A nationwide railroad company had a goal to promote understanding and inclusion, and to raise awareness of behaviors surrounding all types of “isms,” e.g., sexism, racism. In support of this, the company needed to leverage differences as a competitive advantage through its employment brand, identify diversity and inclusive behavior as one of its core values, develop leadership skills valuing unique perspectives, and embrace a framework within which diverse work groups could consistently perform and improve their results.
The Human Resources Senior Vice President, now a NextLevel team member, led the initiative to address the company’s diversity and inclusion outcomes. She began by defining the process and/or methods that should be introduced in the quest to inform the company’s mission, structure and strategy around diversity and inclusive behavior. This was accomplished by conducting a current state assessment of the three core components—workforce, workplace, and marketplace—which were designed to assist in creating the diversity strategy.
Following this analysis, she next set up a group of diversity champions at different levels within the organization. For example, the most senior was the Corporate Diversity Council, which consisted of the executive leadership team reporting to the CEO. Following this were the local or Regional Diversity Councils, which consisted of senior-level employees in operational lines. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) were the next level, consisting of line employees’ representatives of different interest groups within the company.
These ERGs were typically associated with a culture, sub-culture or perspective that had traditionally faced challenges in the organization, such as women and other minorities. ERGs served as a useful diversity tool, facilitating the recruitment and onboarding of minority staff, and raising diversity awareness in the field and corporate office. ERGs at the local level supported the business and talent management goals in the following ways:
Business Level: ERGs provided the company with access and insight into the preferences and trends of key demographic markets by developing relationships with clients and suppliers in different markets with unique languages, cultures, and customs.
Recruitment and Retention: ERGs were particularly beneficial in recruiting and retention efforts, allowing potential employees to build relationships with current employees of the same or similar demographic groups. This made new employees more comfortable within the company environment and enhanced the attractiveness of the employment brand.
Training and Development: ERGs also provided training and development opportunities to members during onboarding and throughout the employee lifecycle.
- Leadership participation in ERG groups increased from 2% to 53%.
- Diverse populations in senior management roles increased from 1% to 15%.
- Introducing comprehensive diversity and inclusion initiatives expanded employer brand recognition and improved retention by 76%.