|The Importance of Employee Resource Groups in Corporate America
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can be classified as organized assemblies of employees that are drawn together by shared characteristics. Many companies host a wide variety of ERGs that are formed through the common dimensions of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, generations, and so forth. There can even be a group that focuses on veteran status or new mothers. No matter the differences or similarities that these groups are brought together by, one thing is for certain: ERGs strive to empower their members, foster relationship building, and provide opportunities for both employee and company growth.
In 2010, LATINA Style began to recognize the need and importance of ERGs, especially those who focus on the Hispanic community within the company. Not only do they provide growth for their members but also are a key resource to a company’s bottom line and business impact. The 3rd Annual Top 5 ERGs for 2012 were selected based on a number of criteria related to community involvement, employee empowerment, and business impact. Factors such as diversity recruitment, employee retention, mentoring, leadership involvement, product or service development, consumer outreach and awareness, among others were examined thoroughly. LATINA Style is proud to announce that ConAgra Food’s ConAgra Latino Network is the 2012 Top Employee Resource Group of the Year.
LATINA Style Top Employee Resource Groups for 2012
ConAgra Latino Network (ERG of the Year)
ConAgra Latino Network (CLN) tops this year’s list for the Top Five ERGs of the Year based on its continuous commitment towards diversity both within the company and with their business projects. Overall ConAgra Foods is committed to building a culture in which all of their employees can be authentic and know that their diverse thoughts and capabilities are valued. This mission is best seen through their vibrant and engaging employee groups. To date, the company has six different employee resource networks, including ConAgra Black Employee Network, Women’s Leadership Council, ConAgra Asian Network and Illuminations.
“ConAgra Foods is honored to make this elite list as it signifies that not only are we talking about the importance of diversity and inclusion, but that we are actually executing our strategy successfully,” says Carelys Hepburn, Sr. Marketing Manager Multicultural, Global Marketing, ConAgra Foods. “For me as an Employee Resource Network (ERN) leader, it is also about seeing the hard work that we have put into the ERN recognized, not only internally at ConAgra Foods but amongst our peer companies. All ERN leaders do this work because it is something we believe in. We try our best to improve our working environment and to help Latinos excel in their careers while helping the organization grow.”
The ConAgra Latino Network was established in 2004 to engage their high number of Hispanics within the company. Joan Chow, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of ConAgra Foods, serves as CLN’s Executive Sponsor and Anthony Aguilar, Manager, Investor Relations is the current CLN leader. There are presently three chapters of CLN located in Omaha, Naperville, and Kennewick. Each of these groups has its own leadership team. The total leadership body has over a hundred members.
Five years ago, the CLN team congregated to find out how they could play a more successful role in the company’s financial success. The employee network hosted Latin-inspired recipe contests to increase membership engagement. The recipes were so good, the company started thinking about having these meals within their product line. The group worked with the Research Quality & Innovation, Brand and Sales teams for this goal. After nearly three years of product development and a cross-functional team of both CLN leaders and even some of their moms to add that home cooking touch, the Rosarita frozen line was launched in 2012. This project is a great example of how a company can utilize their employee resource group to come up with amazing ideas and turn them into tangible products with fiscal results.
CLN also contributes to the local community. At this year’s Mobile Pantry event in Naperville, IL, CLN helped a record number of 294 families. The employee network donated approximately eight pounds of meat, loaves of bread, and a large variety of ConAgra Food products such as Hunt’s tomatoes, Slim Jims, PAM, Peter Pan, Chef Boyardee, and even the new frozen food line of Rosarita to these deserving families. With the hard work of the CLN volunteer crew, all 10,000 pounds of food were distributed within two hours.
For 2013, CLN plans to continue providing opportunities for employee growth, community outreach, and business development. It will continue to strive to make ConAgra Foods a world class work environment for Latinos who aspire to be leaders in business and in the community.
Conexión – Cisco Systems Inc.
Conexión, Cisco Systems Inc. (Cisco) Latino ERG connects its members and facilitates professional development, community outreach, networking and the advancement of Cisco’s business objectives. For diversity and inclusion, Cisco strives to design and deliver, through leadership, commitment and accountability, a strategy that weaves these values into the fabric of its culture. Cisco then uses these values to foster innovation that serves its employees, its customers, and the surrounding community.
Conexión has over 800 members located in the global chapters of San Jose, CA; Richardson, TX; Europe and Latin America. The employee group’s executive sponsors are Guillermo Diaz, Jr., VP of Information Technology and Angel Mendez, SVP of Cisco Transformation. Besides Conexión, the company hosts more than 11 employee groups.
One of Conexión activities is with Program Escuela. Started in 2009, this is a Conexión-sponsored initiative that was created to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education and increase the college attendance rate among underprivileged students. The program has two primary goals promoting the importance of pursuing higher education and increasing student interest in pursuing technology related careers. The idea of the program is based on building long-term relationships with students and schools. Using Cisco technologies such as the Cisco TelePresence, students can actually connect with other schools from around the globe.
