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Employee resource groups (ERGs) can create great company culture by offering a sense of belonging, connections to peers and senior leadership, and involvement in larger organizational goals.

Aligning ERGs with external stakeholders and customers can also help companies succeed in community involvement and relations.

In an article by The Employee Report, Baker McKenzie Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer Anna Brown noted that ERGs have grown as a way for consumers to gain insights into companies and drive organizational goals.

As a leader of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), how can you utilize ERGs to enhance external branding and positioning?

1. Leverage ERGs help to identify diverse suppliers

One way companies can enhance their external branding is through supplier diversity. Mary Shannon, Appointment at Jackson County, Missouri Office of the Ethics, Human Relations, and Citizens Complaints Commission, noted why partnering with diverse suppliers is critical to addressing community issues and generational wealth gaps.

In an article by Startland News, Mary explained how building a diverse supplier program provides varied perspectives and improves understanding of multicultural markets for companies.

“Supplier diversity is external facing, so it touches the community. It touches small businesses and job creators. It uplifts the community,” she said. “So you have to understand the economic impact that your program and your company could have in terms of closing generational wealth gaps.”

As the former Supplier Diversity Manager at Hallmark Cards, Mary explained how partnering with diverse suppliers could help build DEI initiatives into the fabric of all company objectives.

During a recent DEI Board panel discussion about setting up ERGs for success, Senior Director of Talent Management at LCBO, Siobhan Calderbank, echoed Mary’s sentiment.

“With diverse suppliers, a statement that says this is what your intention is as it relates to diversity, inclusion, belonging and equity is really important,” Siobhan said. “So, we want to work with diverse suppliers, and we expect that they will also take it seriously too.”

Making sure to communicate how vital DEI is can show stakeholders how meaningful the partnerships are and being transparent about what’s expected from suppliers can help set guidelines for DEI leaders.

“By putting that out there, you’re signaling that this is something that’s important to the organization, and we expect the same of our suppliers or vendors,” Siobhan noted.

“With diverse suppliers, a statement that says this is what your intention is as it relates to diversity, inclusion, belonging and equity is really important.”

Siobhan Calderbank, Senior Director of Talent Management at LCBO

2. Look for opportunities for ERGs to be involved with the community

Along with partnering with diverse suppliers, ERGs can help companies be more involved in the communities they serve through direct engagement. During the DEI Board panel discussionTyson Bauer, Director of DEI-Employee Led Initiatives at Beam Suntory, discussed how community partners could help companies.

Tyson explained how their ERGs help identify community partners to create relationships. He noted how their partnerships are local and dispersed both nationally and internationally. He also said having active and visible ERGs positions the brand as an Employer of Choice.

“I think a lot of people are really looking for that kind of community and that kind of resource in a potential employer as well,” Tyson said.

Tanya Spencer, Chief Diversity Officer at General Electric, also added how finding ways for companies to broaden their community relationships could help support ERGs.

She shared how looking at organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers for partnerships with ERGs for recruiting can improve engagement. She also shared how creating successful relationships with diverse community partners can help create community service opportunities for ERG members.

“It just kind of helps tie the whole business strategy together because I think that’s the place where you want to be. It’s how you are driving company culture and business results as a part of what you’re doing as an ERG,” Tanya said.

“I think a lot of people are really looking for that kind of community and that kind of resource in a potential employer as well.”

Tyson Bauer, Director of DEI-Employee Led Initiatives at Beam Suntory

3. Use ERGs to increase your talent pipeline

When your investments for DEI are visible to potential talent, you improve your positioning as an employer of choice. Successful ERGs that engage in their communities create opportunities for diverse talent to see how they could play essential roles in your company.

Cheya Dunlap, Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer at Honeywell, explained how they get more involved with Historically Black Colleges and Universities to increase their talent pipeline.

“We’re all about safe, sustainable services and solutions, and education is certainly a commercial vertical for us,” Cheya said. “It’s a huge customer base when you think about healthy buildings for Honeywell — and at the same time, as much as there are commercial opportunities, there’s also community opportunities. There’s also a talent pipeline.”

According to Cheya, being more involved with education has been beneficial in their talent recruitment process and within their employee networks. She also noted how aligning their employee networks to engage with HBCUs has improved their external branding.

4. Learn how DEI leaders are setting up their ERGs to help with external branding and positioning

If you’re looking for best practices to set up ERGs for success, or even if you have an established ERG structure to help with external positioning, you can benchmark directly with other DEI leaders on structuring employee resource groups at large companies.

Senior diversity, equity, and inclusion leaders who join the DEI Board have conversations on emerging DEI topics every day. These conversations are all confidential and vendor-free, so you can get unbiased and candid feedback from a group of your peers. 

Membership can serve as a great tool to understand how those leading DEI at the world’s largest companies use their ERGs to help enhance external branding and positioning.

Interested in learning more?

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