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Creating inspired experiences
In SMG’s continued dedication to diversity, equity, + inclusion (DEI) progression and advocacy for all employees, we have established several employee resource groups (ERGs) with a wide range of representation. These voluntary, employee-led teams provide support, raise awareness, influence organizational policies, and are open to all—whether they identify with members of the ERG or join as an ally.
We checked in with the leaders of these groups to learn more about their core mission, what initiatives they’re planning, and their advice on allyship + involvement.
Our 3 key focus areas are:
Organizational culture – Help to create a community for associates
We aim to create a safe space for BIPOC employees, raise awareness of societal issues faced by the BIPOC community, and support SMG business initiatives.
Allies are an incredibly important part of ERGs and can often be powerful in providing a voice in the room. Members of the BIPOC community are part of marginalized groups, therefore, having allies who can represent their cause is of great importance.
Our group is currently working with HR to set corporate DEI goals and improve DEI recruitment and retention. We’re also focused on creating a sense of community and belonging amongst the ERG members.
As a term, BIPOC isn’t always recognized and/or understood. This article summarizes where the acronym originated from, as well as highlights the benefits and negatives of grouping a number of groups together. Business in the Community also has a number of fantastic blogs and resources that tackle topics of race in the workplace, as well as provide guidance for allies.
If you’re passionate and motivated to bring like-minded people together to share your experiences and have a positive impact on members of the community, then go for it!
The culture at SMG is built on the many sub-cultures which exist within the organization. To have a true sense of belonging, associates at SMG should feel as though they are represented and amongst like-minded associates. The ERGs play an important role in providing a space for these sub-cultures to flourish and for meaningful connections to form.
Our primary focus is to cultivate a workforce community that respects, recognizes, and rewards women’s contributions equally. We aspire to create an environment where women thrive and are empowered to be their best selves.
Our goal is to create an inclusive environment where every member is heard and empowered. To do so, we aim to raise visibility of issues facing women in the organization and advocate for equitable solutions, provide professional development resources, and facilitate collaboration to encourage emerging women leaders.
A willingness to listen and engage is one of the keyways an ally can support an ERG. You do not need to identify with a community to acknowledge the value and validity of their experiences. Simply showing up and listening to a discussion group, attending a workshop, or engaging with any educational opportunities we provide are all easy yet impactful ways to show your support.
Our ERG has recently launched professional development and policy + culture committees to provide development, networking, and advocacy support for our members, as well as educational and engagement opportunities for anyone interested in learning more about our ERG and what we do. We’re looking forward to hosting events such as lightning talks, our Read + Listen Club, and coffee chats soon!
Our biggest resource is each other. We can be a shoulder to lean on, someone to listen, an advisor, or an advocate. In our ERG, we believe in supporting and lifting each other up, whether that be in moments of sadness or in celebration. In addition to our own experiences, we hope to empower each other through sharing impactful content and programming. Current favorite resources include United WE, Bossed Up, HBR, and the many amazing women represented through the TED programs.
Clarify your mission and purpose early on. What are the goals of your ERG? What principles will guide you as you build the group? Setting expectations early on is crucial to guiding development of the ERG and communicating to potential members.
ERGs provide a safe resource for marginalized groups to seek support and community. This is equally important to attracting new talent and retaining the people that allow SMG to thrive. All people deserve to feel supported and that they belong in the workplace. ERGs are an important component of developing that belonging.
We want to provide a safe space for LBGTQ+ employees to gather and celebrate unique backgrounds and experiences; influence organizational policies, procedures, and decisions that impact our community; and foster a diverse workplace by supporting recruitment + retention efforts and guiding educational initiatives among current and potential employees of SMG.
JOIN! It’s important to get to know LGBTQ+ members in your own community. Really listen to and take direction from those with lived experiences of being LGBTQ+. Stay informed about policies and laws that affect the community. Don’t support anyone who supports bigoted laws or policies. Fight against stereotypes that are molded into society and reevaluate your own values to make sure they align with allyship. To be an ally, don’t put up with any homophobic/transphobic jokes or comments even if someone from the LGBTQ+ community is not around. If we all come together, marginalized people and our allies would not the minority, we are the vast majority. We must face our own biases and support one another.
All of the ERGs worked together and put out a survey to members to see how they’re feeling with our current status and what they think we need to do to improve. The LGBTQ+ ERG also put on a recent event to foster fun, engagement, and visibility. We hope to do more of those. We are looking at bringing in speakers and sponsoring some virtual learning events to support SMG’s new global direction.
ERGs are an important step in hiring and retaining a diverse workforce. People need to feel supported and appreciated. ERGs will hopefully be a resource for SMG employees to be involved in how the company moves forward and provides the support needed to retain a diverse workforce.
Our ERG has chosen to focus on three main lanes for our work. First, we want to provide a safe space for our neurodivergent coworkers to process difficulties and to celebrate victories they face at work or in other spaces. An important part of self-care is maintaining a community of peers who are marginalized in similar ways to yourself, so that you can care for each other in ways that society at large fails to recognize as your needs.
Second, we work to educate our neurotypical coworkers on neurodiversity and disability in general. Most people grow up completely removed from their neurodivergent peers, and many narratives about neurodivergent people are told from the perspectives of neurotypical people. For example, teaching about the Social Model of Disability (which views disability as a social phenomenon, not a personal or medical one) and why social organizing is important to address disability and to combat stigmatized attitudes about disabled people.
And finally, we hope to act as a consulting resource for policy and communications related to our community. We do not necessarily have the capacity to provide implementations of the accommodations policy we need to move into a global market, but it is important for impacted communities to have a meaningful voice in drafting policy that seeks to avoid and remove their barriers.
Practicing universal design helps to address needs before they become exclusions. Universal design is when you create your team norms and expectations with everybody’s needs in mind, so that accommodations are the default, instead of things that must be asked for. Appreciate that everybody has different communication styles and needs.
For example, not requiring everybody use their cameras during a Zoom meeting can help prevent Zoom fatigue, which neurodivergent people experience more severely. When possible, providing alternatives to live presentations can help when people are feeling less able to present socially, so if something can be a written report instead of a presentation in front of a large group, consider it as an option. Also, giving clear and concise written requirements can help to avoid miscommunications or assumptions. Finally, making these accommodations explicit, maybe during team orientation or in your team documentation, is just as important as being open to them. When people are not aware of accommodations, they may as well not exist.
Deloitte in the UK has produced resources for neurodivergent and neurotypical workers, both during the recruiting process, but also for team dynamics. Also, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network regularly publishes resources and education materials that many people find useful. In the Kansas City area, there are several professional organizations that focus on the neurodivergent community (a list with direct links is included below):
SMG’s company vision is to make human experiences the heart of every business. To realize that vision, we strive to create an inspiring, remote-first work environment that improves the lives of our associates—all across the globe. If you’re interested in being a part of our team, check out our open positions.
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