BRG: Women in Leadership Business Resource Group (WILBRG)
Challenge/Opportunity: UL’s WILBRG recognized it wasn’t having an impact on business results and would need to rebrand and expand its reach to do so.
Solution: The group rebranded and took a series of well-planned, intentional steps to reposition itself as a business asset across the company’s global locations and engaged key senior leaders along the way.
Results: The WILBRG has grown by 159 percent to over 700 global members, expanded its scale from one U.S.-based chapter to nine global chapters, and enhanced its overall value, not just to its membership, but to the company overall.
Four Leadership Pillars
1. Women in STEM
2. Recruitment, Retention and Apprenticeship
3. Diversity and Inclusion
4. Talent Development
In 2017, UL’s Women in Leadership Business Resource Group (WILBRG) took intentional steps to expand its scope and scale. This business resource group (BRG) recognized that its opportunity to exert influence extended beyond networking and advocacy, and that the group could have a significant impact on solving real business problems. In the year since the reboot, the BRG has grown by 159 percent to over 700 global members, expanded its scale from one U.S.-based chapter to nine global chapters, and enhanced its overall value, not just to its membership, but to the company overall.
Seven Value Statements that Work
The BRG took a strategic approach to repositioning itself as a business asset. Articulating a clear vision for the group, Powered by Passion, was an important first step. The vision helped create an identifiable brand for the BRG and its work. The group also established seven core values and four broad priorities to inform and align their work across UL functions and locations. This preliminary ground work was instrumental in recasting the BRG as a business resource and ensuring a comprehensive, well-directed message to communicate the change.
WILBRG rolled out a strategy to increase support and visibility among the company’s top leaders. The group convened a series of in-person meetings with senior executives, selectively targeting leaders based on their influence and reach in the organization, and their personal commitment to diversity and inclusion. During the meetings, the BRG communicated its new brand and drove home the impact employee resource groups can have on business results. The meetings paid off. The BRG brought on three additional executive sponsors and secured funding and support for a number of WILBRG initiatives, including approval to organize and lead the company’s first Leadership Summit on Diversity and Inclusion.
WILBRG played a lead role in planning for the summit. The group ensured key executives from different global regions participated, and helped recruit a line-up of external speakers. The BRG also presented information on its work and expanded scope, and shared first-hand how joining a BRG can positively impact the employee experience and improve the bottom-line. The summit marked a major milestone for the organization. Over 1,300 employees participated in the event either in person or virtually, including the CEO and members of the executive team and board. Watch parties were organized in 12 company locations worldwide. The visible commitment and involvement of C-Suite leaders communicated the importance of the enterprise to mid-level managers and encouraged employees to get involved. Outcomes of the inaugural summit included leadership commitment to fund a second summit in 2018 in Europe, establishment of two additional BRGs, and a proposal to establish an Inclusion and Diversity Council. WILBRG is leading the planning for the 2018 summit and is a member of the planning committee for the proposed council.
Over the past year, WILBRG has focused on expanding its global footprint. Under the approach, the BRG’s eight global chapters align their work around the seven values and four shared priorities established for the larger group, but implement the work in ways that fit with the local circumstances and environment in which the chapter operates. For example, engaging women in STEM is one of WILBRG’s global priorities, but what happens around that goal may differ by location. In one location, responding to the priority may focus internally on providing mentoring or education to develop and advance women in the workforce. At another location, the strategy may center around partnering with local schools and colleges to recruit more girls into STEM-related coursework. To facilitate consistent process and practices, the BRG created a global ‘deck’ of information that provides guidance to local WILBRG chapters to instill consistency around goals, values and messaging, and to simplify the process of starting a chapter in a new location.
WILBRG is a prime example of how employee resource groups can be leveraged to propel emerging, diverse leaders to the next career step. The BRG’s leaders and members consistently participate in stretch assignments and take on new roles to grow their skills. Since the BRG expanded its scope and rolled out its global strategy, more than two dozen UL global employees have moved into WILBRG leadership roles, and more than 600 of the group’s members have participated in global membership calls, Yammer chats, and WILBRG-sponsored events and initiatives.
Tips to Expand Scope and Influence