When Crystal Montufar started at Fusion Risk Management, she had blue hair.
The color choice always seemed to turn heads, and the first person to notice at FRM was Co-Founder and then-CEO David Nolan.
“On my first day, David came up to me and said, ‘I love your hair. If anyone says anything to you about it, let me know. It’s important for you to be you when you're here,” Montufar said.
Montufar said she had never experienced such a warm reception in the corporate world, especially from executive leadership. It set the tone that she was hired not only for her work experience and pedigree, but also for her unique perspective and ideas.
Good leadership knows when to act; better leadership knows when to listen.
Last June, HR Business Partner Victoria Price felt the company could be doing more to promote DEI and attract diverse candidates. After researching employee resource groups (ERGs) and connecting with fellow HR colleagues, she proposed the idea of initiating three ERG groups to the executive leadership team.
Similar to Montufar’s experience with executive leadership, Price said the process was filled with warmth and support.
“When we asked for executive sponsors, people were raising their hands so quickly — I don’t know if I’ve ever smiled that hard,” Price said.
Price said that through ERGs, employees are able to share perspectives and, more importantly, feel heard. The end goal of these conversations is not to agree on the same issue; it’s to better understand each other.
As the company amplifies its DEI efforts, CEO Mike Campbell said leaders are taking a look at all aspects of the company, including hiring. By leaning on resources from investor Vista Equity Partners, Campbell said recent efforts to attract diverse candidates have included changing job descriptions to be more inclusive, updating Fusion’s career page to better represent the company as a whole, and engaging career development organizations.
Below, Montufar, Price and Campbell shared how DEI-focused ERGs created a domino effect of positive change throughout Fusion Risk Management, and what that means for the future.
Why is DEI so important to corporate culture?
CEO Mike Campbell: Having been in the technology business for a long time, I know a diverse and inclusive workplace leads to better outcomes for the business and for our customers as it reduces groupthink. DEI is critical if you want to have a high-performing culture and a high-performing organization.
Victoria, what inspired you to start Fusion’s employee resource groups? What was the process like?
HR Business Partner Victoria Price: DEI is something that is embedded in my role. When I was first hired, I told my boss I wanted to work on diversity and inclusion, something near to my heart since college. We were focusing on how to get more diverse candidates in the door and I proposed that one of the ways to do so was through starting employee resource groups (ERG). It’s not as if people weren't feeling welcomed, but I felt there was room for us to do more.
I did research with my network of HR professionals and reached out to the larger Vista portfolio to talk with some of the other companies that had launched their ERG programs. The most meaningful feedback I got was that you might make a mistake. And if you make a mistake, just simply start over.
The most meaningful feedback I got was that you might make a mistake.”
I put together a presentation of the purpose of ERGs and the value that they can bring to our organization. I also came up with some initial groups that are reflective of Fusion, which are our Black/African American ERG, our LGBTQ+ ERG and our women’s ERG.
Having volunteer executive sponsorship for an ERG is critical. I was invited to present the ERG program to our executive leadership during one of their meetings, and the response to the program was overwhelming. When we asked for executive sponsors, people were raising their hands so quickly — I don't know if I’ve ever smiled that hard.
What has the impact of these ERGs been on company culture?
Project Manager Crystal Montufar: I credit Victoria as the pioneer woman who helped bring ERGs to the company. I can attest they were very, very wanted. Granted, we’re small and we’re growing, but before she came in, the DEI initiatives were limited.
Once the ERGs started, you could see the change in the company. More people were talking that didn’t normally talk. I can see how our new employees who started during the pandemic are being brought into everything. We have these morning social times and quizzes on Fridays that are open to anyone. We have cool solutions where our business analysts show off things that they've done for anyone in the company. DEI is developing at Fusion, but we can already see the fruits of the labor.
Statistical Benefits of ERGs
What kind of responses have you seen come from the ERGs, Victoria?
Price: There have been many meaningful and enlightening conversations as a result of having our ERGs. The conversations are about things that we would not normally talk about and things that may seem uncomfortable.
I sit in all three of the ERGs so I get a taste of each one. Some of the conversations that have come out of them have been overwhelming. The ERGs provide employees with a safe space to share their voice and be heard regarding things that are happening in the world and about things that affect them directly. We take a moment to talk about those situations, being respectful and accepting the perspective of others.
Crystal, can you walk us through how these initiatives helped navigate a sensitive topic?
Montufar: When George Floyd died, I felt very strongly about it. I was in a zone. However, when we came together and had a company-wide conversation with our community outreach program Fusion Cares, it was very open and we were able to share our feelings without feeling like we were going to be attacked or judged. I think that says a lot about working here. It meant a lot to have a safe space where people could express themselves and try to understand others’ feelings.
Alternative Actions for DEI Success
- Net Promoter scores
- Company surveys
- Pre-interview testing to look at a person’s cognitive abilities as opposed to their pedigree
- Altering the verbiage in job descriptions to attract a diverse candidate pool
What do you see for the future of DEI at FRM?
Price: We have executive sponsors who are actually going in and mentoring people in the ERGs, which is super valuable because employees may not be able to see who’s in that executive-level position, especially in large organizations. The executive leadership team really gets a chance to understand and know the people that they work with.
In the future, I want to make sure that we have many community connections because there is work to do externally, as well as internally. We operate in a community, so we have to make sure that we have partnerships within the community to ensure people outside Fusion understand we’re here to support and help.
I would say you’re never too small to start looking at diversity as a top corporate goal.”
What advice do you have for any other companies who want to start their own DEI programs?
Campbell: I would say you’re never too small to start looking at diversity as a top corporate goal. In today’s market, you cannot be top of class if you don't have a diverse and inclusive workplace. When you prioritize diversity, beyond it being the right thing to do, you get better talent, better outcomes, and a better environment. It’s not something to think about only when you’re big. Start early and make it part of the culture of your organization.