Podcast

In this episode of The Forum Podcast, Graciela Meibar (Graciela Meibar Consulting) and Jane Hyun (Hyun & Associates) explore the value Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) bring to an organization like developing internal talent, providing insights on sensitive DEI matters, and more.

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ERG’s remain a valuable resource inside companies. Yet, are organizations fully utilizing these networks? This session focuses on the value that ERGs bring to an organization, and shows examples of how they might serve as a platform for developing internal talent, providing insights on sensitive DE&I matters, recommending ambassadors for the company brand(s), and identifying new resources for outreach and recruitment. ERGs can also be a showcase for the network’s leadership’s talent and skills, and an outlet to develop their authentic leadership in a supportive environment.

  • When setting up ERG’s or recommending resources for future initiatives, do you focus on the value that they bring to the organization?
  • What are the benefits to the ERG’s leadership?
  • How do ERG’s have a positive impact on the business and outward mission of the organization?”
Learning Outcomes
  • Learn to build and develop ERG’s to add value to the organization
  • Identify two to three strategies for creating the right structure for success
  • Effectively communicate the contributions of ERGs to your audience while removing barriers

Sponsored by

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Transcript

The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.

Speaker 1: [00:00:00] The Forum on Workplace Inclusion 2021 podcast series is sponsored by Best Buy. More diversity in tech means more ideas that can change the world. Learn more at bestbuy.com/more of this.

[music]

We’re excited to announce a brand new form learning opportunity called Forum Professional Development Labs. Our Professional Development Labs or PDL for sure are half-day interactive learning experiences intended to develop professional competencies that support leaders in reaching the next level in their DEI leadership. Unlike traditional workshop sessions, PDLs are goal-oriented and include personal and professional action and accountability planning for next-level leadership. Unique to the PDL learning experience, each PDL includes action planning, breakout sessions.

The action planning breakout sessions give individuals the chance to participate in small group work that results in having their own goal-oriented action plan to take what they learned at the PDL and apply it in their workplace or organization. We’re kicking off this brand new exciting learning opportunity with our first PDL called Engaging Religious Diversity in the Workplace, building your interfaith strategy and skillset. Join keynote speaker Eboo Patel of Interfaith Youth Corps, and other special guests for this brand new action-oriented half-day learning experience.

The PDL will be held on November 8th, 2021, and will be offered as a virtual conference format complete with breakout sessions. If you’ve enjoyed The Forum on Workplace Inclusion annual conference, or you’ve always been interested in attending it, then you don’t want to miss this new opportunity. For more information, visit forumworkplaceinclusion.org, that’s forumworkplaceinclusion.org. Donate to the forum. We get to engage people, advance ideas, and ignite change because of the generous support from our community. If you find our resources meaningful or valuable, please consider supporting the forum today. Visit forumworkplaceinclusion.org/donate, that’s forumworkplaceinclusion.org/donate. Thank you very [00:02:00] much for your support and generosity.

With that, I’d like to say thank you to all our listeners and subscribers. You help support the growth of the podcast and reach new listeners. If you like what you’re hearing on The Forum podcast, please consider writing a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you’ve already written a review, thank you. Please consider sharing our podcast with a friend, family member, or a colleague you think might find value in the content. Word of mouth is the best way The Forum grows. Thank you very much for listening and sharing. Thanks again, and enjoy the show.

Ben Rue: Hello, and thank you for tuning into The Forum on Workplace Inclusion podcast series brought to you by Best Buy. I’m Ben Rue, program manager here at The Forum. We’re really looking forward to today’s podcast. ERG is an untapped resource worthy of your investment. With Graciela Meibar, founder of Graciela Meibar Consulting, and Jane Hyun, founder, and president of Huyn & Associates. ERGs remain a valuable resource inside companies, yet our organization’s fully utilizing these networks.

This session focuses on the value that ERGs bring to an organization and shows examples of how they might serve as a platform for developing internal talent, providing insights on sensitive DE&I matters, recommending ambassadors for company and brands, and identifying new resources for outreach and recruitment. ERGs can also be a showcase for the network’s leadership’s talents and skills and an outlet to develop their authentic leadership in a supportive environment. When setting up ERGs or recommending resources for future initiatives, do you focus on the value that they bring to the organization? What are the benefits to ERGs leadership?

