Blog Post

Best Practices from the 2019 Above and Beyond Awards!

By Jennifer London
June 10, 2019
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Some of this year’s honorees at the awards program at EmERGe East

In its fifth year, the annual Above and Beyond Awards provide a glimpse into the incredible work that employee resource groups, their leaders and allies do to drive change in their organizations and in the community. The Diversity Best Practices team looks forward to the Above and Beyond Award review process as we gain important insight into what’s new and next for employee resource groups.

This year was an especially exciting one. For one, we added two new categories in which organizations could nominate their ERGs. In addition to the Business Impact, Community Impact, Valued Ally and Leadership categories, we added Workforce Impact and Workplace Culture Impact. With these two new categories, we were able to expand the range of stories organizations could submit through the nomination process. They did not disappoint!

Secondly, after reviewing the judges’ top choices, we decided to create a brand new award this year, the Innovators Award, to shine a light on the work two ERGs are doing to drive innovation at their organizations. Last but not least, we brought back the Legacy Award to honor an individual whose sustained commitment to diversity and inclusion both in his organization and in the community, was worthy of special recognition.

There were a few common themes that arose from all of the top nominations that ultimately were chosen for an Above and Beyond Award.

Collaboration with critical partners. Although this might seem like a basic concept, it is important to point out that across all of the winning submissions the ERGs and/or their leaders identified and connected with key stakeholders to ensure the success of their initiatives and to amplify their message.

Measurement is key. A best practice whenever you are building out a strategy is to ensure that you identify how you will measure progress and/or success. The ability to share data in a way that shows the impact of your work will be an important factor in gaining buy-in from senior leaders and other key stakeholders to grow your work.

Strategic vs. programmatic. In order to drive change, ERGs need to adopt a strategic approach to their work. This is not to say that programming isn’t an important part of an ERGs work, but your programs should be part of a larger strategy that aligns with the mission of your group as well as the values and goals of the larger organization.

In order to illustrate these themes, we have gathered some of the best practices from this year’s Above and Beyond Award recipients to share with you. Please note that what is included here are just a few highlights from each honoree. If we included everything they did, this article would be 20 pages long!

Enjoy learning from this year’s Above and Beyond Awardees!

Business Impact

Winner: Proud To Serve, U.S. Bank Honorable Mention: Hispanic/Latino ERG, Food Lion

U.S. Bank’s Proud to Serve BRG drives business growth by enhancing the customer experience, creating a culture of inclusion and strengthening brand and reputation through community engagement efforts. One example of how this came to life is the transformation of the bank’s Military Service Center (MSC). The MSC was established to assist customers with Service Member Civil Relief Act questions. Members of Proud to Serve developed and led the strategy to expand the center’s scope of services and transform how it operates. Representatives at the center now handle account access, power of attorney and other essential services for deploying military customers, improving the experience of thousands of customers annually and driving revenue growth.

Another way BRG members improved the customer experience was by partnering with the company’s marketing team to create custom emails to help military customers take advantage of special account options. U.S. Bank’s military customers now receive communications better tailored to their unique financial needs, including essential information about taking advantage of such benefits as fee waivers.

Proud to Serve BRG members also worked to launch a new patriotic debit card design to increase U.S. Bank’s customer base. The card just launched in May. Keep a lookout on social media as BRG members are partnering with the U.S. Bank social team to share the news.

Food Lion’s Hispanic / Latino Business Resource Group partnered with Category Management to help identify needs within various areas of the store to offer Hispanic/Latino customers, specifically with a target audience of 1st and 2nd generation Hispanic/Latino customers of Mexican Descent, products that are relevant, fresh and affordable. They collaborated with “Fresh” Departments, Center Story and Marketing to create an emotional connection within the towns and cities they serve.

Through a pilot of 18 stores the assortment and merchandising was identified which led to adding 84 new items. The early results of the pilot illustrate the impact this ERG has had on the business.

  • Within four weeks of beginning the pilot $7,800 (4726 units) worth of in-store produced tortilla chips were sold, and RTO (Retarder to Oven) Bolillo rolls sold $1,559 – 2919 units.
  • Within 2 weeks sales were up 4.9 percent with Beef Offals +493% since making them core vs. optional and stores sold over $5000 in Rhumba Items. Across 18 stores in the Raleigh/Durham area Hispanic Food Sales were up 12 percent YTD and Hispanic snacks were up 44 percent YTD.
  • There was an increase of $4,985,317.65, a 9 percent increase over the previous year of “international set” and Center Store Hispanic, Hispanic Frozen, Hispanic Dairy were up 7.5 percent.

