As the world grows smaller, as demographics change and as diverse lifestyles abound, diversity and inclusion leaders will serve their organizations well by encouraging the formation of resource groups/team member networks (TMNs), formalizing structures and benefits, providing training and encouragement, and listening when resource groups have business ideas. Companies with the most effective and dynamic groups do three things:
* Align the mission of the resource groups with the interests of employees and executives, e.g., contributing to the business and community service
* Respond to grassroots calls for new resource groups aimed at inclusive constituencies (e.g., multigenerational or multicultural groups)
* Actively market the resource groups to employees and candidates
There have been multiple studies about how resource groups have a positive effect on engagement in companies, foster career growth, reduce turnover, etc. What is still not getting a lot of attention is how powerful these groups can be to your company's bottom line. If the right structures are put in place, with processes defined and rewards spelled out, resource groups can be a powerful source of innovation and revenue growth.
To illustrate this point, I'll tell you my story and that of a little Pan-African team member network at Wells Fargo. In March 1993, I immigrated to the United States to reunite with my family. After I finished college and joined the U.S. workforce, I quickly learned that no one else looked like me, talked like me or had my worldly experiences in corporate America. I felt alone, undervalued and unappreciated.
In September 2006, I joined Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and learned about team member networks. These were organizations formed by team members around a certain interest or cultural heritage. For the first time in my professional life, I felt like I had found a company that allowed me to bring my entire self to work, valued my input and set me on my leadership journey. (Wells Fargo is No. 33 in the DiversityInc Top 50.)
I was instrumental in relaunching a TMN for Pan-Africans with the support of the vice president for Diversity and Inclusion for the Mountain Midwest Banking region. We launched our Pan-African TMN in April 2010; by year end we had gained more than 200 new members. By the spring of 2011, our little group had developed a business plan for a Wells Fargo business unit and identified millions of dollars in potential revenue that could be captured by catering to this niche Pan-African market segment. We were also the first TMN to host job fairs targeting our internal members and external community.
By the summer of 2011, the group's sponsorships of two Pan-African community events started to pay big dividends in terms of opened bank accounts and referrals, as well as free publicity in local newspapers. By the fall of 2011, our little group was leading the charge with Somali team members to raise awareness about the famine in the horn of Africa. The entire Wells Fargo community in Minnesota was galvanized to volunteer and raise money for Feed My Starving Children, American Refugee Committee and other local charitable organizations that were doing relief work in the horn of Africa. Again, Wells Fargo got great feedback from the East African community and from team members, positive media coverage and recognition at the Feed My Starving Children annual gala.
Has your organization been paying lip service to the business benefits of resource groups? Or have you been harnessing the business impact of these groups? Your organization's competitiveness, viability and success could depend on it.
This information has been developed as part of the requirements for a communications class. The views expressed in the story are my personal views and do not reflect the views of Wells Fargo.
--Nathan S. White
Nathan S. White was born and raised in Monrovia, Liberia on the West Coast of Africa. He immigrated to the United States in 1993 to reunite with his family and now calls Minneapolis, Minnesota home. He is a loan adjuster with Wells Fargo Funding, part of Wells Fargo & Company.
For more on resource groups, watch: Diversity Web Seminar on Resource Groups: Connect With Customers for Top Sales Results.