How do ERGs have a positive impact on the business and outward mission of the organization? In this episode, listeners will learn to build and develop ERGs to add value to the organization, identify two to three strategies for creating the right structure [00:04:00] for success and effectively communicate the contributions of ERGs to your audience while removing barriers. Graciela Meibar is a thought leader on diversity and inclusion, a business leader with 20 plus years experience managing sales and marketing, and an expert in accessing and developing sales organizations. She has a unique blend of experience insights and personal knowledge that is hard to find in an individual consultant.

Graciela has 30 years experience creating and developing sales, marketing, and diversity inclusion strategies for Fortune 500 companies. Knowledgeable and practical, practical consultant, she provides strategic direction for companies and organizations. A coach with a proven methodology, she has the experience of a seasoned executive. A global thought leader and bilingual speaker, she inspires audiences with her authenticity and experiences. As a corporate trailblazer, a Latina, and a woman, Graciela has helped countless executives forge successful long-term careers.

She has a unique blend of experience insights and personal knowledge that’s difficult to find in an individual. Jane Hyun founder and president of Hyun & Associates is a leadership strategist to Fortune 500 companies. A trusted coach to organizations, her expertise, and cross-cultural effectiveness, Asian leader development, and onboarding comes from 25 years of hands-on experience in highest stakes business environments. As a researcher on the topic of cultural fluency, she helps organizations leverage diverse teams to drive competitive value in collaborations. She has held line management and HR leadership posts at JP Morgan, Deloitte, and Resources Global.

A graduate of Cornell University with a degree in economics, Jane is an advisor to the Center for Talent Innovation, American Heart Association, Diversity Council, and Operation Exodus, an organization that provides academic tutoring inventory [00:06:00] into Latino youth. She served as research director for The Conference Board’s Cultural Fluency: How Culture Shapes Talent and Leadership Styles in Asia. Jane appears on media such as CNN, CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, Forbes, and NPR to discuss culture and leadership. She is the author of Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling and coauthor of Flex, the new playbook for managing across differences.

Jane is passionate about helping individuals flourish in their workplaces and in their communities. Thank you both so much, Jane and Graciela, for being here. We’re so excited to have you. It’s always just such a pleasure to have you here, Jane, and you’ve been such a friend of The Forum for so long. Thank you for coming back and, Graciela, thank you for being here. I want to just go ahead and start off with something a little bit lighthearted and just to introduce the two of you to our audience.

First question is, we’ve all been going through this a bit of a rough period with the pandemic and a lot of us are working from home. We’re just back in our offices, but a lot of people are still working from home. I’m wondering, have you picked up any new hobbies or learned anything during this period that have really helped you with this difficult time period?

Jane Hyun: No, thanks for having us, Ben. It’s wonderful to be here with my good friend and colleague Graciela and to engage in this really important topic. I would say the thing that I learned how to do that I hadn’t had a chance to do much of is learning how to cook stuff. I used to travel a ton before the pandemic and probably almost three or four times a month, I would be on a plane going somewhere or preparing to go somewhere. The idea of making stuff from scratch and learning how to bake things was just not something I had an appetite for.

I learned how to do things like learn how to make bolognese sauce [00:08:00] and just different types of foods and desserts. It’s been a really interesting discovery. When you can’t go out, you find a lot of resources to do things like that at home. I think that’s been good and I think it’s a hidden hobby that I didn’t expect to learn at such a late age.

Ben: You’re definitely not the only one, Jane. We definitely started cooking a lot more at home as well. Did you use any of those in-home services, like Home Chef or anything or did you just like YouTube videos and recipes?

Jane: Mostly it was YouTube videos or just looking up recipes and cookbooks that I never used that I had received as gifts in the past. It was resurrecting something that I didn’t really have a chance to practice much, and I really had fun with it. I think it was a really great hidden skill that I figured out how to use. I’m grateful for that of all the things that I had to do.

Ben: Yes, dusting off those cookbooks gaining dust on the shelf there.

