Blog Post

Best Practices from the 2017 Above and Beyond Awards

By Jennifer London
June 27, 2017
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Finalists for the Above and Beyond Awards

On June 20 and 21, Diversity Best Practices honored our Above and Beyond Award finalists at the Network + Affinity Leadership Congress (NALC) hosted by Prudential. This is the third year for the new and improved Above and Beyond Awards and the nominations this year did not disappoint. There was an incredible number of strong nominations in each category reflecting the progress employee resource groups have made to become more purposeful in their missions. In addition, the individual categories showcase that bold and inclusive leadership, whether as an ERG leader or an ally to an ERG, can make a huge impact not only on the ERG, but on the organization and community it serves.

In addition, Diversity Best Practices created a new award, the Above and Beyond Legacy Award an award we were inspired to create this year by the nomination submitted for its recipient, Alison Gleeson, Senior Vice President, Americas at Cisco.

Diversity Best Practices holds the Above and Beyond Awards to recognize the important work that ERGs, their leaders and allies do to impact D&I. However, a secondary, and equally important reason is to collect best practices to share with all of you. Below are some of the trends we saw from this year’s finalists and examples of the work they are doing to raise the bar for employee resource groups. We hope they will inspire you to bring your employee resource groups to the next level and nominate for next year’s Above and Beyond Awards!

What made this year’s finalists “above and beyond” the rest?

In the individual categories — Affinity Group Leadership and Valued Ally — some things that stood out about the leaders and allies were:

  • A focus on collaboration with other ERGs for maximum impact
  • Willingness and initiative to go outside the organization to build meaningful relationships to help drive the business, make an impact on the community and to educate themselves in order to grow the mission of the ERG and D&I more broadly
  • Bold actions to move an agenda forward for the good of the larger community, even in less welcoming environments

In the group categories — Business Impact and Community Impact — things that made the winners rise above the pack were:

  • Significant impact on the bottom line that lead to a more formal relationship between the ERG and multiple lines of business
  • ERGs serving both a community need and business imperative. For example, two of the ERGs who have focused on education of young people in their communities have both hired beneficiaries of those programs.
  • Programs and initiatives are aligned with the mission of the organization, proving themselves invaluable to the business
  • Examples of the ERGs being bold and using their social capital to influence senior leaders to create change

Here are some examples of the next practices from our finalists in each category.

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Co-chairs of the PROUD ERG from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital accept their award for Business Impact

Business Impact Award

Groups nominated for this award demonstrate a clear contribution to business goals made by the group as whole. Examples of Business Impact areas can include financial, cultural, regulatory, reputational, marketplace and other business operations.

Honorable Mention: New York Police Department’s Committee of Police Societies (COPS)
Winners: Ahold Delhaize’s African-American Business Resource Group and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s PROUD ERG

NYPD Committee of Police Societies

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) is the largest municipal police force in the United States. The NYPD’s new recruitment ad campaign for police officers, started in October 2016, placed special emphasis on diversity and sensitivity of its uniformed personnel and service oriented approach to their jobs. The Committee of Police Societies (C.O.P.S.) is an organization that gathers together the presidents of the Department’s 30+ recognized fraternal organizations. Working hand in hand with officers who are experts in recruitment, members of the fraternal organizations made certain that their members were present at recruiting events so that potential applicants could speak and, relate to members of their communities.

As a result of their efforts, the 646 officers graduating the Police Academy in March of this year represented 39 countries and spoke 53 different languages. Of those graduating, 21% were born outside of the U.S. and 22% were women. About 16% were African American, 29.5% Hispanic and 11.9% Asian. Increasing the department’s diversity has been a goal, and will go a long way in bringing police and the community closer.

Ahold Delhaize’s African-American Business Resource Group

Following a Food Lion store walk, the African-American BRG at Ahold Delhaize worked with Category Management to provide insights to improve the in-store selections for Ethnic Haircare products. In addition, the BRG partnered throughout the organization to:

  • Provide samples to many of their partnering college’s students
  • Place flyers in female athlete bags provided by Food Lion
  • Update the Food Lion website to highlight the new items
  • Place an ad promoting the new product availability in multiple publications

The amount of New Customers represents 60% of the total customers purchasing these products, so the majority of customers are buying these products from Food Lion for the first time.

