Employee-resource groups (ERGs) can give insight into the unwritten cultural/ethnic nuances of your client base, leading to gains in business and customer loyalty, as JCPenney can attest. When the retailer sought to open one of its new stores in a location with a high Asian demographic, ERG members and field councils were able to advise management on the proper, respectful way to exchange money in Asian cultures—by counting the change back. If cashiers simply gave the usual "Here is your change" line, many patrons could have felt offended, which results in lost positivity for the brand.
Manny Fernandez, director of diversity for JCPenney (No. 35 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list), shared this story during a DiversityInc panel with Jim Norman, vice president of talent acquisition, diversity and inclusion for Kraft Foods (No. 9), and Tim Stiles, tax partner for KPMG (No. 29). They discussed how their companies view ERGs as valuable resources with unexpected—and profitable—benefits. The panel additionally revealed that ERGs can also be used to assist in successfully on-boarding new hires, provide skill-based training, career development and mentoring, and help with leadership development.