[laughter]

Jane: Dusting off is right, going to that [unintelligible 00:09:04].

Graciela Meibar: I know where I’m going to dinner next time I am in New York.

[laughter]

Ben: Right there with you.

Jane: I got to put my best game on then.

Ben: Do you have a specialty?

Jane: Well, I learned how to make this easy bolognese sauce, but I found a recipe on it and I love bolognese sauce just in any form. I didn’t grow up with Italian cooking at all. I grew up in a Korean home, so it was interesting to figure out how I can modify the recipe to make it something I can use on a regular basis. My kids loved it and no, it turned out to be a really fun dish to enjoy.

Ben: Nice. Sounds delicious. How about you, Graciela?

Graciela: I did something very different, but something that I needed to do, and that is, I learned to organize my home.

Ben: Me too.

Graciela: I watch a couple of Marie [00:10:00] Kondo’s videos.

Ben: Yes.

Jane: Wow.

Graciela: I tell you, I am not Marie Kondo. However, I took everything out of closets, out of shells, and I put back only the essential things that I needed.

Ben: The ones that brought you joy.

Graciela: The things that have either sentimental value that was really grounded on family, or really close friendships, or things that I use. Everything else was donated. I felt so good doing it. A lot of people even question me, “Are you sure you want to do this?” My answer was, “It’s been sitting in my classes for years, I have not used it. I am sure there’s someone out there that can put it to good use and that is what will bring me joy that somebody else can put something that I have sitting in a closet to good use.” Letting go was actually very enjoyable. You just do not know how many bags of stuff I donated.

Ben: That’s beautiful.

Graciela: I feel like I’m lighter now that I have a home that is really maximized in space. I have order in my life. It was everything from my office to my kitchen, my bedroom, my bathroom, everything went through this process. I love it.

Ben: That’s really great. [00:12:00] To find something, that can be very cathartic to get rid of things and to do the cleansing. Like you said, it helps a lot. It helps people

Jane: It adds to our lives when we can clean up and feel lighter.

Ben: Yes, which is really great. What was also really great was your workshop during our conference, our first virtual conference in March. Again, it’s always great to have you back, Jane, a freaking friend of The Forum, and, Graciela, I believe that was your first time.

Graciela: Ben, it was my second time.

Ben: Oh, second.

Graciela: It had been a while. It had been a while.

Ben: If it was pre-Ben.

[laughter]

Well, glad to have you back in our first virtual conference and during the conference, you talked about DEI leadership coaching. However, we’re here today to talk about ERGs, which are also very, very important. Can you explain the benefits of ERGs and why companies should support them?

Jane: Yes, there’s so many benefits of ERGs to companies and organizations and nonprofits. I think there’s– at a higher scale, it’s a wonderful way for organizations to connect like-minded people who are navigating different experiences, who may feel marginalized in some way. It’s a really great way for them to connect and network internally and have tremendous impact, right, when it’s utilized well. I think the categories that come to mind immediately are obviously for talent and career development, could be for business insight, could be for engaging company reputation, and then, of course, connecting to the community as well.

I think there are all these different benefits, both internal to the organization, but also external that can really be [00:14:00] an asset to a company. These folks are right there, in your organization, you’re not looking to hire additional people to get above with these ERGs. These folks are people who are interested, willing, and able and have the capacity to contribute in these kinds of ways. I think there’s so many benefits to an ERG that I think I’ve seen. When I think about organizations that have used ERGs effectively, it’s just a matter how are you leveraging those opportunities to do that and how are you valuing those individuals that they can be involved?

Ben: Thank you.

Graciela: I totally agree with Jane and honestly, all her– 100% agree with all of it that she says. I like to– from my own personal experience, I would say that it gives employees who sometimes go unseen. If they are a part of an ERG is basically an unrepresented minority, a chance to showcase their leadership skills. All of a sudden, they’re leading a group of people, yes, on a voluntary basis, but as leaders, and they’re networking. They’re also providing value for the company. I think what Jane said about insights for the business, from a consumer perspective, and in so many other ways, also that perspective, in areas like benefits, compensation, just having different points of view different ways of looking at things.

