Companies can create a sense of diversity and inclusion by encouraging the creation of employee resource groups and supporting the advocacy and ideas that emerge from them, writes Anne Chow. “Leaders can tap into the power and insight of their employees through these groups,” Chow writes.
Too many leaders worry about affinity and employee groups in the workplace because they’re concerned about what it will do to their culture. There’s a fear that the creation of these groups will further Balkanize the organization and that – worse yet – they could create clusters of dissent and overly vocal team members who develop a manifesto of impractical demands.
While this may sound implausible in this day and age, I’ve encountered plenty of leaders and organizations who have shied away from the notion of these groups. This is definitely the wrong thing to do.
At my own organization, AT&T, we have over two dozen employee groups, many of which have been in place for decades. The focus of these groups spans women, veterans, the LGBTQ community, Latinx/Hispanic, Black, Native American, and Pan-Asian communities, Gen Y, those 50+, and more. These groups have become integral to the fabric of our company’s culture and engagement is strong – both “bottom-up” and “top-down”.
Creating “communities within the community” is valuable for a number of reasons. For starters, it actively acknowledges and embraces the presence and power of diversity in your workforce. Second, employees help to codify a culture of inclusivity, which is essential to creating a high performing organization.
Any successful organizational culture involves high-performing teams which recognize the simple fact that people want to belong. They want to feel valued and respected for who they are and be part of a team that enables them to learn and grow.