about us and our particular group because you don’t want to kind of serve the opposite purpose of what the ERG group is to do and getting yourselves a voice, you don’t want to do that and put down another group of folks, either.

WT:

I love that. Thank you, Michelle. And Donna, what about yourself?

DJ:

Oh, I was involved in the development of the ERG in support of employees of African descent, as I mentioned. And the first time we met to start our group, we had the blessing of senior management, the D&I strategy included a description of what a BRG/ERG would look like. And yet, when we had our first meeting, 40 employees showed up and there were 40 different ideas and that meant that you sort of had to get through the weeds in order to get to the mission of the business resource group. I was fortunate enough to work with some dynamic women who helped create this particular BRG, which really became the model for others and what was really important for us was ensuring that we had a message that was consistent across the different BRGs, but also that we were able to tap into senior management.

DJ:

So, the biggest challenge we had was we couldn’t limit ourselves to management that only looked like us, because the reality is some companies do recognize you’re not always going to have enough people in senior management that are reflective of the BRG. So, getting those allies and helping them understand the importance of being a part of the BRG, regardless of which one it was was probably the most talking that we had to do across the organization.

DJ:

So, William, I appreciated what you said about your experience with the Me Too. It was really creating a dialogue across the different levels and making sure that everyone understood that this BRG and any other was welcoming to all who were interested in learning and understanding and participating in the success of the BRG and the diversity initiative as a whole.

WT:

I love that. Cliffondra, what about yourself?

CB:

Please? Sorry, can you ask the question again?

WT:

Sure. Sure. It’s essentially when you first start an ERG, kind of the unforeseen, what are some of the challenges where someone said in a hidden surprises or wins, things like that. Any ERGs that you’ve personally either started or wanted to start.

CB:

Okay. All right. Well, in our organization currently, we are at the infancy level of developing those specific subsets or groups to help us navigate, but in my prior life at other organization, we did actually begin an ERG group and one of the challenges that I found that was often more frustrating than anything was that it sounded really good to do it. I mean, it’s a great thing to write down on paper and to have, “We have an ERG and our DEI is awesome.”

CB:

And we were excited about it, much like Miss Donna said. 50 people will show up and you get so pumped about it, but you get no budget. You get no real true direction and/or an ally or support from the leadership team.

CB:

So, what tended to happen was that the steam and the energy behind it fizzled. And then, from there, we also noticed that they began to put people in boxes. “Well, don’t say this,” or, “We’re not really comfortable with you talking about that.” And now, you’re putting parameters that were a little more stifling and frustrating upon the actually ERG. So, needless to say, the ERG had actually fizzled out.

CB:

At the organization I’m at now with RadNet, the most exciting thing and the most important thing I think is that our executive leadership is like, “Yeah. Do it. We support it. As a matter of fact, can we sit at your feet and learn it with you?”

CB:

Because what Donna said that was so profound is that we recognize that sometimes the higher up in rankings that you go with regards to your executive team, they do not look always like me. And they may not be women. They may not be of LGBTQ. So, therefore, they don’t have to be. They just need to be supportive. They need to be able to sit and to listen and to understand and then to champion.

CB:

And we’ve been lucky enough to have that and that right there, that is the most important thing I think that any ERG can have is that support and that ally. That’s the foundation. And if we continue to plant the seeds in that foundation appropriately and sow those seeds and honestly, you nurture them, we’re going to reap the benefits of the growth of the flowers. So, that’s where we’re at.

WT:

I love it. Cliffondra, what’s funny is when you mention, “Sit down and listen,” I can tell you from my perspective how difficult that is because, obviously you’ll know this, but once you hear the stories, you want to do something. You want to get up and you want to do something and this maybe not the right thing to do. You just need to listen and then, as you said, be a great ally, be supportive, stand up, et cetera.

WT:

But I can tell you that the sit-down-and-listen part is not as easy as it sounds. I’d love for it to be that easy, but the stories I’ve heard this year alone have rocked me to my core. So, I can just be honest with you. I don’t know how difficult it is to sit and listen, to not be able to do something other than be supportive, obviously.

