How Five Local Companies Are Building Inclusive Workplaces

Over the last few years, many companies have developed robust ERGs to support employees and build more inclusive workplaces. Built In Chicago heard from five local ERG leaders about how they are building meaningful communities within their workplaces.
Written by Brigid Hogan
March 29, 2023Updated: March 29, 2023

As companies continue to navigate the potential pitfalls of flexible workplace policies, losing opportunities to build team connections remains a common concern. But according to Future Forum’s Winter Pulse Survey, hybrid and flexible employees report a higher sense of connection with their managers and company values than those working entirely in-office.

For many organizations, employee resource groups have become a vital tool for colleagues to build connections with peers outside of their immediate teams, foster a sense of belonging and provide support for historically underrepresented individuals in the tech workplace.

Beyond the value for those involved in ERGs today, though, are the benefits offered for those in the future. 

“I feel a deep sense of responsibility to act as a resource to my Invenergy colleagues and the next generation of clean energy professionals,” said Rhonda Jones, vice president of reliability compliance at Invenergy and co-founder of the Black and Brown at Invenergy ERG. “I take tremendous pride in being part of a group that is actively working to improve the experience of diverse people at my company and in this growing industry.”

And when done right, ERGs don’t exist as isolated pockets within the workplace but function as a network of support that allows members to engage with one another and across ERGs to build deeper connections.

Patricia Cabiles, software engineer at Checkout.com, is part of an ERG celebrating the diversity of the Asian community within the company. According to Cabiles, sharing her culture helps create a meaningful sense of belonging for her and for others.

“I really enjoy my cultural traditions and my unique blend of life experiences, but I’m even more energized when I share this with other people,” Cabiles said. “Our communities give everyone the platform to do exactly that.”

Built In Chicago learned more about how robust ERGs support a diverse and inclusive workplace from Jones, Cabiles and three other local ERG leaders.


 

Chivas Wilson
Senior Manager, Technology Enablement • HAVI

Tell us about your employee resource group.

BOLD (The Black Organization for Leadership and Development) started out as a grassroots effort for HAVI employees of Black and African descent to network quarterly and celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, promotions and other achievements in our community. In 2015, BOLD became recognized as an official HAVI ERG. At that time, we developed a name, mission, vision, logo and surveyed our community to better understand their needs.

BOLD was built on the foundation of self-efficacy by focusing on the importance of establishing meaningful relationships and empowering members of our community with the support, tools and information they need to succeed.

Our mission is to lead the charge at HAVI in the creation of an environment of equality, awareness and acceptance of cultural diversity, which provides the tools and support necessary for personal and professional development of all employees, specifically those of African descent, through communication, education and allyship.

 

Why is your work with the ERG important to you?

I joined the BOLD leadership board because of the drive and commitment to success I observed from the previous board members. I wanted to contribute to those successes. I stayed on because I wanted to participate and help drive the next phase of growth for BOLD. There is such an abundance of value opportunities both internal and external from BOLD, and I want to be a part of that.

BOLD is a community that assists in fostering individual growth both professionally and personally within a safe space that is conducive to learning. As a member of BOLD, you can expect the leadership team to provide continued opportunities to build professional presence and personal growth through education, coaching and volunteerism.

 

Share an example of the impact your ERG has had in building an inclusive community.

On June 15, 2022, BOLD sponsored a virtual presentation — Juneteenth: The Legacy Explained — to honor the first year that HAVI/tms celebrated Juneteenth as an official company holiday. During this presentation we heard from Mr. Hubert C. Jackson, Jr. who was a 35-year educator with the Chicago Public Schools and won four city titles in the Know Your Heritage competition. We felt that this was a great opportunity for Mr. Jackson to share his knowledge of the significance, heritage and history of Juneteenth with us.

I am extremely proud of the accomplishments that BOLD has achieved over the last few years. We have been visibly active with education of African American history and culture as well as contributing to the HAVI and tms Better Future Blueprint action areas of people and communities, helping people and communities to thrive, and collaboration, partnering to drive systemic change.

 

 

Tammy Tian
Engineer • Reverb

Tell us about your employee resource group.

Reverb is fostering a passionate community of buyers and sellers that is as diverse as music itself, and creating an inclusive work environment is crucial to sustaining the best marketplace for music makers everywhere. 

We launched our Mental Health and Wellness ERG in early 2022 to provide a safe space for employees to discuss mental health and well-being, foster connections and share stories of our journeys toward more healthy and balanced lives. 

