In response to the rapidly developing coronavirus
outbreak and its unprecedented impact to business and employers, i4cp has launched a series of weekly standing calls specific to Diversity
& Inclusion Leaders.
Two special guests joined the May 12 D&I Action
Call for a conversation with i4cp CDO Board Chair Jacqui Robertson: Eloiza
Domingo, Executive Director and Head of Engagement Diversity & Inclusion at
Astellas Pharma, and Brian Fishbone, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging
at San Francisco-based autonomous vehicle firm Cruise, shared insights into the
roles of employee resource groups (ERGs) in their organizations and responded
to audience questions.
- ERGs rise to the COVID-19 challenge. At
Cruise, employee resource groups have been instrumental in multiple ways during
the current health crisis. For example: Families at Cruise is a group for
working parents and others with familial responsibilities. Active before the
pandemic with an internal communications channel where members interacted, the
group mobilized to spread word of local school and daycare closings. Group leaders
escalated issues to the CEO and his direct reports, driving helpful
communication from the CHRO about policies and support for employees with
parents. An HR business partner also spoke to the group about topics of interest
to parents. At the end of one call, group members took turns unmuting and
introducing their children, reinforcing inclusion and authenticity.
- Bring Work to Your Family Day puts a
virtual spin on a workplace tradition. Business professionals are familiar with Bring
Your Son/Daughter to Work days, but Cruise adapted the idea for a work world
relegated to home offices. Bring Work to Your Family Day saw Families at Cruise
members posting pictures of their “coworkers” (employees’ kids at home with them)
and sharing family experiences. The event enhanced appreciation for colleagues
and their situations, again reinforcing authenticity.
- Post-pandemic return to the workplace could
offer an opportunity to strengthen D&I and its roles. Fishbone shared
two benefits he sees for D&I when then health crisis subsides:
A name tweak links ERGs to the results
they produce. At Astellas, ERGs are known as EIGs – Employee Impact Groups.
The company’s Diversity and Inclusion Governance Council, composed of senior
leaders across global Astellas, drove rebranding of ERG as EIGs. As an
evidence-based institution employing many physicians and engineers, the
pharmaceutical firm focused its groups on creating impactful and measurable
outcomes. The name change for its groups reflects that element of
organizational culture. In a similar vein, a call attendee noted that their
organization uses the title Associate Impact Group. Groups act on the pandemic-driven need
for greater focus on mental health. Astellas’ Abilities EIG took a
leadership role by partnering with Aetna to provide 4 and 8-hour training
(in-person prior to the pandemic and virtual now) designed to elevate
visibility of mental health issues, such as depression and how it shows up at work.
The sessions aren’t meant to be diagnostic in nature, but rather provide
instruction on recognizing symptoms of emotional issues (an i4cp-identified
next practice in workforce well-being). They empower employees and leaders with
tools, scripts, and resources, teaching them how to take action and provide
constructive help when needed. Employee groups are helping bridge the
intersections in workers’ lives. At Cruise, the company’s Asian Pacific
Islander Group commemorated National Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by
sponsoring an Origami Night for Cruise employees and invited their children.
The group had materials shipped to participants’ homes. The event explored the
history of origami and enabled individuals to create and show the items they
made while also celebrating culture and emphasizing the intersection of the
group with parenting.
- Greater adaptation to and de-stigmatization of
working from home, enabling more remote work and greater acceptance of it by
companies that may have been hesitant in the past.
- Big win for working parents by opening a window
into the sense of belonging those employees need in the workplace and greater
acceptance and openness about melding their family care responsibilities with
Other topics from the call:
- A Fortune article noted that women are suffering
extreme expectations to complete work, be available to family, help with schooling,
etc., resulting in the equivalent of a 71-hour week. Domingo shared the link: https://fortune.com/2020/05/07/coronavirus-women-sheryl-sandberg-lean-in-employers-covid-19/
- EIGs/ERGs/BRGs have more opportunities now to
drive inclusion and belonging and to help transform workplace cultures.
- An attendee says his organization began COVID-19
conversations around intersectional identities in order to spark dialogue about
differences in impact.
- Comments on the necessity to understand and
address root causes (privilege, bias, etc.) in order to tackle equity issues.
- Cruise is creating a Harvey Milk and Cookies
event, profiling historical figures in LGBTQ history over cookies and is shipping
cookies to participants' homes in a show of virtual PRIDE support.
- Ways employee resource groups promote belonging
and whether they or senior leaders are more responsible for doing so sparked
conversation. Importance of executive sponsorships in groups is noted.
In addition to this recording, please see these resources: