How do we create a more inclusive workplace where everyone feels they belong? It’s a question being asked by companies around the world, as diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) are now a priority not just for employees, but for senior leaders as well.
Following the murder of George Floyd three years ago, companies worldwide accelerated their efforts around DE&I, looking internally at what more could be done to support employees and what change was needed to ensure appropriate action was taken.
This global spotlight on change is what led to the creation of many new DE&I roles within businesses, including my role as Global DE&I Director – a new appointment created specifically to look at how we can foster a culture of Inclusion and Belonging, and drive organizational impact.
One of the first things we did, as part of a multi-year DE&I strategy, was introduce ERGs, or Employee Resource Groups. ERGs are not a new thing – they have been around since the 1970s, but have gained more credibility in the last five years or so. We decided that introducing ERGs into our organization would be an effective way of recognizing, nurturing, and championing the incredibly diverse talent at Liberty Global – a fundamental part of building a culture where everyone feels like they belong.
A collective vision
We had the vision for a collective of ERGs, one for each diversity pillar, run by members of that community and their allies. Our pillars are:
Race and ethnicity
Disability and neurodiversity
The ERG collective work together to support creating a truly inclusive and equitable workplace, through sharing their lived experience’s, ideas, celebrating, engaging, educating and providing safe spaces.
To start, we reached out to people we knew within the business who were already spearheading the DE&I movement to ask if they would like to lead an ERG. Our leads built committees, recruiting people across all levels of the business who were eager to further the ERG agenda and would take an active role in planning events, communications, and educational material.
Cementing them within our corporate structure, we created a terms of reference and governance around how we would support each ERG and empower them to create their strategies. This included providing a budget to put on events and access to industry expertise, such as a training academy for our ERG leads in areas of inclusive communication, and delivering their mission. Together, these tools ensure that our ERGs are set up for success.
In parallel, we also launched the Liberty Global DE&I Council – a group of senior colleagues from across the business who come together to drive forward programs that deliver our DE&I agenda. Having senior leadership, including our CEO and several ELT members as part of the Council, was key in ensuring that DE&I was a top organizational priority. These council members also act as senior leader sponsors to the ERGs.
Launching with real impact
Our first ERG, R.E.A.C.H (Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Harmony) was introduced in March 2021. We welcomed our newest ERG, Better Future, which is focused on our impact on the world outside of the our workplace, this year.
ERGs offer safe places for their communities and allies to learn, educate and share experiences. Membership of the groups has grown, and this has had a fundamental impact on the culture of the organization, with colleagues participating and educating themselves on all things DE&I. Half of all employees are now a member of an ERG – an epic result.
2023 will be a huge year for our ERGs as we continue to grow our membership and work intersectionally, meaning the ERGs are recognizing that there are overlapping identities represented across multiple ERGs.
R.E.A.C.H has just launched a program, R.E.A.C.H Together, which pairs our senior leadership with the group’s committee members for “reverse mentoring”. Through this partnership, our senior leaders will learn about the different experiences R.E.A.C.H members encounter at Liberty Global, creating a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing that community to drive change.
Impact also includes R.E.A.C.H.’s new partnership with UK non-profit Breaking Barriers, in which ERG members are volunteering to help refugees to the UK with CV writing and preparing for the UK job market. ReMARKable, our ERG focused on disability and neurodiversity, recently collaborated with sports inclusion charity, Power2Inspire, to host a ‘Super Sensory Adventure’ to shed light on the diverse sensory experiences colleagues encounter. The event, held across our global offices, was held on the same day of our annual Big Ride, so colleagues, regardless of their athletic ability could take part in the fundraiser.
It is important to note that while our family of ERGs have been successful in making employees feel like they belong, they are part of a wider, multi-year DE&I strategy in which we all have a part to play.
It’s been hugely rewarding for me personally to see so many people embrace these groups and strive towards our collective mission. My hope is that the learnings from our ERGs go way beyond the workplace, with our employees disseminating these messages and ways of working into their family life, social interactions, and wider society. An ambitious goal, perhaps, but a challenge I’m fully committed to.