I [00:16:00] remember conversations with members of the special abilities group and things that the facilities team had never considered. All of a sudden, these people are showing them insights and giving them information that they had taken for granted. All of that just added value, and the employees were just so much more engaged because all the time people were listening to them. They had a forum for them to speak up. Yes, there’s tremendous benefits all the way around.

Ben: So important. Maybe stay a little bit of set back, because I know many of our listeners are familiar with ERGs and whatnot and BRGs and different organizations or different types of groups. Just maybe for some of our listeners who aren’t as familiar, could you just explain what an ERG is really quick?

Graciela: Sure. An ERG is an employee resource group. A BRG is a business resource groups. To be honest with you, it all depends on what the company wants to use in terms of names. Some people call it affinity groups. I’m sure, Jane, you have heard other terms also.

Jane: Yes, I agree with you. It’s, I think, either organizations kind of evolved to using those terms in different ways. They may start out as affinity groups, and they turn into ERGs and then ultimately, the BRGs, but we’ve also heard constituency groups that are launched by senior leadership to say, I’m looking to you all to be a resource for us. Not from a bottom-up perspective, but because we see you as a resource for the [00:18:00] organization. I think there’s a lot of different ways that we call it. Again, I think it depends on what the company wants to call it, and what do you want to use that for.

Ben: Thank you so much for clarifying that. You just mentioned the starting of our how these different groups start. Would you recommend a structured process for creation and management of ERGs or a less structured, more flexible approach?

Graciela: Okay. I am of the opinion that they should be some amount of structure. The reason for that, and I say this from experience as a former CTO who launched and started many ERGs. Having structure, having guidelines for ERGs or BRGs is important because it’s not that everyone is going to do their own thing. How do you manage all of that? How do you manage not one group but 10 if everybody’s doing their own thing, without a structure without a guideline to guide them? It is something that I think that there has to be somewhat of a structure.

However, just like anything, there has to be a certain amount of flexibility that comes with that. I think that establishing guidelines and bylaws is important, not just for the groups and to create their purpose, their mission, and how they’re going to operate, but also for the person who’s going to be responsible for managing them. Yes, I do believe that structure is important.

Jane: I would agree with that too, Graciela. There’s especially in the beginning when employees and [00:20:00] sponsors and folks may not even know what these are supposed to do and their responsibilities. I think some level of structure around here some expectations, here are some basic terms. Here are some ways to structure how you want to organize yourself and set a strategy. I think they need some guidance, right? Otherwise, it’s going to be who’s leading whom, and where are we going? I do think there’s obviously flexibility and how much they get involved and how. Each ERG may have a different way they want to contribute, how they want to organize themselves. Do they want to have like five-year terms, they want to have two-year terms?

How do they want to engage with a sponsor? Do they want to be really looking at business objectives? Do they really want to use it for career development? I think there’s a lot of flexibility you can create around what that ERG wants to achieve on behalf of the company. and I think that’s where some of the flexibility or agility could come, but, as Graciela said, you do need a lot of guidance around what you can do what you can’t do, there are limitations on what you could do as an employee. You want to be thinking about how that works, and give them some room for stretching all that, but, some guidance and coaching around it too.

Ben: Definitely. ERGs and BRGs are still relatively new that it definitely helps, everybody involved, especially people who want to be allies, for example, to these different groups, who are maybe not part of the demographic or group or the point. Or that the group was created for but wants to be a part of it and be an ally. It can be a great way to avoid any issues.

Graciela: Yes, and think about it also, Ben. Some of the folks who take leadership roles in these groups are probably [00:22:00] the first time doing so, they don’t have prior experience. They also need some guidelines. They also need some expectations. “Okay, I’m the leader of this group, what do I do now?” I think it’s also important for them to have that as a starting point, and yes, flexibility is key, but the roadmap is important.

Ben: If leaders are new, who’s building the roadmap?

Graciela: In many cases, is with the help of the Office of Diversity. I think that is, who’s starting the ERGs? Who is making it available for employees to start ERGs? I think they have to be started by employees. However, who’s facilitating the start of that? Jane, any thoughts on that, from your experience?