WT:

Let’s talk a little bit. I know it’s going to be important for folks as they listen to this because you’re going to think about, I know I brought up at different points, a great ERG is volunteer led, it’s obviously employee driven and it’s management supported, hopefully with budget other than just being supportive of it. There’s going to be someone that asks an ROI question at one point or another. It’s inevitable.

WT:

And so what I ask and Michelle, I want to ask you first. How have you measured engagement or effectiveness and how do you think about impact of that measurement and how do you tell that story, I guess is really want I want to understand better is how you tell the story of a successful ERG.

MB:

Yeah. I think it’s a great question. I guess, let me start with, in terms of tracking and ROI, as most people think about it, dollar for dollar in how we get out, we really don’t actually do that. I don’t think that is the intent of ERG. I mean, at least at DailyPay, and hopefully for most organizations, it is not to be dollar in, dollar out. And so, what we try to do is really focus on what you had just mentioned, William, really moderating what is the attendance, what is the levels of engagement that people are having with the group when we have programs, workshops, opportunities for people to get together and come together for a networking event and so really looking at the effectiveness in that respect. And so that would be the way in which we’re quantifying anything.

MB:

Otherwise, it’s pretty qualitative, really understanding when a program is done or workshop is done, what are people getting out of it? Are there valuable tips or skills that they can apply within DailyPay or in their life or take it away, maybe even to their next role and, I think, even beyond that, are they walking away more confident? Do they feel like we have, in fact, created that safe space? Catalina mentioned that earlier.

MB:

I mean, those are the things that if we’re not doing that, then we aren’t being totally successful in what our mission is with the ERG. And so, if people are feeling that there is actually a community that they’re connected to and they have that voice and equity at the table, not just the seat, like Cliffondra noted, I think that’s really how you can measure the success of the ERG.

WT:

I think that one of the things that you all brought up in different ways is the internal mobility part of this is that people can then highlight some of their skills through an ERG, get seen, and then hopefully, that helps them get promoted and get different jobs within the firm.

WT:

I’m going to skip forward a couple of questions only because we’ve got about 19 minutes left and I know people want to know more about allies. So, this is kind of a great question. So, how have you included allies in your ERGs? And so, the question from me is, okay, here’s an LGBTQ ERG and I want to learn but I’m maybe ashamed or maybe I’m shy and I don’t know how to help. So what can I do to be a part of that? And you can take any type of ERG, obviously. What advice do you give to the allies?

WT:

We’ll just go left to right because I actually want to hear all of you talk about this. Donna, when you think about allies and ERGs, how do you kind of talk about that and how they can get involved?

DJ:

Well, what I’ve seen is that’s worked best is to distinguish between an ERG leadership meeting and an ERG event. So, we’ve all talked about the possibility that you may not have senior management look like the ERG that you’re a member of.

DJ:

So, the first is, of course, getting an ally, getting a senior leadership member, getting someone who may not look like the group in which you represent to be a part of that leadership team because they are the ones who will work with you to bring the voice to senior management. They will ensure that others in their peer group are participating in the events that the BRG or ERG are leading. They will also provide opportunities for other groups to participate, meaning they may approach another BRG or another ally as in a senior membership position to attend or support your particular effort.

DJ:

The reason why I distinguish between leadership and then the events is because all the events should be open to everyone. I think it’s important that if you are having a lecture or showing a movie, if you’re doing even an art show that you ensure that every employee understand that they’re welcome, that they’re invited. So, while we talk about diversity, while we talk about ensuring that people have a voice at the table, inclusion is really important and it’s representative of making sure that everyone knows that these conversations, these events, these programs are really about sharing the best of what we have to offer and that we can really connect corporately in our culture through these programs.

DJ:

So, insuring that you have leadership that’s reflective of allies, but also making sure that your BRG or ERG events are inclusive and welcoming to everyone.

WT:

Donna, I’m going to ask a really stupid question, so I want you to beat me up about it. Should becoming a part of the ERG, especially the leadership, should that be mandatory for management?

