The Importance of Employee Resource Groups
Written by: Patty Juarez, head of Wells Fargo Diverse Segments, Commercial Banking with introductory remarks from Ramiro A. Cavazos, President and CEO, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
For the past ten years, the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) has conducted the only Hispanic Employee Resource Group (ERG) Summit & Corporate Challenge in the nation. The USHCC was proud to award Wells Fargo and its ERG “Latin Connection” First Place in the competition during our 2020 National Conference.
More than 100 corporations have competed since our inaugural event, proving that ERGs are more ready than ever to provide value and impact their company’s growth. Since 2010, winners including Wells Fargo’s Latin Connection – have been recognized as the best ERG in the country during our National Conference. The USHCC continues to recognize the growing importance of corporate ERGs who increasingly demonstrate they have tangible impacts on employee growth and leadership development, community service, and create a strong network within each corporation where employees – especially employees of color— can meet, connect, and learn from each other.
Congratulations to Patty Juarez, Josephina Reyes, and the entire Wells Fargo Team at Latin Connection for their unwavering commitment to diversity, inclusion, and employee growth.
“Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.” – Roberto Clemente
Supporting employees, communities, and business.
Employee resource groups (also known as ERGs, affinity groups, or business network groups) are networks of employees who join together in their workplace based on shared characteristics, life experiences, or ally aspirations. These groups are voluntary and employee-led, with a goal of fostering a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with the organizations they serve. These groups are a key component for a business’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy. As president of Wells Fargo’s Latin Connection, I have seen first-hand the positive impact these networks can have on our Latino employees.
According to John LaVeck, program head of the Employee Resource Network program in the Enterprise Diversity and Inclusion Office at Wells Fargo, “Employee Resource Networks are formed around market and historically under-represented segments in leadership, and provide employees with personal and professional development, mentoring, leadership engagement, networking, and community outreach opportunities.”
From a career standpoint, an ERG provides mentorship opportunities to its members. Senior leaders are invited to share insights on their personal career journeys, allowing members to connect and seek their counsel. Sometimes, these connections mature into mentorships and sponsorships. Group members also have access to unique professional development opportunities, webinars, speaker series, and other educational opportunities. Many organizations host workshops aimed at enhancing and developing the skillsets of its members.
ERGs provide a number of benefits to a business and its employees.
Internally, they provide networking platforms that encourage a sense of belonging. As businesses strive to create a sense of community among diverse employees, ERGs can often times be a bridge that closes gaps. They also open communications channels for leaders to foster and build involvement and engagement among employees and leadership. Allies are also key to impactful ERGs. Incorporating allies in the work allows for further education and expanded reach of an ERG. Senior leadership involvement is key to reinforcing a company’s commitment to supporting ERGs and all employees across diversity dimensions.
Externally, ERGs have tremendous positive impact in diverse communities. At Wells Fargo, our Latin Connection members log more than five-thousand volunteer hours annually. It is amazing to see these teams making a difference in the communities where we live and work.
Culture is another key to a strong ERG. It is often the shared stories and experiences that bring people together. We celebrate shared values, traditions, food, music, and backgrounds. In Latin Connection members celebrate shared holidays and the history of contributions of Latinos in our country and community. These celebrations allow members the opportunity to connect and celebrate who they are and what they represent. These celebrations also welcome and invite others to learn and share in the Latino culture.
ERG members are not one dimensional; many identify with multiple dimensions. It is important for ERGs to explore intersections. For instance, within Latin Connection, the group co-hosted an event with the Veterans Network, which celebrated the contribution of Latinos in armed forces. Group members represent a number of generations, including a growing number of millennials, and many are bi-cultural and have other diversity dimensions. It is important to meet members where they are in those areas of intersection, while addressing individual needs so they feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work.
The Latino market often represents a significant opportunity for businesses. ERGs represent the voice of a community or group – lending authenticity, value, and life experiences to shape the narrative for new strategies, testing products, and informing marketing campaigns, while ensuring our business is providing what the community wants and needs. This allows ERGs to also have a significant financial impact to a business’ the bottom line. Employee resource groups are key to the engagement and motivation of members and to business success. These groups will continue playing an important part of corporate culture and success.
In times like today, when COVID-19 is impacting the ability to be together in person, these groups serve as a critical bridge to maintaining and making new connections within our companies and our communities.