A focus on diversity and inclusion is essential to retaining diverse talent and their trust during times of crisis, according to experts.
"If you really care about diversity and inclusion, this is your time to shine," Francesca Campalani, Randstad Enterprise Group vice president of global talent marketing, advised companies in a recent webinar. And companies may be able to truly shine by supporting employee resource groups (ERGs), also referred to as business resources groups (BRGs).
These employee-led groups are formed around common backgrounds, such as gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation and create a crucial advantage for companies, Aisha Thomas-Petit, chief diversity, inclusion and corporate social responsibility officer at ADP, told HR Dive in an email.
"During this time of uncertainty, the role business resource groups serve in a company's culture has really been underscored,” she said. "They provide the workforce with professional and personal support and help bring people together around shared causes." The 10 BRGs at ADP are a support system that helps shape the company's culture of inclusion, and are "instrumental in allowing us to make everyone feel welcome and included," she said.
Communication creates engagement
In times of crisis, communication matters even more. Engagement with pandemic-related posts from companies on LinkedIn is higher than the engagement for an average company post, according to a LinkedIn report published April 21. Posts using words such as "support" and "health" tended to have the highest engagement; "In short, it looks like messages that put people first perform best," the report said. An April report by Mercer found that leading with empathy may even help companies weather financial downturns.
It's critical BRGs have resources and virtual communication tools to "continue fostering meaningful engagement," Thomas-Petit said. "When associates feel supported and included, they can better navigate challenges, serve their clients and communities, and fulfill their full potential," Thomas-Petit added. In order to perform that task remotely, ADP has provided BRGs with educational information and resources to use across their virtual communication channels.
'Leading during challenging times'
ADP provides BRG leaders with guidance "on leading during challenging times," which includes exercises to help promote team dialogue and resources to help families navigate the blending of work and life, Thomas-Petit said. BRG leaders who are successful during this crisis help their coworkers, the company and their own career, according to research.
Additionally, ERGs could serve as part of a company's succession planning. High-performance organizations view ERGs as strategic leadership development incubators, according to a 2018 report by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and Elevate. The study of 363 employers found that the best performing companies are 2.5 times more likely to describe their employee resource groups as opportunities for experiential career advancement and leadership development. The study defines high-performance organizations as those that consistently outperform their competitors in the marketplace. The data also shows that ERG leaders in these companies are three times more likely to say a key benefit of leadership is strategically impacting business results.
Employees who volunteer to go beyond expectations by stepping up to assist coworkers, taking on extra assignments or even working extra hours to get special projects done, make their employers more successful, according to a 2017 Harvard Business Review (HBR) report. Employees exhibit "citizenship behaviors" when showing extra initiative at work, HBR reported.
BRGs at ADP participate in volunteering as well, even through times of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders throughout the country. "We've provided a list of virtual volunteer opportunities," Thomas-Petit said.
Volunteering is a big part of ADP's culture, according to the company's 2019 Global Corporate Social Responsibility report.
"In 2018, our associates around the world completed more than 100 volunteer initiatives during our global Month of Caring in May," the report stated. "Over 12,000 associates volunteered 24,000 hours and donated over $530,000 to more than 1,200 charitable organizations." The company also has a volunteer paid time off program in the U.S. that gives associates eight hours of paid time off per year to participate in community service during a regular workday.