DJ:

I’ve seen it worked both ways. We’ve heard from Catalina, who talked about a potential employee who chose not to join an organization because they did not agree with the company’s philosophy and I would further that to say you’re not going to get all management supportive of diversity initiative. That’s just the reality. That doesn’t mean they’re anti. They’re just simply not going to be passionate about it.

DJ:

So, that’s why I think it’s important for you to find those leaders who do understand and value D&I, because when they’re behind the closed doors talking to those peers who may not understand it, don’t want to get it, don’t think it’s part of their business objectives to understand D&I, they’re the ones that are going to raise their voice and challenge that thinking.

DJ:

So, I don’t agree that everyone should be forced or required to be a part of the D&I initiative, but I think finding those who have a voice amongst their peers will help change and navigate through that challenge.

WT:

I love it. Cliffondra, what’s your take on allies?

CB:

Well, I am a huge fan of, I believe a person who is strong in their belief in leadership will be strong for an ERG. And that doesn’t necessarily always have to be the top leaders in the company. I think that there’s leadership capabilities among all people. We have to make that readily available for team members to be able to have that access to share what they know. There are a lot of members I know in our organization that have a lot of knowledge that we wouldn’t even ever known about had we not given them a platform to speak on it.

CB:

So, I would dare say that it’s about giving people information because you just don’t know what you don’t know and sometimes we may not always ask the right questions to get the right answers of people, so I would say education, making that information readily available for team members to have accessibility who want to engage.

CB:

My favorite thing to talk about is let’s try not to always look for people who are about culture fit, but how about culture add. I’m all about people who are adding to what we have in a different way that will enable us to learn and come to the table with an open mindset. So, that’s very huge in our organization. It’s about us figuring out who are those champions and giving information from them and their perspective because everybody’s perspective is unique, but I think it all enhances what we’re trying to do daily.

CB:

So, I would definitely say the education piece. I would say making sure that we’re doing a culture add, and then I will also additionally say, making a lane for those people be able to voice it, because I forgot who said it earlier but it’s absolutely true. People have a lot of skills and knowledge that you wouldn’t … It was Donna. That’s who it was.

WT:

It was Donna.

CB:

It was Donna. But you would never know that that person was robust and that person was informed and that perspective because they may have never had that opportunity in the role in which they play in our organization. So, I think that that would be what’s most important from our perspective.

WT:

I love it. Thank you so much. Catalina, what’s your story or what’s your take on allies?

CC:

Yeah. I have a few items that, so when we started our ERG, we were very, one of the things I wanted each ERG to be intentional about is what is a safe space and what is the allyship space?

CC:

And so, for the most part, most of our ERGs have private Slack channels or have private meetings or they alter between safe space meetings and allyship meetings, where they have those spaces that are exclusively for the team where they can build that community and then also to help educate, have dialogue with people who want to learn more, be involved. So, that was something that we were really intentional about. What’s great, too, is I think our ERGs have played a really significant hand in giving examples of what allyship is.

CC:

So, if I think about our women’s panel on empathy, one of our panelists who is on our executive team, she gave the example of when she was meeting with investors, the whole executive team was. Many times, the investors would direct questions to her male peers that were very clearly hers. And her male counterpart would say, “You know what? That’s a great question. I’m going to let Allie take this because she’s the expert in this area.” So, he would redirect. So, small examples of that, saying like, “Men, make sure you’re redirective of questions when you know somebody else is the expert in the room who happens to be a woman.” So, that was a really great example there.

CC:

I think the ERGs also have influenced the fact that we need to prioritize different training so we did, as an HR team, put in place allyship training, again, where we gave examples of how to be an ally. “If you see something that’s off, here are different techniques and different tactics in how you could approach that.” So, not every ally’s going to be comfortable saying, “Stop that. You’re wrong.” So, they might be comfortable saying, after the fact, “Hey. You might not have noticed, but what you said might have been insensitive.” So, different people, different approaches and giving them those tools. And I think, lastly, we talked about when we were intentional with the founding of the ERG to create those safe spaces. We also wanted to be intentional about having executive sponsors on each ERG, but to your point earlier, I don’t think it’s successful to have anybody be voluntold.

