Blog Post

Honoring Black History at Work: Lessons Learned from Seramount’s Black History Month Webinar

By Stefani Murray
February 7, 2023

To kickoff Black History Month, the Seramount team hosted a powerful webinar for Diversity Best Practices member organizations, with a panel of bold and knowledgeable speakers. From inspiring stories of individual achievement to business-driven initiatives and unique DEI strategies that support Black advancement, the program celebrated the current and future successes of the Black community, while offering valuable insights into how individuals and companies are innovating to fill the growing gaps. Attendees walked away with strategies on how to be more inclusive, compassionate, and action-oriented in these times.

Dr. Curtis Jasper, ERG leaders from Alight Solutions, and ERG leaders from Constellation Brands made up the panel, which was moderated by Nicole Johnson, a senior DEI advisor here at Seramount. This webinar featured stories of triumph, both personally and professionally, that served to inspire those of us watching. All the speakers highlighted the importance of mental health and well-being and how employee resource groups (ERGs) can support those needs in Black employees.

The Necessity of Mental and Emotional Health Wellness

The session started with Nicole offering a moment of reflection in honor of Tyre Nichols, a young Black man who lost his life to police violence in January. This moment provided a nice segue into introducing Dr. Curtis Jasper, a human behavior specialist, and his topic about how companies can support the sustainability of mental health and emotional wellness among Black employees. He introduced the notion of “compassion fatigue,” which differs from burnout because it is more emotionally draining. He called it “the part you don’t see” when someone, particularly Black people, are struggling, especially after tragedies such as the death of Tyre circulate throughout the news cycle.

Dr. Jasper then offered some ways for employees to try and get in front of the emotional toll so that it isn’t all-consuming, such as feeling your emotions as they come and go, watching how feelings manifest in our bodies during difficult situations, and taking note of repeated behavior patterns in life.

Dr. Jasper also mentioned four ways for leadership to do better by their employees when they come to them:

  1. Be curious, not critical.
  2. Be careful, not crushing.
  3. Ask and don’t assume.
  4. Connect before you correct.

The ERG leaders from Alight Solutions and Constellation Brands all mentioned that their ERGs/BRGs were created to help support the emotional and mental well-being of Black employees. They all concluded that Black employees need a safe space where they felt comfortable being their authentic selves. They want to be valued as whole, unique individuals and not put into a personality box. All the participants mentioned that when Black employees are given the correct tools and spaces to take care of themselves in the workplace, they can thrive.

The Importance of ERGs/BRGs for a Sense of Community

The Alight Solutions participants: Xan Daniels, Chris King, and Siatta Ollison, and the Constellation Brands participants: Kerri Joy, Lonette Merriman, and Matt Deegan, all spoke on the importance of ERGs at their companies. The women leaders at Alight are part of their BRG, BUILD (Blacks United in Leading Diversity), and spoke on how this BRG has taken steps to nurture Black employees at Alight.

Alight’s Social Action Committee and Colleague Led Communities (CLC) were created to support employees in times of trauma and create a safe place for community and mentorship among Black employees. Because of the creation of the CLC, many Black employees have been able to connect with others outside of their departments and foster mentorships.

The trio of ERG leaders from Constellation Brands presented about their ERG, AASCEND (African Americans Strengthening Constellations Engagement, Networking, and Development). AASCEND was founded on the principles of strength, resilience, and change to help Black employees have a place where they could safely be themselves while at work. They also hoped that this ERG would help boost retention numbers with Black employees.

Both companies recognized that these groups are needed now more than ever, as a place for connection, mentorship, and safety. These groups are new but are showing great improvement and importance within these companies. They allow for a place of learning and community that is necessary to have a successful workplace.

Earlier this year, DEI experts predicted that the voice of ERGs will continue to grow even stronger. Employee Resource Groups provide companies guidance on their policies and can be a haven where employees can relate, connect, and feel psychologically safe amongst their peers in an ever-changing environment. ERG leadership development events such as EmERGe give leaders and DEI practitioners the tools to succeed in facing new challenges during these uncertain times and supporting employees throughout their journeys.

To learn more about how your organization can gain access to events like this one, contact us.

About the Author

Headshot Stefani Murray
Stefani Murray
Marketing Specialist