Community Impact

Winner: Women in Action, Dell Technologies Honorable Mention: GREEN, Freddie Mac

Dell Technologies’ Women in Action (WIA) Employee Resource Group is a volunteer led organization that is a community leader aligning team member engagement in three key areas: Girls in STEM, Community Involvement and Women in Tech. The ERG has been a supporter and enabler of the company’s social impact, which total more than $65 million in corporate giving to advance digital literacy and STEM education.

Dell’s WIA group has been a key partner with many nonprofits such as Girls Who Code (GWC), Girls Inc, Girls Scouts of America, SheTech, No Girl Left Behind and many more. In 2018, WIA impacted over 2,500 middle school and high school girls across the United States. The Eureka! Program, a 5-year long, STEM-focused college and career readiness program, resulted in 100 percent of the first cohort graduating high school and were college bound. Of this cohort,

  • 50 percent were first generation college attendees
  • graduates selected STEM- related majors at a rate almost 20 percent higher than the national average; and
  • were awarded over $600,000 in scholarships.

In addition to their work with young women, Dell’s WIA collectively donated over $100,000 and provided over 20,000 food servings to low-income families in 2018. In 2018, they launched an initiative called Dell Career ReStart, which brings technical talent, predominantly women, back into the workforce after a career break.

At Freddie Mac, they launched a new GREEN ERG connecting environmentally conscious employees with corporate services, building on an existing corporate initiative to promote recycling and sustainable practices.

In their first year of existence, GREEN eliminated disposable paper cups from all Freddie Mac cafes and across 70 pantries resulting in the elimination of 2.1 million disposable cups from landfills. Their efforts have also supported the recycling of more than 10,000 tons of materials such as paper, construction materials, compost materials and more.

Of Freddie Mac’s total waste, 58 percent is recycled, which has translated into saving 1.170 million gallons of water from mercury and waste contamination, the preservation of one million gallons of water through paper recycling, saving 756 barrels of oil and saving over 1,470 cubic yards of landfill space. Most recently, a new volunteer-run recycling program on campus has collected and recycled 10,000 plastic bags on campus.

The ERG also helped Freddie Mac expand its community partnerships resulting in the donation of eight tons of food to local food rescues and the donation of six tons of compost to local farmers in their community. A new partnership with JK Moving Community Farm in Purcellville produces food for insecure families in local communities by donating nutrient rich compost material.

Workforce Impact

Winner: Hispanic/Latino Organization for Leadership and Advancement (HOLA), Bank of America Winner: All ERGs, Edward Jones

Bank of America’s HOLA has multiple initiatives in place to recruit and advance Latino talent. For instance, senior leaders were paired with HOLA members across the nation and provided direct sponsorship to 50 emerging HOLA leaders as part of a “Diverse Leaders Sponsorship Program” aimed at helping develop and advance mid-level diverse and Hispanic-Latino talent within the company. In partnership with UnidosUS, HOLA championed the development of the Latinos in Finance program.

Partnering with local affiliates with experience implementing workforce development, candidates are trained for bilingual customer service and relationship management positions. They take an 8-10-week curriculum and are then interviewed for positions at Bank of America. The pilot kicked off in 5 cities in 2018 resulting so far in approximately 30 hires. They plan to expand to four more cities this year.

At Edward Jones, the 15 Business Resource Groups (BRGs) have aligned their efforts to one of the firm’s core I & D strategy pillars of success, the workforce pillar to attract, retain and develop diverse talent by bolstering the referral program to make sure they could track each referral back to a Business Resource Group.

The Home Office Talent Acquisition and Inclusion and Diversity offices partnered to create a new referral portal in Avature (recruitment software) for tracking associate referrals, BRG referrals, and reporting. The process includes an Edward Jones associate completing an online form in the referral portal, including checking with BRG they are affiliated with. Talent Acquisition provides monthly reports showing the total number of referrals and referral hires for each BRG. Each BRG tracks their progress throughout the year making sure they improve over the previous year.

Each BRG deployed initiatives to create opportunities for referrals. For example, the Hispanic BRG hosted the first ever Contactos After 5 in partnership with the Phoenix Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to create an opportunity for Talent Acquisition, EJ associates, and leaders to easily network and build relationships with prospective talent. All the BRGs collaborated to host “Let’s Do Lunch” to showcase internal career opportunities at the firm.

