ERG Festival, forum, discussion, DiversityInc
A participant gives feedback during the ERG Forum at DiversityInc's ERG Festival on Nov. 12, 2019. (Photo credit: Natural Expressions NY)

ERG Forum: ERG Festival Participants Feel ‘Inspired,’ ‘Informed’ After Final Session

In the final session of DiversityInc’s 2019 ERG Festival on Nov. 12 at the Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott, Lissiah Hundley, head of strategic partnerships and client fulfillment, led the ERG Forum, where participants had an opportunity to engage in a dialogue.

Inspired. Informed. Invigorated. Engaged. Challenged. Supported. Hopeful.

Those were just some of the responses when Hundley concluded by asking for “popups,” or one-word responses on how participants felt walking out of the event.

Throughout the day, participants put questions in boxes to be addressed in the group discussion.

The first question came from an audience member from the veterans ERG at AIG (No. 39 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) looking for feedback on what three pillars of other ERGs are based on. A panelist earlier in the day had named professional development, community engagement and business impact as their three pillars.

Sanofi (No. 31 on the DiversityInc Top 50) associate director of inclusion and diversity for North America Chandni Patel, who served as a panelist on the “Driving Business & Organization Impact Through Your ERGs” panel at the event, chimed in to mention Dr. Robert Rodriguez’s 4C Model, which lists the key elements to measuring ERG effectiveness as culture, careers, commerce and community.

“ERG activities, to be productive and contributing to the business, rally up to one of those four Cs. And that’s Googleable,” she said to a laugh.

A participant from ADP (No. 3 on the DiversityInc Top 50 list) who wasn’t able to get his question answered during the first panel of the day, “Growing and Effectively Leveraging Your Diverse Abilities ERG,” asked if there was an example of someone who may have initially been resistant to sponsoring or advocating for an ERG and what could be done to change that.

“One thing that I would challenge you to do, maybe find out a little bit more about why you’re getting the pushback,” Wells Fargo (No. 13 on the DiversityInc Top 50) Veterans’ Team Member Network Chair Jared Merlie, who was a panelist on the “Bridging the Military and Civilian Divide” panel earlier in the day, said.

Merlie, who’s also a board member of Wells Fargo’s Diverse Abilities Network, said sometimes a peer connection at the executive-leader level can help be an influence at the local level.

“Maybe [senior leaders] feel pressure because other leaders aren’t involved as well … Challenge the standard across the spectrum, meaning reach out to other executive-level leaders as well because someone will pick you up when you don’t feel it,” Merlie said.

Hundley added that the president of a DiversityInc partner initially was against employee resource groups as a whole.

“But it wasn’t about the groups,” she said. “It was a lack of education about the groups. Sometimes we have to own telling a story and educating our executives: let them know what’s in it for them.”

Ripton Whyte, the head of marketing and communications for Cultivate, ADP’s African American business resource group (BRG), asked about strategies for getting managers to allow them to engage in events such as ERG Festival.

Hundley said that’s one of the most frequently asked questions.

“You’re going to have to be creative,” she said, adding that webinars, web seminars and recordings should be “considered active engagement,” just like participating live.

Patel said that Sanofi has started involving the organization’s Industrial Affairs Country Council to make sure employees feel included because they’re the decision-makers.

“There’s a big conversation of time,” she said. “Are you getting paid to be a part of an ERG? After your 40 hours, do you get overtime, do you not? How is that approved?”

Patel also said that it’s important for organizations like Sanofi, which has a large hourly population, to make sure to get communication out to employees who might not work a traditional 9-to-5.

“Feed them,” a member of the audience said. “It brings them out every time.”

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