The Power and Purpose of Employee Resource Groups (Blog Post)
More than 150 people from some 60 companies gathered on June 12 and 13 to learn and brainstorm about the future of employee resource groups (ERGS). It was Catalyst’s fifth Employee Resource Leadership Initiative (ERLI), an annual conference for ERG leaders and diversity and inclusion executives. Held at BMO’s world-class Institute for Learning in Toronto, it featured speeches from executives from BMO, Bank of America, and Uber, as well as addresses by Catalyst leaders and lots of engaging conversation—all of it underscoring how successful ERGs foster diversity and inclusion.
The ERLI Conference is special because it brings people together from all industries and functions who are deeply passionate about inclusion in the workplace. Having these people together from across North America in one place reinforces the power, passion and impact of ERGs.Tanya van Biesen, Executive Director, Catalyst Canada
Virtual workforces and artificial intelligence are increasingly pervasive, so how can we maximize the impact of the work we do with our ERGs? Conference attendees worked to answer this and other vital questions together. “Diversity and inclusion is a series of failures until you get it right,” Bo Young Lee, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Uber, told the group.
Wil Lewis, Senior Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion Executive at Bank of America, spoke about how to get buy-in. “Talk about your ERG in the same language that your company uses,” he said. Since employee satisfaction is a key measurement at BofA, he said that ERG results are measured through employee satisfaction.
BMO Inclusion Officer Rajini Nagendran noted that ERGs can play a key role in divided times. “We need to find productive ways to bridge gaps through bold conversations an actions. ERGs can be at the forefront of that change.”
Kim Fulton, Manager, A.T. Kearney; Mitch Gudgeon, Co-Founder & CEO, TalentFit AI; and Kathleen Francis, National Board Chair and President, WISE (Women in Sports and Events) spoke about cultivating joy at work.
Many leaders, including Karen Collins, BMO Chief Talent Officer (pictured, left), reiterated the impact of diversity and inclusion initiatives. “I’ve personally seen the impact that our diversity and inclusion efforts have had on our customers, our people, and our communities”.
The past conferences explored a range of issues, from creating psychological safety and fostering empathy to redefining leadership. Below are some key takeaways and memorable quotes:
Diversity is counting heads. Inclusion is about making heads count.Erin Uritus, CEO, Out and Equal Workplace Advocates
Key skills in communicating inclusively: Inquire across difference, suspend judgment & demonstrate vulnerability.Vandana Juneja, VP Global Growth Markets, Catalyst
Watch Candice Morgan, Catalyst’s then-senior director, Global Member Services (and now a Pinterest executive), discuss the role ERGs play in creating an inclusive workplace at the first ERLI conference in 2015.
Although Catalyst’s ERLI Conference series has come to an end, Catalyst continues to help Supporters maximize the value and impact of their employee resource groups. If your organization could benefit from the unique opportunities that an ERG can provide, see our Guide to Employee Resource Groups, with all the tools you’ll need to get started.
Risa Pappas, MFA
Director, Production Editor
Risa Pappas, MFA is Production Editor of Catalyst’s Global Marketing & Communications team. She works to refine Catalyst content and ensure clarity of messaging, furthering Catalyst’s mission to create more inclusive workplaces. As a speaker on behalf of Catalyst, she focuses on helping women take charge of their careers and…