Doing the DEIB

Involving workers in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging creates engagement and enthusiasm

By Tara Buchan and Dani Carbary April 27, 2023

Tara Buchan and Dani Carbary

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of Seattle magazine.

Everyone, regardless of title, can advance diversity, equity, and inclusion outcomes in the workplace. One way to accomplish this is by creating employee-led resource groups, or ERGs, which often consist of members who share similar demographics or lived experiences. Here are some frequently asked questions.

We are a relatively small business. We care deeply about inclusion, but don’t currently have a formal DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging) role at our organization. We want to offer ERG participation. Where do we begin? 

An employee survey is a good starting point for gauging interest in a formal employee-led group. Responses can help shape group goals and determine potential ERG leaders. Providing write-in space can help avoid assumptions. If size or interest prevents more than one employee-led group, begin with a committee.

“Don’t be afraid to start small,” says Anneke Blair-Aparicio, senior strategic diversity partner, DEI, at Redmond-based telecom provider T-Mobile. “This might seem counterintuitive when you are passionate about DEI, but doing too many things at once can lead to feelings of ineffectiveness.”

A diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging committee can help members (and their nonmember colleagues) to see each business function through a DEIB lens, and ensure that inclusion and belonging are integral to all stages of an employee’s experience. Seek out enthusiastic support from leadership and establish a regular cadence of reporting on the committee’s progress. The group should have structure, an effective budget, and be regarded as a valuable assemblage to the organization.

We’ve recently expanded our DEI Committee to create ERGs focused on women, black employees, LGTBQIA+, and multicultural interests. What are some ways we can encourage engagement in these groups?

Participation must be open to all employees and entirely voluntary. Available groups should be listed on your company’s website and communicated throughout your talent attraction, recruitment, and onboarding stages, signaling its importance to new hires and current employees.

“Employee networks are a key part of our culture of inclusion,” says Esther Richmond, senior vice president, community relations manager at Bank of America. “(They) provide tremendous opportunities to network, create impact across multiple business lines, and grow personally and professionally.”

Always remain inclusive when designing opportunities for participation. Employees should never be expected to use unpaid time to take part in the group. Additionally, ERG participation should be connected to an employee’s annual professional goals and metrics.

How do I shine a light on the work being done in our ERGs so that members know our company appreciates and values employee participation?

Allow these groups the opportunity to share goals and progress regularly with your entire workforce, including leadership. Consider annual ERG summits and quarterly presentations.

Bank of America formally recognizes its employee network and holds numerous events each year specifically for its members, Richmond says, “ensuring efforts within these networks are visible to colleagues and the greater community.”

An employee resource group with structure and inclusion top-of-mind can strengthen your company’s DEIB efforts. It’s no surprise that this is a timely and relevant topic for many organizations. However, it’s important to remember that every employee regardless of ERG participation plays an essential role in diversity, equity, and inclusion. True belonging in the workplace only thrives with intentional and continuous action from all.

Tara Buchan and Dani Carbary founded TADA Partners and lead Collabor8 Employer Collective, a cohort of employer organizations of varying industries and sizes focused on infusing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging into all eight stages of an employee’s life cycle by sharing both success stories and valuable learning lessons.

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