Jane: Yes, I think you do need a grassroots, group of passionate people that really want to commit to doing something because, the Office of Diversity may say, “Hey, we need a women’s, ERG or Black employee ERG or Asian employee.” They may see a need for that, but you do need some folks that know a way around it and say, like, “Yes, we’re going to put the work in the ground to organize ourselves and figure out what we’re going to prioritize, what we need from you all to get this going.”

I also think, one of the things that ERGs and BRGs can need guidance in is sort of to your point around how much can we do, and how much can we influence the organization, whether it’s [00:24:00] hiring practices or impact on retention. Those are things that they need some advocacy from the Office of Diversity and other functions of the organization to allow them to do that. I think there’s a constant kind of back and forth relationship building that needs to be done kind of wrestling together to figure out how they can do that and how much they can make a change. Because there are probably changes that need to be made, right, if you’re going to have an influence.

Ben: Definitely, and from your point of view, what are some BRG success stories you’d like to share, from a point of view of making a difference for members and for companies like you’ve just touched on?

Graciela: This is my favorite subject.

Ben: You’re absolutely giddy.

Graciela: I am. I just want to share with you a couple of instances where the ERGs made such a difference. Yes, I used to work for a consumer products company, and sometimes you can say that it’s easier to make that case from a consumer products point of view. I think that eventually, you can make that case across many different industries. In this case, there was a new product being launched, and the target of the new product was African-American consumers, but the team that was managing the lunch lacked I would say, a good representation of African-American talent in the team.

I heard about the project, and I immediately call the VP in charge of the overall brand, and I mentioned that [00:26:00] I thought it would be a great idea if they would involve the African-American ERG on the project from an advisory point of view. They took me on it, and immediately they set up meetings with that team. The reason for my suggestion was that in the past, similar attempts have been made not just with African-American consumers, but with other minority groups in the US, and the products have not performed.

The ERG got involved, they advise, they provided input into many aspects of the product, from the looks of the product, the packaging, even the name of the product. The finished product was launched, and it was a hit. To be honest with you, I feel that it was their input, their perspective, and their insights that made the difference this time. That began a process that it was not only that brand, and that product that used ERGs for insights, but many other groups.

All of a sudden, the various ERGs became advisors to product launches for specific groups within the company. To me, I saw that as the biggest win on the usage of ERGs as an internal resource of the company, to create [00:28:00] immediate value. The pride the members of the ERG felt by doing this was beyond description. They felt they were contributing in a big, big way to the success of these products. To me, those examples, and I can remember four or five and one after the other, it was just a win for the company.

Jane: Graciela, when I hear you share those success stories, it just makes me think what a win for the company on many levels. You manage risk, right? Like if you launch a product and it fails, you’re losing millions of dollars, right. The gain that you have from not just selling products that are successful, but also all those employees, who may have not had anything to do with the product development, and them feeling good and rallying around about product.

I think that’s just a win-win for many perspectives. That brings me a lot of joy to hear that, talk about joy. I want to just add, I’ve worked in the past and consulted with other types of organizations. I remember this one food and beverage company that connected with the Asian American Hotel Owners Association because their Asian ERG had relationships with them, and had inroads with them, with the owners and operators there. They were able to connect to see if they can convert some of what they were selling to those associations and to the folks who own them.

Korean Grocers Association as well, those unique and important relationships with the community that only they can develop because either due to the language connection or the cultural connections they have. I think those types of things when I hear it’s a different way to add value, but it just provides like, “Hey, [00:30:00] we know how to build these relationships because they’re part of our community and we know the nuances of how to build those relationships.” I think those types of wins can also come through the ERGs and BRGs that no one else can really do. Maybe they can try but they’re going to have a lot easier time if they know how to connect with those types of relationships. I think about those as wins as well on a variety of levels to connect with customers, the community, and also just build those connections for folks who may not even have anything to do with sales.

Ben: Great points. Apart from those providing networking and building those connections and a support system of like-minded individuals like you just mentioned, what are some positive outcomes of an ERG? Graciela just mentioned one amazing example. Sure there are many more.