As one of the co-leads, I help fulfill the ERG’s mission to empower members with awareness of the benefits and resources they have access to and advocate for a “mental health first” culture at Reverb.

 

Why is your work with the ERG important to you?

My work with the Mental Health and Wellness ERG is important to me because I want to make sure that everyone feels the same support that I felt when I first started working at Reverb. 

During the height of the pandemic I needed a change of pace, so I started job hunting. During my job hunt, Reverb stood out to me because I could tell that its main mission was to make the world more musical. The idea that I could work in an environment where my coworkers prioritized joy and music was very appealing. 

When I first joined Reverb, I was juggling grad school, work and life in general. I was feeling completely burnt out. Even as a new employee, I felt safe enough to tell my manager how I was feeling and work with HR to discuss my options. I felt supported in a way I had never experienced previously. 

Based on my personal experience, I feel I have resources and insights that I can share with my colleagues to make work work for them and help ensure Reverb remains a joyful and people-first place to work.

 

Share an example of the impact your ERG has had in building an inclusive community.

At Reverb, we often host outside speakers who share their story or expertise with the company. The Mental Health and Wellness ERG recently hosted a speaker who talked about rethinking the meaning of productivity in America and how, as individuals, we can make little changes to bring autonomy back into our work life.  

Based on the feedback we received, we know this event helped many colleagues feel seen and heard. More importantly, the event created a path to help Reverbers bring up and navigate topics that might have otherwise felt difficult to raise with managers and peers — whether they struggle with things like anxiety, imposter syndrome or time management. People who attended the event were empowered with language to discuss their individual needs with their manager, and managers were empowered with questions to ask and resources to support their team members. 

The speaker’s perspective resonated so much that we even had a healthy discussion about it during our company-wide town hall event the following week, and I continue to hear from people who still find it helpful.

 

 

Alex Light
Client Success Team Lead • Arrive Logistics

Tell us about your employee resource group.

PRISMS is an LGBTQIA+  employee-led group in which we work to foster a community of inclusivity and equity by supporting and accepting each and every person no matter one’s background. Not only do we have a close community at Arrive, but we are always advocating for underrepresented groups within our local communities through networking events, educational programs and more. 

PRISMS and Arrive’s five other ERGs  were created to uphold our social responsibility as an industry-leading company and continue the momentum in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in the workplace. The transportation industry hasn’t historically been known for its diversity and the need for ERGs became clear to help foster DEI as a part of Arrive’s growth. The leads who laid the foundation for what PRISMS is today deserve such praise for advocating for our community within this industry. PRISMS is a huge part of Arrive’s culture, and we are consistently working on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives to positively impact our organization and community as a whole. I can’t wait to see the impact PRISMS will have in Arrive’s future.

 

Why is your work with the ERG important to you?

PRISMS is a huge part of why I love working at Arrive. I dealt with a lot of nerves prior to my start date at Arrive two years ago. I had been in the service industry for 10 years and knew I was taking a huge leap by starting in a new work environment and career.  During our training program, we were introduced to all six of Arrive’s ERGs, and I felt so relieved to see opportunities for LGBTQIA+ community. 

After becoming acclimated to the Arrive culture and my new role, I was given the opportunity to be a PRISMS leader in one of Arrive’s new offices in San Antonio, Texas. Several other leaders and I were given the valuable chance to build a team and culture from the ground up with PRISMS. To this day, I have an array of pride flags sticking out of the top of my computer, always representing Prisms and the LGBTQIA+ community any way I can. So far, we have organized canned food drives, planned company outings, hosted a company-wide Linkedin Learning contest and much more. 

 

Share an example of the impact your ERG has had in building an inclusive community.

Allyship is such an important core value to PRISMS and Arrive’s other ERGs. I believe the partnerships we have launched with our Black Logistics Group, Women in Logistics and Unidos ERGs and other Arrivers play a vital role toward reaching our overall goals in the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond. The first PRISMS event I attended was a happy hour where I was immediately welcomed with open arms. I was so happy to meet so many allies who accepted my authentic self and who are part of my work environment every day. I hope that we can continue to bring this type of energy to Arrive and that others continue to show up as an ally for all ERGs.

 

 

Checkout.com employees chat in the company's New York office
Checkout.com
Patricia Cabiles
Software Engineer • Checkout.com

Tell us about your employee resource group. 

Our Asia Community was born just before the pandemic, so its immediate priority was to help our colleagues to connect during a difficult time. The community served almost as an escape by reorienting our colleagues’ minds from the challenges we were all facing then and bringing the joys and celebrations integral to Asian culture to the forefront. That remains one of our key pillars today. 