As a result of the collective BRG Workforce Pillar strategies in 2018 Edward Jones has seen impressive results.

  • BRGs submitted 525 Referrals (1449 Total Home Office Talent Acquisition Referral Submittals). 36 percent of all referral submittals came from BRGs
  • Their were 46 BRG Referral Hires (123 Total Referral Hires) translating to 37 percent of all referral hires coming from BRGs
  • On average the cost to acquire talent is approximately $10K when you factor external search firms and contract to permanent agency fees. Multiplying 46 times $10K, the BRGs’ referral efforts saved an estimated $460,000 for the firm
  • BRGs referrals were 24 percent People of Color vs. 11 percent from Non-BRG
  • BRG referrals were 67 percent women vs. 57 percent from Non-BRG referrals

Workplace Culture Impact

Winner: Disability Advocacy Network (DAN), Bank of America Winner: Respect ERG, GuideWell

In 2018 Bank of America’s Disability Advocacy Network (DAN) created a pilot program to provide their hearing impaired employees with closed captioning so they could better participate in DAN virtual chapter meetings. The unexpected outcome was that although they offered closed captioning to the 30 known employees, closed captioning was used by more than 5,000 employees on the pilot! Due to the successful pilot, closed captioning and / or sign language interpreters are now strongly recommended for live and virtual events thus positively impacting all 200,000 employees.

Additionally, to provide awareness of hidden disabilities, DAN launched a 12-month series sponsored by Consumer & Small Business Co-head / chapter executive sponsor. More than 7000 employees registered for sessions and / or read articles on topics such as learning disabilities, caregiving, unseen physical disabilities and mental health awareness. We co-hosted a suicide prevention / awareness event with two employee networks. The bank’s HR executive moderated the discussion with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and National Alliance on Mental Illness. 6,285+ employees joined the broadcast resulting in 27.7 percent more calls to Employee Assistance Hotline.

In collaboration with Human Resources and Employee Relations staff, GuideWell’s Respect Community (ERG) established formal Gender Transition Guidelines for employees reflecting industry best practices from organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and Out & Equal. Going a step further, Respect created a “Transgender 101” training program for managers to reinforce these new guidelines as well as provide education on the LGBT community. During this program, they review transgender demographics and statistics, state and local laws, gender and sexual development, and how to be an ally. Since 2017, this program has been delivered to more than 175 managers and HR professionals throughout the state of Florida.

In 2019, this program is being offered to all employees. These efforts contributed to the following results on the 2018 annual employee survey.

  • 18 percent increase in self-identification of LGB (238 to 280) at Enterprise level
  • 133 percent increase in self-identification of Transgender (6 to 14) at Enterprise level
  • 8 people identified as Transgender and 5 as Non-binary/third gender (no responses in previous years) at Florida Blue/GuideWell Connect level
  • 2-point increase in favorability for LGB (72 percent to 74 percent) at Enterprise level
  • 21-point increase in favorability for Transgender (56 percent to 77 percent) at Enterprise level
  • 22-point increase in favorability for Non-binary/third gender (45 percent to 67 percent) at Enterprise level


Asian/South Asian ERG, Cigna ORBIT, The Clorox Company

Cigna’s Asian/South Asian Colleague Resource Group (ASA CRG) launched the inaugural Cigna CRG Innovation Tournament (iTournament) in 2018, a grass-roots initiative to jump start innovation at the company. Within a few weeks of launching, 90+ ideas were submitted for the first round; 32 ideas were selected as semi-finalists. 40+ authors attended design thinking training and a series of innovation workshops, and 19+ advisors have helped to mentor them along the way. Among the semi-finalists, 10 ideas were chosen to enter the final round, Demo Day, a “Shark Tank” style pitch competition.

Shortly after the 2018 iTournament, at least four of the top ten teams have begun working with various business leaders to fund, pilot, and implement their ideas in 2019. Several other business units have reached out to the ERG to learn more about the finalist ideas. Because of this successful inaugural iTournament, Cigna Innovation Team is now engaging the Colleague Resource Group to help create another again in 2019.

As a continuation of the Innovation Tournament, the CRG is building the Innovation Circle (iCircle)—an innovation mentorship circle and idea incubator with a mission to cultivate intrapreneurs and incubate innovations.

Over the past several years, the distribution of Clorox’s global workforce has continued to evolve through acquisitions, new sites, and an increase in fully remote employees. With this in mind, Clorox employees created ORBIT in 2013 to better connect to each other, teach people how to work together virtually and help Clorox adapt its HR and IT strategies for these workforce changes.

