Employee Resource Groups: Impact Over Everything

I have a fundamental belief that “ally” is supposed to be a verb. That when we call ourselves an ally, it doesn’t just mean that it’s a descriptor of who we are. It means there are actions that we take when we see something going wrong. 

It means when you feel that thing in your gut that says I don’t like this? You stand up. You do as much as you can to deescalate and protect the people you are an ally of. If you don’t do that? No rainbows for you. 

I’m kidding. 

Education creates equity and starts the part about belonging, plus it gives people the confidence to act as allies in the first place. We can’t send people into allyship at work without instruction. We don’t all start at the same place. We can’t just assume everyone grew up the same way, was raised by people with the same values, or have the same economics in their life (i.e. money to pay for shit).

Impactful Employee Resource Groups

When you say allyship at work, most people think of an ERG, or employee resource group. But what makes them different? What makes employee resource groups most impactful? I asked my friend Tara Turk-Haynes (connect with her!) Below is an excerpt of our conversation that you can watch in its entirety here.

Kat Kibben: 

I think you do it a little bit differently than most people, right? You don’t wait for people to come to you and be like, “I hate this ERG. Help.”

Tara Turk-Haynes:

No, for sure. I think so the caveat with this is like, we’re all on a long journey. Like there are a lot of companies who started trying to create psychological safety and spaces for people, you know, decades ago. But we’re talking about hundreds of years of traditional workplace that have not been so welcoming. And so when I got the job at Leaf Group for DEI about three years ago, one of the most important things for me was education. 

When I, as a black woman within the workplace, I’ve learned that the things that I learned in school are not the same things that other people from different backgrounds learned as well. And so it’s about your geographic environment, it’s about who the people you’re surrounding with are. And I was like, how are we creating an equitable workplace when we all don’t understand anything about each other?

And so we focused on education, but the way that I approached ERGs was I am your partner here. Um, and I realized at Leaf we haven’t really articulated that this is a safe space for everyone. So let’s start to actually translate what that means. What we’ve done so far, what we’d like to do, what, where we have room to grow, and how do we amplify those voices within the company.

Impactful ERGs Don’t Have To Educate Everyone 

The onus of these groups is to not to educate everyone. Like I don’t want them to go out there and shoulder the burden of like, observance months and all of these different things. I want them to create community, which is however you do that. We have three ERGs. We have parents at Leaf Group, we have veterans and allies, and we have women at Leaf Group. Um, and they all do things differently.

They all share in that amplification in a different way. And I am there to help facilitate whatever that community looks like. Sometimes they go externally within the company and they talk about things that are really important to them in terms of, you know, how they exist in the world, therefore in the workplace. Um, sometimes they don’t wanna do that, but I think creating space for showing up however it works for you in order to create that community is really important. 

I didn’t start any of the ERGs, they came to me and said, we want this community. Um, because we’re a parent company and we have different businesses across this, you know, our company, some of them don’t even interact with each other. And now that we’re in a virtual space in hybrid, literally never see people. So now we have people coming together from different business units, uh, who are really sharing their background and their experience with each other.

So we’re, it’s, it’s really been wonderful to see all these people come together and share this background and me coming to them and saying like, what can I do to help amplify this? Right? What can I do to, what does this look like for you? What do you want the company to know about you? So it hasn’t really been about like, Hey, can you just do this event for Women’s History Month. It’s more about like, how are we really connecting to one another and how can I make that easier so that we can then show other people?

Don’t Turn ERGs Into A Calendaring Project 

Kat Kibben:

That’s what I respect about the work you’ve done so much, is that I’ve truly watched you take it from a calendaring approach that I see a little too often where it’s like, oh, Pride month is next month, so let’s call the LGBT speakers. Right? Versus what I see you doing, which is you facilitate with vulnerability so you know the demands and needs of the team.

I’ve watched you step into this role where you don’t rely on them to do all the work, right? So for example, when we spoke together, you led the conversation. Yeah. You did the panel, it wasn’t the gay person, right.

Tara Turk-Haynes:

You know, it’s true. And honestly, the reason why I talk to them and I go, does it make sense for me to lead this conversation? I’m a facilitator, right? Like, I grew up on Oprah, right? So like, she was always like, you know, I liked how she walked around and then she held the microphone and allowed people to have these conversations, right? And so that’s how I view myself. I’m not, unless I’m participating in a specific way, but we are very thoughtful about like how we do that. 

We have conversations with, with the group. Um, I meet with them, ask them what their goals are for that year. They get a budget, we work together through that. We plan it out. Like we basically just allow, and then sometimes it doesn’t always work. Sometimes I think it’s, you know, and we learn from that, but like the ability to show up and say like this, we wanna try it this way. Oh, this is what we learned from it. It worked, it didn’t work. Let’s take what worked, let’s learn from what didn’t work and continue on. 

But that the ability to just be vulnerable with like, just try it out so that people, because I just, I feel like “ally” is a verb. Community is the most important thing to me as a DEI professional. Like how do we create this space where we are creating community as much as possible? That’s my, one of my, my values.

You can watch the rest of this event here and connect with the incredible Tara to learn more from her on LinkedIn

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Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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