The Power of Belonging at KLAS - Cover

The Power of Belonging at KLAS

Belong is my passion word. It is so important to me that the employees of our company feel they belong and that they can bring their authentic selves to work.

I used to work for a multinational company with over 20,000 employees. That company had developed dozens of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or groups designed to bring together like-minded minorities and allow their voices to be heard. I witnessed the differences that these groups made in the lives of the individuals who were a part of them and the company as a whole.

Later, I transitioned to my current role as Chief People and Culture Officer at KLAS, a company with around 200 employees. Within my first week or two, I met Kyle Chilton. Kyle and a few of his colleagues were interested in forming a workplace group for members of the LGBTQ+ community. I used my previous experience with ERGs to help Kyle develop a governance and structure for the group. At our first official meeting, the conference room was filled to the brim. People were sitting on the couches around the edges of the room just so they could listen and participate. This marked the beginning of the ERG era at KLAS.

After the first ERG was launched, four other ERGs popped up in a matter of months. Here is a complete list of those ERGs with brief descriptions.

LGBTQ+ ERG: The purpose of this group is to help members of the LGBTQ+ community, amplify their voices, and make sure needs and opportunities exist within the organization for that group. The LGBTQ+ group has used their collective power to raise awareness, advise leadership on various policies, and organize outreach projects for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Women’s ERG: This is our newest and largest ERG. It was formed by two former women-based groups at KLAS, the Lean In Group for Women and a women’s leadership group. These two groups have been combined with two new co-chairs. The Women’s ERG has now opened its doors to include allies of women, and men often attend the meetings. Our most recent meeting was a large event celebrating International Women’s Day.

Parents of Children with Disabilities ERG: This ERG was put together to help parents with disabled children have a place to share thoughts and ideas about the unique challenges they face. The group offers them a safe space to talk and bolster each other up. This ERG tends to be very hands-on and supportive. Members are not afraid to share the problems they are wrestling with, brainstorm solutions, and share their experiences and ideas.

Mental Health and Wellness ERG: Society has put a lot of mechanisms into place for people who are who are physically ill. But oftentimes, people with mental health conditions are not afforded the same opportunities because mental health doesn't manifest itself like other sicknesses. There is no blood test that proves depression. There is no DNA test for anxiety. These are the nontangible diagnoses. I am excited about this group because it provides a good opportunity to make the company more aware of the of the pervasiveness of mental health challenges in our country.

Neurodiversity ERG: This is a newer ERG that differentiates itself from the Mental Health and Wellness Group in that it focuses on individuals with lifelong learning differences, such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and other forms of neurodiversity. It is the stance of the ERG that these learning differences can actually be good and can allow for diversity of thought and being. This group also tends to be fairly hands on and open in discussing individual struggles and differences both inside and outside of the workplace.

The data from a cultural standpoint is clear and repetitive: companies that are more diverse and accepting of diversity are better producing companies. They generate more revenue than other companies. Of course, we also want to change policies to make sure everyone is protected, and we want to make sure our company provides the best environment possible. But really, ERGs are about changing our culture.

As the breadth and depth of our ERGs continue to develop, my vision is that they will become unified forces for good in our company. These ERGs are already moving and shaping the culture of our organization as they bring forward challenges and we face those challenges together.

Photo Credit: Stratford Productions, Adobe Stock