For example, ORBIT partnered with IT to test new video conferencing and collaboration software. The group developed training materials and held 100+ WebEx trainings to drive adoption around the world. When Clorox was creating a new manager training series, ORBIT worked with HR to select virtual managers for the design committee. As a result, the new manager training supports the needs of remote manager/direct report relationships.

Finally, when Clorox needed to create a new business unit to unite three South American countries and 150 employees, leaders called on ORBIT to help. ORBIT provided individual coaching to the leadership team and spearheaded a quant assessment of the group to understand what was working well and what areas needed to be shored up to enable the team to work together virtually and seamlessly.

Valued Ally

Jeanna Steele, Sunrun Todd Diganci, FINRA

Todd Diganci has been a dedicated supporter and ally to the FINRA Employee Resource Group (ERG) Program, Diversity Leadership Council, and FINRA’s Diversity & Work Life Programs.

To support one of the goals of the FINRA Parents Network and FINRA Women’s Network to help create a culture that supports and embraces work-life balance, Mr. Diganci served as FINRA’s first-ever, Workplace Flexibility Champion. In his role, Mr. Diganci sponsored a complete revamp of the flexible work arrangements internal web pages to include new and up-to-date workplace flexibility resources such as manager tips, employee tips, manager’s guide and FINRA’s first-ever Workplace Flexibility Guiding Principles to further embed a culture of valuing and respecting diverse workstyles, work life balance and flexible work arrangements.

Todd helped lead a two-week campaign that included an all employee email, a manager-focused specific communication, survey feedback opportunity, and a video interview for employees and managers. During the two-week campaign, the revamped site received 5,275 views making the resource site the most popular site on FINRA’s internal platform and more than doubling the traffic of the next most visited site. The manager-focused email had the second highest open rate of the month at 46 percent.

One of FINRA Women’s Network and FINRA African American Network’s top priorities is to help the organization attract the most diverse talent possible. Mr. Diganci took this feedback very seriously and proactively garnered executive support and enacted a requirement that all candidate pools have diverse representation and final interview slates must include at least 50 percent diversity from a gender and race inclusion perspective. This was a monumental step for FINRA, assisting with not only ERG expectations and goals but also corporate goals. To date, FINRA’s applicant pools are reflecting 55 percent diversity from a gender and race/ethnicity standpoint.

Fair and equal pay for all genders is a fundamental human right and integral to the Sunrun ethos. Therefore, reaching 100 percent pay parity was a major ambition of Sunrun’s female leaders, and Jeanna Steele, executive sponsor of Sunrun’s Women Network, actively led this effort. After California passed the strongest pay equity law in the nation, the California Fair Pay Act (SB 358), Jeanna was appointed to the statewide Pay Equity Task Force launched by the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls to promote proactive compliance. As a Task Force member, she contributed to developing several comprehensive resources, guidelines, and best practices aimed at helping employers and employees better understand equal pay rights, the importance of gender equity in the workplace, and how to get to pay equity. She then leveraged this work at Sunrun while driving the Sunrun Women’s Network’s agenda. Under Jeanna’s influence, Sunrun signed the White House Equal Pay Pledge in 2016 and conducted annual gender pay analyses. Two years later, Sunrun became the first solar company to achieve 100 percent pay parity. Achieving this key milestone contributed to recognize the impact of Sunrun Women’s Network on the workplace, and to develop a culture of pay equity internally. In April 2019, under her leadership, Sunrun signed the first California Pay Equity Pledge.

Jeanna Steele has been a crucial executive sponsor of the Sunrun Women’s Network since its inception. Jeanna has taken on a role of developing ideas, organizing panels, and engaging the broader Sunrun population to help the network achieve its main goals: advance women into critical leadership roles, develop a culture of pay equity and inspire young girls to excel in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and to go into the clean energy workforce.


Cheryl Colby, Co-Lead, Abilities Resource Group, Ball Corporation Saudamini Kadam, PMO, Asians in Action ERG, Dell Technologies

Cheryl Colby has been instrumental in turning the Abilities Ball Resource Group (Abilities BRG) at Ball Corporation around and growing the group at an exponential rate. Under her leadership, membership for the group has tripled in two years. Event attendance has doubled, as has the number of meaningful events held by the group. Cheryl understands the D&I goals of acquiring, developing, and engaging and retaining employees and steers the Abilities leadership to keep those goals in mind with each event and initiative they plan. Perhaps most importantly, Cheryl understands the need to partner with other resource groups and departments in the company in order to make real progress in supporting people with disabilities and caregivers. She is a true champion of intersectionality.