Jane: I’m going to kick this one off and say one of the things that I’ve done a lot with the ERGs within companies is in the form of leadership development. Sometimes you’ve got folks who are part of these ERGs who don’t really get a lot of leadership development often because maybe they’re not at the level where they’re investing in those employees. Oftentimes, companies may start offering professional development or coaching or other types of programs for, let’s say, VP level and above.

What if you don’t have a lot of employees of color or women at that level that you’re investing in? Through the ERGs, through some of the development, we can offer for them, we can start offering these opportunities to them earlier before they even get to that level. If you don’t invest in them earlier and sooner, they’re not going to have those opportunities to be exposed, to network and to connect with those as well.

I have seen the benefit of using the ERGS as a wonderful launching pad for developing leaders. [00:32:00] As we said before, sometimes, for example, in working with various diverse communities within a company, these folks you might have them all working in one or two departments and not have exposure to, let’s say, sales or supply chain or marketing. By creating opportunities for them to both develop skills, but also connecting them to leaders in other functions and departments that they would never have exposure to, they get those networking opportunities that they would not have.

It’s just an invaluable opportunity for them to meet other folks within the company and get them exposed to that. For me, I’ve seen that as a huge benefit for getting involved with the ERGs.

Graciela: I think also another big win that I have seen is also around company reputation. I remember the example of the HRC Score, the Human Rights Campaign Score for the company I was working on, and it was not 100%. A couple of members of the LGBTQ ERG came to see me. We had a long conversation as to why was the case, why it was the case that we were not at 100%. With their help, I took on the task of what can we do about this, how we going to do it, and how soon can we correct it?

Within two years from the original score that raised the flag, we were on 100%. What happened? We brought to light inequities in our system that [00:34:00] prevented us from scoring 100%. These were not costly changes. These were not changes that cost millions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars. No, but they were just language-specific things that needed correction for the employees. To be honest with you, the celebration that took place when we hit 100% was beyond. I remember prior to that 100% instances when we were recruiting talent and the talent would want to talk to me, the head of diversity because the score was not 100% and they wanted to know what I was going to do about it.

I knew how important this was. I knew how important it was not only for our current employees but our future employees. With the help of the ERGs, with the help of future employees, I was able to bring something to light and correct something that actually it was all about company’s reputation and that was just a phenomenal example.

Another thing that I don’t want us to forget is the benefit the ERGs provide to their sponsors. Sometimes the sponsors are not of the same ethnic or gender or affiliation of any sort. The ability that [00:36:00] they provide, the learning that they provide to that executive is beyond words in terms of the value for them to develop themselves too as inclusive leaders, by better understanding the challenges that these particular groups face. They do that through interactions with them, they do that by listening to them, and that is also priceless. It’s something that we should never take for granted. There is the value of that reverse mentoring that happens also with the sponsors.

Ben: That’s great. Yes, and thanks for sharing that. To the reputation point, I was watching a Business Insider I think earlier about the importance or the value that millennials, and I say this as a millennial, put on a company’s reputation in their stance on social issues either when it comes to whether they want to work there or spend their money there. It can make a huge, huge difference in a company’s bottom line and also just their experience of the company and working there.

Graciela: Absolutely.

Jane: Yes, 100%. I talk with recent college grads and I talk to recruiters a lot, many of them are being asked the question of how does your company think about diversity and inclusion, and what are you doing about it? What are your positioning? I think that’s a very common question that many of the candidates are asking and they want a serious answer. They want some sort of a response. I guess it’s not just, “Okay, we have a diversity statement on our website,” they want to know what does your company stand for? What are you putting your stake in the ground in as it relates to that? [00:38:00] I totally agree with you, Benjamin. It’s just becoming increasingly an important part of your brand.

Ben: The ERGs and BRGs really help with that can really be like, “Hey, we’re not just talking the talk, but this is this group within our organization and these are the awesome things that they’re doing.” I know General Mills their LGBTQ ERG did this huge Pride party, speaking of parties and the LGBTQ, and that night was open to the greater community, not just General Mills. It brought in a lot of people and it brought in a lot of potential new recruits who are seeing this amazing campus and seeing this amazing work that they’re doing. Yes, it’s definitely a lot of benefits for them. Let’s switch gears a little bit. What are some challenges you have seen from the creation and management of ERGs in an organization?

