[Workshop] Empowering & Enabling Employee Resource Groups

[Workshop] Empowering & Enabling Employee Resource Groups

At Epoch’s Employee Experience Symposium, Joey Randazzo, Employee Engagement Partner at Stack Overflow, and Mira Shane, Diversity & Inclusion Program Manager at Justworks, spoke on a panel focused on diversity and Employee Resource Groups, then Joey led a workshop all about Empowering and Leveraging Employee Resources. Scroll down for notes! 👇

Empowering and Enabling Employee Resources

What DEI Means to You

Mira explained that as a biracial and queer woman, DEI work came naturally to her. She felt compelled to join the movement and advocate for justice and social change. Mira emphasizes the importance of bringing people together, even if it means having uncomfortable conversations in the workplace. She also recognizes that sometimes, people are not treated as individuals in professional settings, so practicing progressive DEI work is extremely important. 

Joey stumbled upon the DEI field accidentally, after initially pursuing a career in fashion. Joey's manager recognized her confident and outgoing personality and believed she was a great fit for a DEI role. Since then, Joey has embraced her DEI career and has enjoyed contributing to the positive employee culture.

How Businesses Should Approach DEI

Joey emphasizes the importance for organizations to encourage employees to reflect on themselves and how they interact with others. By promoting personal growth, establishing comfort, and highlighting shared experiences, companies can create a sense of belonging that goes beyond everyday work tasks.

Mira stresses the significance of executive support when implementing DEI programs. Leaders should:

  1. Provide financial support
  2. Follow through on their commitments and,
  3. Stay in tune with global events and issues - make statements with care and authenticity

Moreover, it is crucial for organizations to have an action plan that guides their responses during challenging times. This allows executives to make impactful statements and drive positive change within DEI initiatives.

Strategies for Executive Buy-In

Joey explained that getting executive buy-ins for DEI can be quite challenging because everyone has a certain level of privilege. A way to overcome this challenge is by looking at things from different perspectives, especially from the viewpoint of individuals with different abilities and accessibilities. By putting ourselves in their shoes, we can develop empathy and become more aware of the issues at hand.

Joey also emphasized the importance of providing resources and conducting training sessions for managers. With this, the goal is to equip them with the necessary skills to facilitate tough conversations. 

Enabling DEI programs 

When it comes to enabling DEI programs, Joey highlighted the importance of establishing a safe and open space for conversations. She recommended implementing anonymous question submission systems that allow employees to express their concerns without fear of judgment. Joey also mentioned the intention to involve a DEI specialist to provide support and drive the initiative forward.

Mira shares that at Justworks, DEI programming involves assigning co-leads for ERGs to take charge of planning and organizing events. She emphasized the significance of compensating these leads for the additional hours they put in, considering they often take on these responsibilities alongside their regular roles. Mira discussed the success of hosting intersectional events that bring together various ERGs - to foster a diverse and inclusive community. Additionally, her company implemented a comprehensive year-long training program to deepen employees' understanding of oppression.

Empowering DEI Programs

At Stack Overflow, Joey has established a process to initiate DEI efforts. They have an application and review process to ensure people are aware of the programs. Alongside ERGs, Stack Overflow also has smaller groups that are less intensive. These smaller groups use a Slack channel, some of which are closed due to privacy and to maintain a safe community. Joey emphasizes the importance of proper representation within these groups. For example, they noticed that their faith group consisted only of Christian employees, which didn't provide enough diversity.

Mira emphasizes the importance of setting goals throughout the year, rather than focusing on one specific month. At Justworks, there is a formal process to become a co-lead of an ERG. This process includes manager approval which considers a range of factors that have the individual's career position and capacity to take on the responsibility. 

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