Resources | ESG and Diversity | July 13, 2023

Promoting Inclusion and Diversity With Employee Resource Groups

C2FO's ERGs are part of a commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for all employees. 

One of the growing challenges in the post-COVID business world is maintaining connections between a company and its employees.

Productivity and team cohesion can take a severe hit if teammates are not given a space to connect with each other around common interests or experiences, or if they feel as though they don’t belong. 

Fostering inclusion usually requires a two-pronged approach: “Creating systemic changes from the top down and empowering grassroots efforts from the bottom up,” said Jessie Lueck Fields, director of talent development and DEI at C2FO. 

The company’s employee resource groups (ERGs) are a great example of the grassroots approach. The groups are part of our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for all employees. 

What is an employee resource group?

ERGs are groups of individuals within a company who share a characteristic background, identity or interest, and want to foster a community around that shared experience. 

These groups work on objectives to improve the experience of not only their members and the company but also the community around them. 

“ERGs are an opportunity for people who share identities and their allies to come together to build community, learn from each other and make impactful change,” Fields said. 

Giving individuals within these different groups a space to collaborate and create solutions promotes a healthier and more productive workplace. 

Benefits of employee resource groups 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Harvard Business Review conducted a study in 2019 that showed 40% of people felt isolated at work. 

Being without a community, feeling like you don’t have a voice, or feeling purposefully excluded due to a trait or piece of your identity — all of that can contribute to a feeling of isolation. 

That disconnect can also contribute to a decline in productivity or sense of loyalty to a company. Fields hypothesizes that the percentage of employees who feel isolated has certainly grown post-pandemic, in the age of remote and hybrid workplaces. 

“Belonging is a basic human need,” Fields said. “It’s the highest driver of engagement.” 

A greater sense of belonging can even lead to a 56% increase in job performance

With this information, C2FO set out to create and foster a sense of belonging for everyone within the company through employee resource groups. Many things impact belonging in the workplace, like culture, leadership behavior and personal relationships, and C2FO’s ERGs can influence all three. 

“Employees start to realize they are welcome to share their experiences and stories within an inclusive working environment,” said Meixi Xu, global sales operations manager and the chair of the CollaborAsian ERG at C2FO.

“Everyone is encouraged to feel proud of their roots and where they come from. We are also looking forward to a brighter future together for sharing more knowledge about and understanding how to work better with people who have different nationalities and religious beliefs.” 

Starting out with 60 members across eight different groups, the ERGs have grown to serve as a community for more than 180 team members of C2FO in only six months.

Goals of the C2FO employee resource groups

C2FO’s ERGs have three main focuses that contribute to our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives:

  1. Start from the inside out: Create an inclusive and caring culture at C2FO where all team members can thrive.
  2. Build a better world through financial inclusion: Support our network of buyers and suppliers, especially those that are historically and systemically under-resourced.
  3. Support our communities: Build strong relationships with the communities in which we operate so they will know and trust us for our meaningful contributions. 

Employee resource group examples

Each ERG may also have its own goals, too. Right now, C2FO is home to eight employee resource groups: 

  • Adapt: Dedicated to matters related to individuals with disabilities and neurodivergence.
  • C2FO Serves: Focused on bettering the experience of those within the larger military community.
  • CollaborAsian: Empowering, celebrating and raising awareness about Asian and South Pacific Islander cultures. 
  • CtúFO: Celebrating and learning more about Hispanic and Latino team members and their countries.
  • Onyx: Supporting members and matters of the African Diaspora. 
  • The Originals: Building community and discussing matters related to Native and Indigenous people. 
  • Pride@C2FO: Helping create a sense of belonging for those who identify with the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. 
  • TogetHER: Focused on helping women excel personally and professionally.

Each of these groups was created based on interest within the company and is made up of individuals who personally identify with the cause, their allies and anyone in the company interested in the issues that affect that specific community. 

What are C2FO’s employee resource groups doing?

At C2FO, ERGs put on a number of internal and external events, from celebrations to educational workshops, to raise awareness, donations and more. For example:

  • CollaborAsian hosted a bubble tea event, complete with games, so co-workers could learn more about the different cultures represented within the company. 
  • The company’s Juneteenth celebrations included a trivia contest, a lunchtime party and a grant program for nonprofits that help Black-owned businesses.
  • TogetHER has made it a goal for the year to open up more space for women in company meetings to speak their mind and ask questions, as well as creating a “Woman of the Month” spotlight to share with the C2FO team. 

“One of our main focuses is education and raising awareness,” said Lindsay Campbell, a manager in relationship management analytics at C2FO and a chair in the Adapt ERG. 

“In the US, July is celebrated as national Disability Pride Month, specifically around July 26, which marks the anniversary of the passage of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) in 1990. During the month, we’re sharing curated content and hosting discussion sessions to get employees engaged in learning more about the people within these communities so that we can all be better allies in challenging societal stigmas and misconceptions.”

The bottom line about employee resource groups

Employee resource groups are a great way to promote inclusion, productivity and belonging within an organization. ERGs provide a safe space for collaboration between all individual identities represented in an organization. 

In a company like C2FO, with branches and teammates all around the world, ERGs are an important way of making every idea heard and every experience appreciated.

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