Graciela: I’ll start here. I think that like anything else, is time, the time required to do this. When you think about these are full-time employees doing a full-time job and all the sudden, now they’re also the leaders of an ERG. That can be challenging because they have a super busy schedule, but they take on this other role now, and sometimes it’s hard to juggle. I would say also it’s that balance of what does their manager judge them on? Of course, number one is going to be their [00:40:00] job and all this other stuff, how does that really help them in their job?

One thing that I always recommend for the leadership of ERGs is, it’s important that you tell your manager that you’re taking this role. It’s important that they know that they can reach out to me if they need any clarity, or any perspective on your roles so that there’s good communication and good understanding. I would say number one challenge for me, from my perspective, was the time required to do things. Jane, what do you think?

Jane: Yes, I would say that is a big one. I think burnout and feeling perhaps, especially if you’ve served for a couple of years, it’s like, “Why am I continuing to do this?” If you’re not either seeing change, or you’re not seeing any benefit to yourself in any way. I think those are very emblematic of the refrains I hear from folks. If you’ve been doing it for a while, and you forgot why you started, it’s important to reinforce what is your why for why you’re involved, and then also reaffirm the organization’s why of what things exist. I think there’s needs to be an iterative process for looking at that.

I think the other challenge I’ve seen is barriers to resources. Not just all monetary but I think certainly that’s part of it. If, let’s say the ERG or BRG wants to do strategies, strategic planning, involved with hiring, getting involved with employee engagement and all that, and then all you get is a budget of X amount. Let’s say they give you like, I don’t know, 2500, for the whole year to do that. It’s like, “Okay, we can order food for the event.” [00:42:00] [laughs] It’s like, is what you’re trying to do aligned with what you have? I think that can be a challenge, too, especially if you have goals of creating a lot of these processes and change and you’re not given the resources, or advocacy, or power to make it happen.

Graciela: Yes, absolutely.

Ben: Yes, agreed. How can we incentivize ERGs? You just mentioned money. Should there be monetary incentivization, gift cards, or something to incentivize people to join an ERG or BRG, or what are you thinking?

Jane: Yes, I definitely think we need to figure out a way to reward or incentivize both sponsors and then, of course, the employees that are involved with ERGs and BRGs. I’m sure you guys have heard about LinkedIn, which recently established a compensation model for the leaders of its employee resource groups. It came out I think, about two months ago, I think that was really groundbreaking. I think it depends on the company depends on how employees like to be rewarded. It doesn’t always have to be monetary, it could be recognition. I think whether you do it in a lump sum, or some other compensation way to reward inclusive behaviors and the outcomes that they’re creating.

I think certainly you would do that for anyone who contributes in a pretty significant way to a company’s bottom line. I think we have to figure out a way to reward these folks who are putting in extra hours voluntarily on top of their day jobs. Certainly, there must be ways to recognize and reward them. I don’t think it always has to be monetary but there needs to be a way to do that. If we want to take it seriously and we want to see this as important as any kind of other initiative.

Graciela: [00:44:00] Yes. On that point, one of the things that I implemented when I started these ERGs in the past was open communication channels with the person’s manager. There were goals that everyone had to establish every year. In most instances, there were five performance-related goals that each individual in the company had to have. For the leadership of the ERGs, I recommended that one of these goals that they will be measured against for their yearly performance review was related to their leadership of the ERG.

A lot of managers agree and for many managers, what they will do is they will fill out the performance review worksheet and send it to me to fill out the part about their role in the leadership role of the ERG. That counted to their overall rating for merit increase and bonus increase so, in an indirect way, it was monetary. I think it really was necessary that it be counted, that they be rewarded and acknowledged in their performance review. Because if not, that company was definitely benefiting from their work, that company was actually getting insights, [00:46:00] benefits from their work and so they should be recognized for it. That was my way of implementing that. I think that it was really a good system at that time. I’m sure there are a lot of creative people doing maybe better things but what I would say is, it has to be acknowledged.

