The Cisco employee resource groups (ERGs) help reinforce the Cisco goal of having employees bring their “total self” to work, fostering a more inclusive, collaborative, and innovative environment. The ERGs play a key role in supporting the Cisco business initiatives by uncovering marketing needs, exploring areas of potential growth, and creating meaningful dialogues that lead to business opportunities. By valuing the differences that make each person unique, these groups can increase Cisco’s competitive advantage and increase profits.
To assist ERGs in becoming stronger business partners, we worked with Jennifer Brown Consulting to create the ERG Progression Model. This model enables ERGs to assess themselves, their work and their evolution as organizations.
This new framework allows ERG members to:
- Actively engage on the ERG strategy and action planning process by identifying next phase structural and competency goals
- Increase engagement by building competencies of ERGs to support recruitment and retention of diverse employees
- Expand ERG capability to insert into new markets and related adjacencies
- Establish a tool and process that balances structural needs with individual ERG autonomy
It is always a challenge to develop and implement a new method among established organizations. To ensure a smooth adoption at Cisco, I incorporated three key tactics:
- Obtaining stakeholder buy-in: By tying into Cisco business goals, I was able to show our executives the value of having a scorecard for ERGs. I also scheduled check-in points along the development process to keep the executives apprised of the progress.
- Leveraging familiar procedures and vocabulary: I identified the existing internal vocabulary and processes used within the organizational culture. Then I integrated them into the model, creating a natural bridge between the familiar and the new.
- Making ERGs part of the change: From the beginning, I worked with the ERGs on the drafts and the pilot programs, encouraging their participation and giving them a way to have their voices heard.
The impact of establishing the ERG Progression Model at Cisco was amazing. The ERGs felt the model “got rid of the noise” and help them be more focused. They had a definitive blueprint and robust toolkit to help them develop toward attainable goals. The executives now have valuable data to assist them in knowing when and where to engage ERGs in their business initiatives for greater results.
One of the important lessons learned by both the ERGs and executives was that, no matter where the ERG fell in the model spectrum, there wasn’t a bad phase for the ERGs to be in. Each phase had value in itself and even staying in a particular phase for an extended period of time was acceptable, allowing the ERG to delve deeper.
As the ERGs continue to progress through the model at their various paces, it is important to remember that the ERG Progression Model is a living, breathing journey. It is not a rigid methodology, but actually has a heartbeat that needs nurturing and finessing so it continues to be of value.