Guest Blogger: Kira Kimball
We know there is much work to do to advance diversity, equity & inclusion in our workplaces. As business leaders, we research and explore different strategies and tactics that will lead us to the best outcomes and biggest impacts to move the DE&I needle in our organizations.
As the DE&I leader in my organization, I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say at times I’m overwhelmed by the opportunity and responsibility before me, before us. Yet, I can say with assurance, that doubling down on a committed effort focused on Colleague Resource Group development and engagement creates the biggest opportunities to lean into our vision of becoming a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace.
A Framework for Colleague Resource Groups
Colleague Resource Groups (CRGs) are formal collectives of employees with similar backgrounds or shared dimensions of identity. Whether we term them employee business networks, resource groups or affinity groups, they are essential to advancing and influencing an organization’s diversity, equity & inclusion vision and outcomes.
To harness the power of CRGs in our organizations, creating a solid framework is important for success. Investing in a developed infrastructure will help us realize the multiplier effect of CRGs. Best practices include:
- Employee led and driven
- Defined mission and purpose
- Identified leaders and governance structure
- Executive sponsor and organization commitment
- Ally participation
- Concrete goals and action plans
- Clear connection to organization outcomes
Maximize the Outcomes of CRGs
When we commit to best practices, we maximize our outcomes. This upfront investment in CRGs will place us all on a path towards organizational transformation. If we commit to DE&I with authenticity and intention, then organizational transformation really is our aspiration. Outcomes of best practice CRGs include:
- Engagement and culture enhancement
- Career and leadership development opportunity
- Colleague education and awareness development
- Allyship growth
- Diverse talent acquisition collaboration
- Community impact potential
Why are these outcomes important to businesses?
Engagement and Culture Enhancement
CRG development is a premier inclusion strategy. When employees are given the opportunity to unite based on a dimension of their identity, it communicates to them that who they are as a person is important and valuable to their employer, that they aren’t solely their job function or role.
Feeling seen is affirming. When we can come together with others in a CRG who share an aspect of our identity, we as a workplace, foster a sense of belonging and nurture psychological safety. This creates a culture where employee engagement can flourish. Free to be our authentic selves, and valued for it, we can use our energy to contribute our talents and gifts, as opposed to using it to hide or diminish part of our identity because we are afraid of how it could influence our career trajectory.
Career and Leadership Development Opportunity
Since CRGs are employee-led, involvement provides employees, under-represented talent specifically, opportunities to lead initiatives that could grow their visibility and impact in our organizations. Whether it’s creating a colleague panel to elevate a historical or heritage observance, organizing a CRG leadership development program or diverse talent recruitment event, or developing a business partnership with an organization that centers on diversity, CRGs provide opportunities to lead. When we are given the opportunity to lead, our exposure is maximized, which could open doors to career advancement and further opportunity. For most organizations committed to DE&I, career advancement for under-represented populations is an indicator of progress when it comes to metrics and outcomes.
Colleague Education and Awareness Building
CRGs are often inspired to provide education about their community to the organization. CRG education can have multiple goals: to share one’s lived experience, to be a trusted source, to disrupt bias, to foster allies, to encourage empathy capacity building and awareness of how privilege, or lack thereof, can show up in our workplaces. When we achieve multiple goals from an educational initiative, this is an example of maximizing impact.
As employers, it’s important to honor the emotional energy and courage it can take to talk about aspects of our identity. Those leaning in to listen should do so with humility and a genuine intent to learn and to apply learnings for the betterment of self, others and organization. Creating a budget so the CRG can bring in outside guest speakers is a great way to supplement the labor expended by the CRG.
What we learn in the workplace about diversity and about historically marginalized communities can inspire us to action, especially when someone with whom we work shares a glimpse into their lived experience with us. In addition, when we grow allies in our organizations, we expand the number of individuals who bring energy to our DE&I work.
Allies are important members of CRGs. They help to advance the CRG mission and members by creating opportunities, removing behaviors and speaking up in support and belief. Allyship development is central to workplace DE&I success and a great way to develop allies is by direct participation with CRGs.
Diverse Talent Acquisition Collaboration
Most organizations commit to a DE&I strategy because they want to change how their organization shows up in the marketplace and in their communities. Diverse talent acquisition, and remember, diversity in and of itself is diverse, is not solely the work of recruiters, but of the entire organization. Leveraging the relationships, experiences, creativity and diversity of thought that come from CRGs, bring great value to a diverse talent sourcing strategy – not to mention, authenticity.
Our CRGs may have ease in the effort at establishing partnerships with organizations that we may not have been able to navigate without their collaboration and contribution. This is when we can unleash the power of diversity in our organizations.
Community Impact Potential
Corporate social responsibility has a spotlight on it within our organizations. Over the last several years, businesses have been called to be more than our business expertise and success. Instead of solely leading these social responsibility efforts from our corporate or corner offices, our CRGs can help us with our impact.
By asking for their input, providing them with a budget for discretionary dollars for community impact or social justice endeavors, and inviting them to be our hands and feet in our communities – and joining them in the efforts – we can elevate their voices and talents for impact outside of our organizations. This is another great way to increase their visibility and to amplify our commitment to both our colleagues and our communities.
Invest in Your Company by Investing in Colleague Resource Groups
CRGs have great potential for substantial and sustainable impact, but these results don’t happen overnight. If you want impact, CRGs can’t become a “fad,” only to be replaced by the next best thing; they can’t be placed on the “back burner” when something else demands our attention in our businesses, because we know something will. Like anything worthwhile, CRGs require continued investment, nurture, focus and energy.
The reality is, CRGs aren’t just good for diverse talent, they’re good for all talent. At their core, CRGs foster a culture of inclusion and belonging:
- Where we all feel valued as our authentic selves and can thrive in our work
- Where we all have access to career opportunities and advancement
- Where we celebrate our differences as differentiators in our business and in our employer brand
This is the workplace I want to come to every day.
For more free resources and tools that promote DE&I best practices in the workplace, visit Perspectives+. It’s Paycor’s online knowledge library designed to help our partner network drive change, empower colleagues, and foster new leaders.
Kira Kimball serves as Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer for Marsh McLennan Agency, where she provides vision and strategy to advance MMA’s diversity, equity & inclusion aspirations. Creating a workplace culture where all colleagues can be their authentic selves, an environment that fosters a strong sense of belonging, and a business strategy that harnesses the power of diversity are her energy drivers. Prior to Kira’s 16 years in the insurance industry, she spent a decade in higher education teaching, advising and counseling students at Purdue University and The Ohio State University.