CC:

So, we try to ally members of the executive or leadership team who identify with the different groups, be part of those groups but we’re already asking people to do a lot. So, maybe not every gay person wants to be responsible for running this because they’re already living the life, to Cliffondra’s point earlier, doing the walk. Doing the walk the walk’s exhausting.

CC:

The same with we know, I don’t want to pinpoint every single Black woman on my team to say like, “You have to participate in this.” They’re walking the walk already. So, it really has to be voluntary. We can’t force anybody to do the work. We all have jobs. At the end of the day, we’re all at these companies for a paycheck to perform a function. This is outside of the scope and I do think there is the ROI from retention, from attraction, from all these other benefits to having diverse voices in our companies, but at the end of the day, they’re still there to be in sales, to be in technology, to do all these things.

CC:

You’re not going to be successful if you voluntell somebody to be part of this. You can ask and say, “Are you interested? No pressure.” But I do think having executive sponsors is a good thing and, again, it could be somebody from the actual executive team or somebody with strong influence in the company. And we are also very thoughtful about having HR counterparts on each team to help support and take some of that administrative burden off of the hands of these folks. I want to work with a team to make sure that I’m getting their ideas and then make sure I’m taking it back to my HR team and say, “How can we help support this,” so that you’re not killing yourselves working over time and all this stuff, too.

WT:

It’s interesting, Catalina, as you mentioned, we all have job jobs that we still have to do that you’re adding a lot of value to yourself. You’re adding value to the company and you’re adding value to everyone’s experience. So, this is, again, one of the reasons why this is so important is because it is, it’s making everyone’s experience, even if they’re not involved, it’s making everyone’s experience better or enriched.

WT:

Michelle, I wanted to ask you the same question in terms of allies. What’s your take and what’s your experience?

MB:

Yeah. Actually, interestingly enough, we are running a program on allyship tomorrow. We’re actually bringing the three main BRGs together, so DailyWomen, DailyNoire, and DailyGay. Tomorrow’s Human Rights Day and so we thought it would be a really good day to bring the larger community of DailyPay together and we’re bringing in an outside speaker who’s going to help people understand, really deepen their understanding of this concept because we think it is a little bit of a buzz word to some people and they don’t quite understand and grasp what does it mean to be an ally? What is intersectionality? What is inclusivity? How do you navigate that? And I think if you, the other panelists have mentioned this, I think it’s educating people on how to be allies because I don’t know if everyone really, truly understand what does that mean?

WT:

[crosstalk 00:53:47]-

MB:

What are the appropriate steps to do that?

WT:

I can speak for myself. I actually have asked people what’s my role? What do I need to do? And outside of listening, which is extremely important and hearing people’s story or hearing about their walk.

WT:

It’s also, I think one of my friends has also told me that it’s about intentionality about actions. That we’ve used the word intentionality several times today. But I get this feeling that people are tired of words and are growing more tired of words and they want to see action. And so, that’s one of the things that I think allies can help with and be supportive of is not just the words, not just the meetings, not just that stuff which is all great, but at one point, it has to lead to some type of action and being intentional in that action, I think, as an ally, it’s being supportive, being there for them.

WT:

All right. So, I’m going to do something fun. We only have about three or four minutes left, but I do want to do something a little bit fun. If you could start with your company or without, if you could start an ERG tomorrow and that would just be really, really kind of interesting to what would you start and I’ll start while you’re thinking about it. I’ll start with mine. I’m on this bent right now about pay equity because I think I can fix it, which is awfully arrogant, but I think I can. So, I would create a pay equity ERG and bring people together that really want to talk about transparency and pay. So, that’s what I would start.

WT:

Donna, what about yourself? What is an ERG that you’ve always wanted to start or you’d love to start?

