Our Top Learnings from Recent & Awesome Virtual DEI Conferences

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been attending some outstanding virtual events and summits worldwide to learn and sharpen our knowledge base. We attended virtual events for ERG leaders and DEI professionals of all levels who care about impact and inclusion. 

The Tech ERG Summit brought together ERG (Employee Resource Groups) and DEI leaders to share, learn, inspire, and connect on each other’s knowledge about how to take action for inclusion in tech. 

For three incredible days, we had the privilege of soaking up best practices from other ERG leaders, DEI & HR leaders globally. 

Here are some of the most crucial things we learned during the summit. 

Establishing An ERG Strategy is Key

According to Natalie Simmons, Global Manager of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Zendesk, Anthony Clay, the CEO and Co-founder of Indi, and Sheri Byrne-Haber, Accessibility Architect at VMWare — ERGs rely heavily on the work of leaders as well as an activated membership base.

As companies expand nationally and globally, ERG strategies need to adapt and become scalable in other regions. Remote work is inviting this reality sooner than we think. If your company is thinking about expanding DEI scope or ERG presence across regions, here are some crucial things to think about when establishing a powerful ERG strategy: 

  • Start where you’re at. You can create change where you are. Everyone can spark change. Lead through following. 
  • The need to localize your ERG strategy: as you scale ERG chapters, ensure you are localizing language, and programs based on the local community’s needs. Run focus groups to find common threads to determine what programs can be global vs local. 
  • Survey ERG community members to understand what they need and want. Try to do this every one or two years. Use this data to determine annual ERG priorities.
  • They introduced the term “Diversity Equity and Inclusion Debt” which is when an ERG doesn’t build a solid foundation in the beginning or establishes it incorrectly in year one then has to fix it in the following years. It inevitably takes more time to gain momentum, members and budget so remember, setup is key. 
  • Cross ERG Collaboration is instrumental to the success and an excellent way for more established ERGs to support smaller and newer ERG chapters. 
  • DEI teams should focus on creating “Agile and Slush Funds” to respond to macro events that aren’t planned, such as essential Anti Racism training, COVID-19, and Work from Home. 

ERGs have the power to drive workplace culture & business outcomes

Pagels-Minor, Global Lead Trans & Diversity Advocate at Netflix said, “to think about ERGs as a product or business case. It is crucial to create accountability for ourselves and establish a recruitment tracker into ERG satisfaction scores.”

For instance, Pagels-Minor said, “I’m staying at Netflix because the ERG makes me feel included.” Netflix offers black mentorship programs, which connect junior to senior employees, and people are encouraged to suggest black content for Netflix. 

Here are additional ways ERGs can be levers for workplace inclusion & business impact:: 

  • Tie ERG outcomes to the business goals and strategy. Make sure to survey members yearly over metrics. Business leaders should start tapping into ERGs for help and questions to solve the company’s problems. 
  • Offer paid time off to attend ERG events. It’s crucial to encourage a good union between part-time and remote employees. Create policies so they can engage!
  • Tap into ERGs for innovation ideas: For example, ask the Differently Abled ERG what product improvements they most need right now Accessibility and accommodations for one group benefit all groups. Doing this increases features and product adoption as  there is a  high likelihood that we will all have accessibility issues at one point in life, such as mental health, pregnancy, broken arm, etc. 

We attended an insightful webinar on The Cost of Racism: Cultivating transparent workplaces from the inside’, where we learned practical ways to combat microaggressions and racism at work. 

Most people don’t feel psychologically safe to be truth-tellers and speak up in real-time — but it’s our responsibility to express our discomfort during the moment a microaggression or racism occurs.

Here are some of our key takeaways from the session:

  • Allow your response to be based on your personality traits. If you feel more comfortable speaking up in a group, do it; if not, address the issue one on one. 
  • Seek the opportunity to understand the other person’s point of view. Try to spark dialogue so you can courageously educate the other person about the topic. When you observe or receive a racist comment, ask the person: “Please help me understand what you said. Did you mean A or B?” This is an excellent way to start a conversation without being rude. An intelligent question is more powerful than starting an argument.  You want people to reflect on their behavior and attitude. 
  • If you feel it’s impossible to face the person alone, find an ally or someone to talk to within the organization and explain the situation. 
  • We ALL have a role to play in creating more transparent and psychologically safe workplaces.  Don’t expect leaders to be the only ones to promote changes.  

As Najuma Atkinson from Dell stated: “At Dell, we believe metrics are key, so we inspect what we expect. Give yourself grace. We won’t get it perfect all the time, but we will get it right more often than not. In the pandemic world, self-care and giving ourselves grace is important.”

We attended the Microsoft INCLUDE 2021 conference, which brought together employees, DEI champions and employers from across the globe to discuss ways to create more inclusive workplaces.

According to Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, and Darren Walker, President of Ford Foundation — setting up diverse, equal, and inclusive practices are vital for your business to succeed. 

It’s essential not only for your employees but DEI practices can boost revenue, increase employee retention, innovation, 

DEI is not easy work. As a leader, you must be committed to disrupting norms, practices, and structures. 

Speakers shared some insightful strategies, information, and ideas on how to create inclusive workplace cultures and why it’s essential. here are some gems we picked up:

  • Leaders must make concrete commitments on DEI. It’s their responsibility to set goals and take action. Be curious to understand and care then be courageous to act inside the company and outside.
  • According to neuroscience. When you feel excluded, the brain processes it the same way as when it senses physical pain. (Eisenberger N. G., 2007) In simple words, it hurts to be excluded.
  • Inclusion requires us to learn about ourselves and others then recalibrate our behaviors. 
  • Engage with empathy and care. Always ask, don’t assume. Take accountability for your learning. Make an effort to try to understand first and then ask. 

What are some of the key takeaways you’re looking to action from reading this article? 

Feel free to reach out to us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and let us know, we’d love to hear about it. Feel free to reach out if we can support your inclusion efforts in any way. 

Contact Us
Our most in-demand trainings are now VIRTUAL so you can keep teams & ERGs inspired, engaged & learning during covid-19. Click here for details