Employee resource groups help strengthen connection in times of uncertainty

By Rosanna Durruthy

If there is a silver lining of this challenging time, it’s that it’s given many of us an opportunity to slow down and remember what is most important in life: relationships. While limited social contact both at work and in our personal lives has been difficult, it’s also provided companies a unique opportunity to help build connections among employees, and employee resource groups (ERGs) have become a particularly powerful platform of engagement to help build community in our new remote workspaces.

The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented groups has underscored the importance of community and support among black, Latinx, and Asian communities. ERGs have the power to amplify the voices of underserved communities that have been deeply impacted during this challenging time.

While these ERGs have traditionally gathered via in-office meetings and events, thanks to technology, companies can adapt these programs, so employees can continue to connect virtually.

Mental health resources

One common thread we’ve heard across ERGs is the importance of mental and emotional health during a period where we’re spending a lot of time inside, and oftentimes, alone.

At Salesforce, their ERGs are working together to launch an employee donation challenge and matching program to support communities. For example, Outforce, their LGBTQIA+ ERG, is donating to The Trevor Project to help provide crisis counseling during the crisis.

At LinkedIn, our Black Inclusion Group (BIG) leaders recently hosted a virtual mental health check-in with Dr. Michael McRae, assistant commissioner of the Bureau of Health Promotion for Justice-Impacted Populations at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. During this one-hour, virtual discussion, Dr. McRae provided our employees with a view of COVID-19’s impact on black and Latinx communities, and methods for effectively navigating this moment in time.

Support for working parents

During the pandemic, many are having to take on additional responsibilities at home with children out of school. As a parent myself, I know how difficult this juggle can be. It is no longer practical to expect undivided attention toward our work during the day while we take care of kids at home.

Companies have been responding to this reality by providing resources for working parents. Workday, for example, is giving its employees a one-time cash bonus equal to two weeks pay to help offset additional childcare costs. And Wells Fargo announced a number of updates at the outset of the virus including changes to its short-term disability plan as well as additional financial support for parents with small children at home to care for during the day.

Knowing that we’re not alone, and the feeling of support from other parents dealing with similar situations can be incredibly impactful.

Strengthening our global connective tissue

Employee resource groups also offer an opportunity to build allyship and create an environment for employees to learn from those whose identities and cultural norms are different from their own.

At LinkedIn, the Embrace ERG, which celebrates individuals from all backgrounds, cultures, and nationalities, recently hosted a virtual show-and-tell where employees across 11 offices including those in Brazil, the United States, Malaysia, and London across 22 different cultural, national, and ethnic backgrounds all joined in sharing family keepsakes, travel stories, and more. The event was incredibly inspiring, and a great opportunity to connect and share with people across the globe.

As we look ahead to June, Pride Month is often a time where allies join their LGBTQ+ peers to champion inclusivity and belonging in the workforce. Out & Equal, a nonprofit that champions workplace equality for LGBTQ+ employees, has created a guidebook for ERGs on ways to celebrate virtually. While established traditions will look different this year, this is a global moment to celebrate authenticity and belonging with LGBTQ+ and ally communities.

Uncertainty provides an opportunity to build new relationships, to support each other in transcending these challenging moments. With the potential for all of us to be allies, our actions can cause us to create belonging for each other.

Rosanna Durruthy is LinkedIn’s vice president of Global Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging.


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