As of year-end 2016 the ethnic haircare reset is yielding positive sales trends:

  • 15.7% increase in product sales from the year prior.
  • 9% increase in unit movement.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s PROUD ERG

Due to their efforts in aligning the RWJBarnabas Health system’s vision – that is to provide equitable care to culturally diverse patients in addition to ensuring equitable and inclusive care to their LGBTQIA patients — the Promoting Respect, Outreach, Understanding, and Dignity (PROUD) Business Resource Group (BRG) in collaboration with a comprehensive and interdisciplinary committee, spearheaded the efforts in initiating national and innovative LGBTQIA practices at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

Through RWJUH’s community surveys, they found that many members of the LGBT Community are traveling outside of New Jersey to receive medical care as there are limited resources available within the state especially when seeking Hormone Affirmation Treatment (HAT) or Gender Confirmation Surgery. RWJUH Somerset, created an LGBTQIA clinic, a first of its kind for the RWJBarnabas Health System that allowed patients to receive physical exams, chronic disease management, and other health related services.

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Kelly James from Florida Blue accepts his Valued Ally Award.

Valued Ally

Individuals nominated for this award hold an active position within the organization and have a history of supporting one or more Network/Affinity Groups, ERGs, or BRGs. An ally is an individual that champions or fights for a cause on behalf of your affinity group. They are instrumental in providing ERGs with support and partnership toward achieving or exceeding the ERGs’ goals. They help drive change.

Honorable Mention: Edward Mackey, Boston Scientific
Winners: Kelly James, Florida Blue and Orlando Alvarez, BP

Ed Mackey has been a dedicated supporter and ally who has been instrumental to advancing the Boston Scientific Disability Inclusion Strategy. As Executive sponsor of the LEAD ERG, focused on learning best practices from other companies. Ed led a team from Boston Scientific’s distribution center to visit at the Walgreens Distribution Center learn more about their successes in creating a sustainable hiring program for persons with disabilities. As a result of that meeting, the senior leadership team conducted a Distribution Site Visit in March to assess site’s biggest opportunities to support the hiring of differently-abled individuals.

Kelly James is the Community Director for the Respect ERG at Florida Blue. Due in large part to Kelly’s work, Florida Blue is recognized throughout the state as a progressive, forward-thinking company leading the way on LGBT protections being debated in state government. Kelly was also instrumental in crafting Florida Blue’s position on the February 2017 passing of the Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance that protects its residents and workers from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Kelly played a leading role in the advocacy efforts in which Florida Blue engaged during the 2009/2010 congressional debate over the Affordable Care Act, including provisions affecting the LGBT community. After passage of the law, Kelly worked with leaders throughout the enterprise to work through issues related to how the new law would impact the health care policies of Florida Blue subscribers living in domestic partner households, as well as the implications of the new law on Florida Blue’s LGBT employees and insured members.

Orlando Alvarez serves as the BP Pride BRG Executive Sponsor in the U.S. and represents the BRG on BP Americas’ Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Council on a quarterly basis. Through Orlando’s active support, Pride has been able to make changes to BP’s medical benefits plan which now includes gender reassignment surgery and counseling under its base medical plan coverage in the USA and develop and deliver Transgender Inclusion training.

Orlando supported the launch of two new U.S. chapters at Cherry Point and Toledo refineries in 2016, making BP the only major oil/gas company to date with a Pride BRG at all their US refinery operations.

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A member of Unilever’s ENACTUS accepts the Community Impact Award

Community Impact

Groups nominated for this award demonstrate a clear contribution to the community made by the group as a whole. Positive recipients of this award demonstrate an impact and/or improvement on a community’s well-being.

Honorable Mention: PG&E’s Asian Employee Resource Group
Winners: Bridge to the Future, Boston Scientific and Unilever’s ENACTUS

PG&E’s Asian ERG

This year marks the 33rd year of the Asian Employee Resource Group at PG&E! Among many other impressive efforts, the Asian ERG raised over $45,000 for college scholarships awarded to 17 college- bound high school seniors. Many of these students are first-generation college and/or come from low-income families. This program has existed for over three decades with some scholarship recipients returning to PG&E as interns and full-time employees. One scholarship recipient is now a PG&E employee and a leadership Board member of the Asian ERG.

Unilever’s ENACTUS

Upwards of 15% of Americans, including 16 million children, live in food insecure households, where a lack of money and/or resources means there is not consistent access to quality food and nutrition.