DJ:

Well, if I could have gone first, I would have stolen your idea, William. What a great idea, but just to build on that, I think and it’s really an extension around the disability question with health inequity. We are seeing more gaps now than ever and access to health care remains an issue and I think too many times we link that to either someone’s indifference to their own health or hold them too responsible for it. And we really need to focus more on insuring that everyone has equal access. So, I’m not promoting a particular plan. I’m not promoting a particular physician other than I really think we need to have more focus on health care equity.

WT:

I love that. Cliffondra, what about yourself?

Cliffondra Brown:

I would probably most likely like to do something about mental health and self-care. I think that that is huge and this year alone has really shown us that team members, charity starts at home. You really have to help people to find ways to deposit within themselves, I say fill their own buckets, in order for us as organizations to constantly ask them to completely open themselves up for everyone else to continue to make withdrawals from their banks. People don’t often know how to make a deposit into the bank of me and that is huge.

CB:

I would absolutely be an advocate of people figuring out different and unique and holistic ways of constantly putting deposits within themselves in order for them to take care of others because you cannot take care of others unless you’re taking care of yourself and home first.

WT:

A hundred percent. Thank you so much. Catalina, what about yourself?

CC:

I’m going to sound a redundant copier of answers, but I think for us, something I’m passionate about is creating a disability ERG for invisible and visible disabilities. The disability community, persons who are disabled, that community nationwide represents one of the largest marginalized groups. And yet, this world is so created for an ableist culture. Everything is designed for able-bodied individuals with that ableism in mind and even I’ve come across language that I use that’s incorrect. So, that’s a constant learning journey for me. And I think, as a society in general, we can all do much better there. So, I think that’s an area where I’d love to explore.

CC:

I’d spoken to the founder of Chronically Capable, which is a recruiting organization that’s doing some great work and honestly, a lot of these invisible disabilities, like she started an organization I believe because she had a chronic condition where she needed to have an IV connected to her, so there’s an accomodation which is so simple, but we are such a society that values health or working through sickness or people have things that they just, oh, they’re so tough. They have this crazy sort of dream. “They’re back here the next day,” or, “She just had a baby, but she’s already online emailing.” I just wish we could change as a society, allow a space for people to perform great work and just tell us what they need and be more accommodating to that instead of the other way around of you have to fit in this box of health perfection. Otherwise, you’re coming up short, so that’s where I would want to focus.

WT:

There’s no box. We’ve destroyed the box. Michelle, why don’t you close us out? What would be an ERG that you would love to start or that you’d be passionate about?

MB:

Yeah. I think the theme across everybody is this kind of creating equity and I think, for me, and it is one of the missions of DailyWomen, but I think if I could start another one, it would be around equity of education, providing people with the same resources, tools, training, and, again, access to that information because it definitely is not equitable, whether it’s because you are a certain title and you only make a certain income, there’s only so much that you could probably have to educate yourself. And so, I think making a resource group that would allow more education throughout all of the employees so that for those who are ambitious and do want to grow, just giving them those tools I think will allow them to really advance their careers at a much faster rate than just waiting for them to have that opportunity, hoping someone sees that they’re a shining star and gives them that promotion so that they can then afford to continue educating themselves and invest in themselves because it’s hard when you’re first starting off or you don’t have that much disposable income to reinvest back into yourself.

WT:

I want to thank you before Natalie takes over and closes us out. I have learned so much from the four of you. So, thank you for carving out time for the audience, of course, but selfishly, thank you for schooling me, as well. I’ve really appreciated the opportunity. And Natalie, I know you’re going to close us out.

Natalie:

Awesome. Yes. Thank you, William, for your wonderful moderating skills and to our panelists for all of your input and to our attendees for attending today and participating. So, if you’d like to learn more about DailyPay’s open positions or award-winning on-demand pay platform, please visit dailypay.com and also keep your eye out for your email. We’ll be sending out some additional resources on the ERG topic later this week. So, everyone have a great rest of your Wednesday. Thank you.

CC:

[inaudible 01:02:05].

Who’s DailyPay

DailyPay, the premier provider of the daily pay benefit, goes beyond financial wellness with a flexible, simple, and compliant pay experience that strengthens the employee-employer bond and significantly enhances the employee experience throughout the enterprise.

CONTACT US