Cheryl also promotes intersectionality in her work by partnering with various ERGs, including:

  • the Women’s BRG to put on a networking “Power Hour” during National Disability Education Awareness Month to discuss how designing for disability is good for everyone
  • the Veterans BRG to do a resume workshop and interview prep class for veterans with disabilities, which contributed to Ball receiving an award from the American Legion as the Large Employer of the Year for Colorado for its service to the Veteran community
  • the New Families Ball Interest Group on several events that connect families with benefits provided by Ball

Early 2018 presented a unique challenge to the Asian community within Dell – Immigration policies defined by the US government created a lot of concern and uncertainty in the employee base regarding their existing and progress of immigration status in the country. Employees spent incredibly long cycles with attorneys and/ or trolling web-sites for information – equally creating a huge work-load for our immigration legal firm, Ogletree, due to the surge in requests and concerns. Saudamini Kadam led the charter for the Asian ERG at Dell to create a series of sessions to bring together Dell attorneys at Ogletree with human resources, and our membership base to present the facts regarding the changing landscape of immigration in recent years, and how it impacts their ability to work in the US. The intent was to keep people informed with accurate information on policy changes directly from the immigration attorneys vs. relying on external unreliable news sources.

A pre-event survey was deployed to define key and critical concerns to be addressed to ensure efficient utilization of time for all parties involved. The session gave members a platform to get questions addressed by specialists and get guidance on resources they could refer to stay updated on an ongoing basis – removing the churn of email communication on all sides of the equation.

The lawyers were able to invest the bandwidth back into building strong visa applications ensuring maximum applications received work permit approvals – and Dell has been able to keep a success rate of 100 percent for the cases they file. Employees can focus their time back on supporting business making Dell one of the best companies to work for by maintaining Dell’s diverse workforce with one of the highest visa/green-cards approval rates in the tech industry.

Over 300 employees participated in each session. Asians In Action collaborated with Latino Connection as this is a relevant subject for this ERG member base. This was so successful, our Immigration team and Ogletree have worked with Saudamini to make these sessions a regularly occurring event. An attendee said the session “instilled confidence that Dell Immigration has our backs and looks out for us. [I] got an appreciation of the hard work that the immigration team did.”

Legacy Award

Allyn Shaw, Global Information Security Chief Operating Officer, Bank of America

Allyn Shaw was among the first set of black executives to create the Black Executive Leadership Council which has since doubled in size, as a legacy of Countrywide/Bank of America. He was also instrumental in the creation of Bank of America’s LGBT+ Executive Council and Steering Committee. In the three years since the formation of this council, the number of out at work executives has doubled. Allyn leverages his unique story and experiences as a member of these councils to create more opportunities for members of each group. Allyn is a member of the bank’s Women in Technology & Operations (WIT&O) Advisory Board. As a member, he both speaks passionately about the importance of, and actively models, true ally-ship. Allyn pushed for the expansion of the Bank of America D&I Council to include LGBT+ issues, and was a key player in the creation of the Global Technology & Operations (GT&O) LGBT+ Advisory Council. These efforts have a global impact, as evidenced by the 200 teammates in India who recently participated in executive roundtable discussions analyzing policy changes as a result of LGBT+ decriminalization in their country. As a result of the continued efforts of these teams, through D&I events and highly visible town halls, the number of allies globally at Bank of America has grown to 25,000.

Allyn’s move to Charlotte in 2017 offered him the opportunity to act as executive sponsor of the Black Professional Group’s largest local chapter, where he creates real change through learning opportunities and developmental support for the Charlotte organization’s more than 2,800 members. From his current seat on the GT&O D&I Council, he partners with peers to design and execute initiatives to build a more inclusive culture by engaging leaders and developing diverse talent, all while maintaining a commitment to, and consistent presence within, his own organization’s D&I council as well.

During his first year as a board member of workplace advocacy group Out and Equal, Allyn was instrumental in creating the group’s first recruiting event, giving LGBT+ professionals a platform to share their skills with a wide variety of organizations. This partnership also inspired him to help form the first-ever transgender candidate-focused recruiting effort for Bank of America, which so far has resulted in more than a dozen candidates pipelined for roles with the bank.

About the Author

Jennifer London
Director, Events