For the company’s business goals, Conexión created a system that allows new ideas to become real solutions and encourages employee empowerment and growth. Conexión accomplished this by launching a program called El Mercado that connecting real business needs with available resources within the company leveraging internal ERGs.
Professional Latino Allstate Network (PLAN)
The Professional Latino Allstate Network (PLAN) is an employee group of Allstate professionals dedicated to providing development opportunities for its members, with an emphasis on developing Latino leaders. This organization goes in line with Allstate’s overall diversity mission whereby the company takes great pride in making inclusive diversity a core value. Allstate has an appreciation of unique experiences, abilities and perspectives and aims to harness this power of their diverse employee base. PLAN was founded in the 1980’s and currently has around 400 members. PLAN has a dynamic Executive Sponsor Panel which is formed with Michael Escobar, VP, Chief Diversity and Organization Effectiveness Officer, Human Resources; Maribel Gerstner, President and COO Allstate Financial Services and Enrico Digirolamo, SVP Protection Finance, and CFO Sales and Marketing Operations.
In 2012, PLAN launched a new form of communication called Fireside Chats. This was an informational conversation that executive leaders had with PLAN members which promoted openness. The Fireside Chats allow for much innovation and useful suggestions from the PLAN membership to the leadership team. More important, these chats lead to the implementation of tangible business solutions.
PLAN is also involved with several nonprofits. PLAN partnered with the Law and Regulation Community Outreach team and the Street Law organization to sponsor the “Youth in Transition” program at Casa Central with the Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U.) program students. With the aid of PLAN members, the organization assisted in facilitating lessons and discussions for the Y.O.U. Program. In addition, PLAN members helped donate school supplies through the “The Great School Supply Sort” program. The school supplies helped young students get ready for the incoming school year. Finally, through the generosity of the PLAN volunteer hours, Casa Central obtained a $500 grant from the Allstate Foundation.
Latinos for Excellence, Advancement & Development (LEAD)
Don Knauss, Chairman and CEO of The Clorox Company believes that diversity is a business imperative and not just a human resources initiative. He believes the most effective way to approach diversity is to focus the company’s efforts into their employees, the suppliers they worked with, and the consumers of their products. Started in 2006, the Latinos for Excellence, Advancement & Development (LEAD) employee resource group was made as an extension of this mission. Since diversity is structured throughout all aspects of the company, LEAD is involved in all aspects of this strategy especially for the Hispanic population. LEAD’s mission is to foster a community that enables excellence, advancement and development for Latinos at Clorox.
LEAD made enormous impact in two areas of the Clorox product line. The first was with the Kingsford charcoal brand. Understanding the importance of soccer to the Hispanic consumer, a LEAD member inspired the charcoal brand to make changes to its packaging during Hispanic Heritage month. The Kingsford charcoal package displayed the Las Chivas de Guadalajara, one of Mexico’s most popular soccer teams, to create a connection with the Hispanic community. In addition, LEAD was influential in the creation of a new innovative product line, Clorox Fragranzia, which launched in July 2012. LEAD members provided their insight in regards to understanding the brand, fragrances, packaging and name.
LEAD also makes meaningful connections with outside organizations for their employees’ benefit as well as for the community. For the Bay Area members, LEAD is a partner with Connexiones, a network of Latino ERGs from many different companies that are located in that area. This gives an opportunity for members of smaller Hispanic ERGs to create meaningful events and networking opportunities in a larger scale.
Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Achievement (HOLA)
Johnson and Johnson’s Credo states the company’s mission and values. In summary, the Credo challenges the company’s employees to put the needs and well-being of the people they serve first, treat people as individuals, and work together to help and improve the communities that their employees live and work in. The Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Achievement (HOLA) employee group has their activities and objectives driven by this Credo, focusing on the Hispanic community. The group was founded by five funding mothers. These women came together because they had certain affinities, such as language and passion for this Hispanic population. Since then, the group has expanded to well over one thousand employees across the Americas with over 30 local chapters in over 30 operating companies.
HOLA is very involved with the community. The organization focuses on the disparity in quality and access to healthcare that is found within ethnic groups, in particular within the Hispanic community. Based on National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report of 2010, Hispanics receive worse care than non-Hispanic whites for about 60 percent of the report’s defined core measures. HOLA strives to change this statistic. Members of the employee group support over 150 community outreach activities worldwide to touch the lives of thousands of people each year. An example of this is HOLA’s implementation of health fairs and health education in local communities and with organizations such as the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). In collaboration with the National Hispanic Medical Association, HOLA helps create programs to train Hispanic doctors in all aspects of clinical trials.
For the business, HOLA strives to connect the company with the Hispanic consumer as well as Hispanic suppliers. HOLA especially targets Latina consumers, who acts as chief procurement officers for their homes, are involved in financial decisions, and focus on companies’ records of responsibility and safety.