In addition to connection, we also enhance our company culture by expanding awareness of Asian culture. Being such a big continent, Asia has such rich customs and traditions. Our community gives our members a platform to celebrate their own culture and share the nuances within it, while also providing insight for those who are looking to become more active allies.

We’ve recently grown our Asia Community leadership team to six colleagues from across the business. We’ve worked incredibly well as a team so far and have lots of plans for the year ahead, including continuing our Chai and Chat series and our Career Conversation series with Checkout.com’s senior leaders. We aspire to grow our community further and develop more programming across our 20 regional offices.

 

Why is your work with the ERG important to you?

I’m extremely curious about how different cultures shape a person. I was born in the Philippines and moved to London when I was 10, so I experienced two distinct cultures during my formative years. Equal portions of my identity are rooted in both my Filipino heritage and my more English social upbringing. This isn’t a unique experience — many people share similar experiences. I love learning about how people embody their cultures, especially when identifying with two or more! 

With the way the world is evolving, it’s more likely that more people will have their own unique blends of cultures. Personally, I find it fascinating how people stay connected to their heritage — some root themselves through food, some it’s about taking part in specific cultural events throughout the year or some even find community through shared songs and phrases. The sense of belonging you feel finding shared culture is unparalleled.

 

Share an example of the impact your ERG has had in building an inclusive community.

We use exciting, in-person events to bring people together and foster inclusion. The first in-person event I experienced with the community was Eid last May — we had great food in the office and a henna artist visited us. It was a very interactive event, and it was one of the first big events held after coming back into the office. It was quite refreshing to see a lot of people in person. 

We recently celebrated Chinese or Lunar New Year in January together with the rest of Checkout.com. This was the first event that the global Asia Community leadership team worked on together, which made it a challenging yet fun project. We had several colleagues across different regions share how they celebrate the new year. It was really insightful to see how different cultural backgrounds celebrate the same holiday — among other things, we learned new and different greetings widely used during this time. 

In our London office, we arranged Asian food and a Lion Dance. It was uplifting to see London colleagues experiencing important cultural traditions as a community. We aim to create shared experiences like this that bring people together and encourage everyone to bring their full selves to work.

 

 

Rhonda Jones
VP, Reliability Compliance & Co-Founder, Black and Brown at Invenergy • Invenergy

Tell us about your employee resource group.

Black and Brown at Invenergy was established in the fall of 2019 to increase awareness, opportunity, participation and advocacy for people of African ancestry in sustainable energy careers. Today, women and people of color continue to be underrepresented in sustainable energy industries, and as someone who identifies with both of these groups, Black and Brown at Invenergy has created space for other energy professionals like me to connect. 

Black and Brown at Invenergy offers my colleagues and me a platform to share our experiences and grow professionally. Our combination of internal and external events help cultivate a supportive environment for people of color looking to both break into the industry, learn from others in the field and ultimately, succeed at Invenergy. I believe our work goes beyond your typical corporate programming and reflects the power of diversity and inclusion as a means to bring people together.

 

Why is your work with the ERG important to you?

The work we do at Black and Brown at Invenergy is important to me because I feel a sincere obligation to help other people realize the opportunities available in this industry and encourage a culture of belonging, listening, and identifying solutions to address challenges. As a person of African ancestry, I know first-hand how hard it can be to navigate the realities of both the corporate and energy world. By creating constructive ways to address inequities and meet the needs of employees of color, I believe our efforts have an immediate and tangible impact on Invenergy and our company culture.

 

Share an example of the impact your ERG has had in building an inclusive community.

I am incredibly proud of the many ways Black and Brown at Invenergy has encouraged a deeper cultural awareness among many of my colleagues. For example, during Black History Month, we introduced “Culture Fridays,” where each week we highlighted a region influenced by the African diaspora. We would share the history of each region, enjoy its food and music, invite Invenergy personnel with a connection to the region to speak and bond over the shared experience of learning about the various cultures that exist within the diaspora.

By the end of the month, the events were standing room only and a fun way for everyone, from junior employees to senior leadership, to connect through a shared experience. Events like “Culture Fridays” highlight how Black and Brown at Invenergy brings our community together and has fostered a more inclusive and collaborative workplace.

 

Jobs from companies in this blog

Chicago startup guides

LOCAL GUIDE
Best Companies to Work for in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Coolest Offices in Chicago Tech
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Perks at Chicago Tech Companies
LOCAL GUIDE
Women in Chicago Tech