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    Making Employee Resource Groups And ESG Work Better Delivers Business Value

    Forbes writer, Maribel Lopez, sat down with WeSpire CEO Susan Hunt Stevens to talk about ERGs and their impact on the bottom line.

    Two African American colleagues working together on a computer in an office

    Last week, WeSpire CEO, Susan Hunt Stevens, sat down with Mirabel Lopez of Forbes to discuss the impact of ERGs and a strategic ESG program on the bottom line. They also talked with leaders in ESG and DEI about how they are using technology to advance their goals.

    This week, we bring you a piece of the article written for Forbes focusing on growing psychological safety and inclusivity. You can view the full article here!

    Safety and inclusivity in the workplace

    Another issue for flexible work is inclusivity. Stevens said, “What we're finding industry-wide around inclusive culture is that one of the most powerful metrics around diversity is psychological safety. Organizations can do all the right things related to pay equity and hiring, but if every day you come to work, and you don't feel treated the same as others, it doesn’t work”. Meanwhile, research from Harvard Business School said diversity training doesn’t achieve its desired outcome. It's a baseline you need to get people on the same page, but it doesn't ultimately change behavior. Unless you change behavior in the workplace, you are not going to change the outcomes.” She shared that you see higher attrition levels among people in the minority in the workplace. In many corporations, this could be women and underrepresented minorities, but it could also be such as veterans, older individuals, and a wide range of groups. Each company is different, and ERGs are one of the mechanisms to increase inclusion and belonging.

    Those who approach ERGs more strategically see higher levels of psychological safety, not only for the employees who are part of ERGs but often for the organization as a whole. Adam Grant and Google measured that the highest-performing teams and companies are those with the highest levels of psychological safety. These kinds of programs into programs that benefit everyone but disproportionately benefit underrepresented people in the workforce.

    It’s one thing to have programs, but it’s another to have hard metrics and measurable outcomes. Historically, various employee efforts were siloed within an organization, such as sustainability in the supply chain or inclusive culture reporting to a chief diversity officer. WeSpire shared that organizations that look at these programs holistically can now see how their programs can benefit each other to drive more strategic social impact and increase well-being. For example, a retailer discovered through metrics from WeSpire that employees who volunteered within their first year had higher retention than employees who didn’t get involved in volunteering. These retention metrics changed the retail store manager's attitudes toward volunteer work. Previously, they'd seen volunteering as taking people away from doing their job. Stevens said, “When you start to see that these programs are driving business and cultural outcomes, people start treating them with the intensity and seriousness they deserve.”

    We see change when we practice new behaviors and get positive reinforcement for those behaviors. People are far more receptive and open to new behaviors at work because it's more of an expectation. A tiny micro behavior, such as ensuring a person isn’t interrupted when speaking, can be tied into inclusivity.

    Organizations such as Akamai and Sanofi have adopted the WeSpire platform to support everything from ESG to volunteering efforts. In discussions with Akamai and Sanofi, the companies discussed how WeSpire provided a platform that helped their respective companies integrate and organize multiple employee resource groups and ESG efforts. Akamai believes a robust ERG program will allow it to attract, retain, develop, and promote the best people. Khalil Smith, the Vice President, Inclusion, Diversity, and Engagement at Akamai Technologies, shared that WeSpire helps Akamai organize its various ESG, wellness program, and philanthropic arm into a central place. A unified platform helps minimize decision fatigue and supports a growth mindset approach. Akamai sees the opportunity to eliminate complexity while creating a consistent flow and experience across the platform. He shared that executives are awash in data, but the company’s platform provides insights that measure its programs' effectiveness.

    Sini Ngobese, Sanofi’s Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiatives, shared similar opportunities. She shared that WeSpire’s the foundation of the platform that Sanofi’s ERGs used to engage employees and understand representation across their memberships. It also provides a consistent way to communicate and promote employee engagement in an increasingly distributed and hybrid work environment. When asked what’s next for Sanofi, Ngobese shared, “We want to continuously evolve our ERG model, launching ERGs that represent additional strands of diversity that may not be represented today. We also want to deliver key analytics to managers on employee resource group engagement and its relationship to employee retention within their organization.”

    Today many of the companies I speak with at Lopez Research have ESG, community and employee engagement goals. There’s a unique opportunity for companies like WeSpire to help with the transition. Organizations will need solutions from their infrastructure providers and employee solutions to track diversity, inclusiveness, engagement, and civil service (e.g. corporate volunteerism). From where I sit, I only see the need for engagement solutions increasing as companies embrace a hybrid and distributed workplace.

    Interested in learning more about how WeSpire helps Khalil and Sini grow their ERGs? Book a Demo to see WeSpire in action!