To address the need, The Unilever Enactus BRG, worked to develop the Unilever Bright Future Project Accelerator (UBFPA), a grant competition that empowers students to take entrepreneurial actions in their communities. Grant winners implement innovative projects that apply sustainable solutions towards achieving food security in the United States in alignment with Global Goal 2: Zero Hunger. An example includes the winning project, Mobile Fresh by La Sierra University – a city bus turned grocery store with nutritious foods for competitive prices and a robust neighborhood education program.

Boston Scientific’s Bridge to the Future (BTF) started in 2011 as a grassroots effort led by the BRIDGE ERG to reach African-American students in the Santa Clarita high school community to increase STEM students learning and persistence through high school and college.

Now in its sixth year, 99 students have completed the program, of which 99% are in a four year university! Bridge to the Future students also have the opportunity to intern at BSC during the summer months and BSC just hired their first Bridge to the future graduate as a full-time HR employee in their Maple Grove, MN facility.

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Tonya Walker from The Coca-Cola Company accepts her Affinity Group Leadership award.

Affinity Group Leadership

A candidate for the Affinity Group Leadership Award is an individual whose grit and determination has led to the creation, success and/or turn-around of their network/affinity group.

Honorable Mention: Nolan Melson, leader of Capgemini’s Veterans ERG
Winners: Tonya Walker, The Coca-Cola Company’s African-American ERG and Joe Ganshaw, chair of the Interfaith Network at Merck

Nolan Melson has forged two key partnerships for Capgemini during his time leading the Veteran ERG. He has been the driving force behind VERG’s partnership with the Merivis Foundation which trains Veterans and military spouses in Salesforce Administration certification, while also providing them with resume writing, interview preparation, and other professional development services so that these Veterans and spouses can find rewarding careers in IT and with St. Michael’s Learning Academy that works with the Department of Defense to train outgoing US Service Members in SAP.

Both of these partnerships increase brand awareness and provide Capgemini access to a highly trained veteran talent pool.

Within a month of her appointment as President of the African American ERG, Tonya Walker had established a business plan aligned with The Coca-Cola Company’s Global Diversity & Inclusion strategic pillars while simultaneously fulfilling her responsibilities as vice president of communications and backfilling for the vice president of finance – ultimately backfilling three Board positions at once in addition to her day-to-day role she holds within the company.

Tonya has networked internally with the company’s brand teams to identify marketplace initiatives where the AABRG can serve as a resource. Tonya established brand council teams that have become a permanent staple of the AABRG and will be leveraged to provide feedback and counsel from an African-American perspective to the brand teams about new ideas in advance of broad distribution to the marketplace.

Joe Ganshaw’s focus on building partnerships across EBRGs at Merck has created powerful learnings for the Merck community. One example is the collaboration between the Interfaith Network and the Merck Allies for Disabilities EBRG.

Research by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that 40% of all U.S. employees experience some form of stress. In addition, the Journal of Health Psychology notes that spiritual well being and prayer can contribute to the prediction of psychological wellbeing, subjective wellbeing, physical symptoms and depression. Given this knowledge, MIO collaborated with the U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN), a Merck strategic partner who focuses on disability-owned businesses, and with the Merck Allies for Disabilities (AFD) EBRG to promote a spirituality webinar. The webinar was developed by the USBLN to provide corporate members with ways to use faith and spirituality to reduce stress.

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Alison Gleeson accepting her Legacy award via video.

Above and Beyond Legacy Award

Alison Gleeson’s mission to advance women in IT roles began back in 1997 when she founded the Women’s Action Network for Sales and Engineering at Cisco. She started with only 5 members in the Midwest and a vision to create a community to attract, develop, retain, and celebrate women as part of a competitive and diverse workforce. Over the last 19 years, Alison’s leadership and guidance enabled the Women’s Action Network to evolve and grow into Connected Women. Today the organization has a global reach with 6,850 members across 42 countries.

Alison makes an impact by bringing the goals and objectives of Connected Women to every leadership meeting she attends. At her own leadership meetings, she asks the Connected Women leadership to present and encourages her team to be involved in the organization and lend support to their local leadership.

Alison is also a tireless advocate and mentor at a grass-roots level, meeting with members of the Connected Women organization at every sales office she travels to.

At Cisco’s largest annual conference, Women of Impact, Alison was integral in bringing this year’s event to a globally connected scale, blending virtual and live components and lasting over 20 hours. Thanks to her tireless effort and leadership, over 14,000 employees, customers, and partners came together as a global community to learn and be inspired by the theme – “Connect, Lead, Inspire.”

About the Author

Jennifer London
Director, Events