Ben: Definitely. I think that’s a great system. Well, this has been such a great conversation. I want to thank both of you for coming back to have us. We are, unfortunately, getting to our last question. I think it’s a great question to end on, especially with the focus on our new global world and the global workforce. Especially with what we’ve discovered during the pandemic, how we can all work from home and it actually brings teams closer together, oddly enough on a global level. What are your thoughts on the role of BRGs on a global scale on how they work across different geographies and different cultures?

Graciela: My best advice here is, make sure that you’re not using a US solution for the world.

Jane: Hear, hear.

Graciela: That’s my best advice. The world is not the US, and so what works in the US is not necessarily going to work outside the US.

Jane: I think you’ve said it.

[laughter]

That’s really kind of the bottom line, you really have to find the right context for how you’re going to talk about diversity and inclusion. Just to give you as an example, in the Asia Pacific region, there are countries where the [00:48:00] concept of being different and diversity is not considered very positive. There’s this collective view of things and all that. It doesn’t mean that we can’t have this conversation, but it may be worth having a conversation about that. How do we engage those differences in a way that people will understand? How does being a more collective-oriented culture connect to that and how do we engage–

Who are the outsiders in your organization on a local level and how do we make sure that they feel like they’re part of the organization? I think, the terms we use and how we use them, and our beliefs around what those words mean, we need to really always question what those local cultures understand it as. If they see it as like, “Oh, that’s not good it’s not good to be different,” and we’re preaching that from the mountain top without really giving them context for why and why it’s important to their team and their culture and the organization, then we lose something there because we’re not speaking from where they are. We need to meet them where they are.

I think for me, the cultural context for how we’re talking about it, and it’s going to be different for every local culture, we have to figure that out. We have to ask them, we can’t assume. We really need to start with them. I think deep listening and trying to figure out how to how to show that empathy and not assuming that we know. Graciela, you said it. We cannot apply the US lens on all of these countries and expect that “Oh, well we must like this product so they all like it too.” [laughs]

Graciela: Exactly.

Ben: Exactly. I was going to say even here in Minnesota, sometimes different isn’t always a great word.

[laughter]

Graciela: Exactly.

Ben: It’s not other countries all the time.

[laughter]

Jane: This is true.

Graciela: That’s something taht US geography.

Ben: I was going to say, you speak of geographies. Yes, different [00:50:00] is often seen not as a great thing here in Minnesota, but that’s a different story.

Graciela: Hey, it may want another hour.

Jane: It may just be your backyard.

[laughter]

Ben: Exactly yes. I just want to thank both of you so much for coming back and having this great conversation. I just want to thank, again, thank you.

Graciela: Thank you.

Ben: Thank you.

Jane: It was so much fun.

Ben: Always a pleasure, Jane.

Graciela: Thank you so much.

Ben: Thank you. Bye.

Graciela: Bye-bye.

Ben: Thank you so much, Graciela and Jane, for that wonderful podcast, and thank you to our listeners and a special thank you to our sponsor Best Buy. To learn more, you can email Graciela and Jane directly at graciela.meibar@me.com and janehyun@hyunassociates.com. New episodes of The Forum podcasts are available at forumworkplaceinclusion.org/podcast. You can also find our podcasts on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor, and Stitcher. Thank you again for listening. Have a great day.

Speaker 1: Thank you again for listening to The Forum on Workplace Inclusion podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast to get updates and the latest episodes. Also, tell us what you think by reviewing our podcast. We’d love to hear your feedback. For more information, visit us at forumworkplaceinclusion.org or search Workplace Forum on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Thank you very much and have a great day.

[music]

Speaker 1: The Forum on Workplace Inclusion podcast is recorded at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. One of the most diverse private colleges in the Midwest, Augsburg University offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and nine graduate degrees to 3,400 students from diverse backgrounds at its campus in the vibrant center of the Twin Cities and nearby Rochester, Minnesota location. Augsburg educates students to be informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers, and responsible leaders. In Augsburg, education is defined by excellence in the global arts and professional studies guided by the faith and values of the Lutheran Church and shaped by its urban and global settings. Learn more at augsburg.edu. [00:52:00]

[00:52:01] [END OF AUDIO]

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