There is an old adage that “time is money.” I would argue it is more than that: time is undoubtedly our most valuable commodity, and for many it has seemed short as of late due to balancing the duties of work and home life in a pandemic. This had us asking, how could we overcome Zoom fatigue and our recent deprivation of meaningful human connection to more deeply support our teams, and thus business outcomes, in this (pardon the buzzword) “new normal”? After all, a new normal means supporting employees in new ways.
Employee resource groups (ERGs), if done well, can act as a catalyst for positive change, a network for close collaboration among colleagues, and a place for individuals across the organization to show leadership.
SpotX created the Parents and Caregivers ERG in September of 2020 as a place for belonging and open communication amongst colleagues — making space for the lost “water cooler collaboration” on a deeper level than we ever had over cold brew in the office.
To share a bit of history, the idea of employee resource groups first started in the 1960s when former Xerox CEO Joseph Wilson created the National Black Employees Caucus in the name of diversity, inclusion, and equity. Acknowledging the state of affairs in America, it seems fitting that SpotX would look to that example and launch ERGs in 2020.
While the aforementioned definition is in line with the initial goal of our Parents and Caregivers ERG, it has taken on a life of its own. As more than half of the SpotX team is made up of parents and caregivers, we’ve formed subgroups, such as for those caring for older adults, high-school-aged children, toddlers, and more, thus giving a more intimate conversation space and allowing for peer-to-peer learning opportunities.
The ERG supports our team members through personal matters that naturally spill over into work.
The mandatory work-from-home orders forced an unprecedented shift, pushing teachers and colleagues into our living rooms, creating an intimate and unexpected experience — and providing the opportunity to rethink how our lives are structured. Together, we are shattering the idea of work-life balance, shifting it into a holistic image of a life where family and career are intertwined.
Media is historically a relationship-driven business and remains so even as tech automates transactional pipes. The ERG plays into this natural tendency of our business and of our employees to build business through connection, while placing a strong focus on overall wellness.
For example, we’ve had a nurse from UCLA guest host one of our early sessions to define COVID-19 exposure and help alleviate employee fears around how to best protect our families. We have had free yoga classes and “Wellness Wednesdays” hosted by our very own Sydney Miller, a fellow leader in the ERG. Our group members have faced insurmountable struggles during this time: miscarriage, homeschooling children who benefit from extra help at school, moving through divorce, being afraid to let their children leave their home, and isolation from extended family. It has been a trying time, to say the least, but we have leaned into each other and it has forever changed the way many of us view work and life — for the better.
Making space for such collaboration at work has made a positive impact in the seven months since we launched the ERG.
We’ve experienced cross-functional collaboration and mentorship, tighter teams, and an increased sense of unity. There is less ME and more WE, which is a powerful shift in reaching our overarching business goals.
Our experience is supported by research: studies show that employees work harder and smarter when they trust their colleagues and leadership. Harvard Business Review calls trust “the foundational element of high-performing organizations,” and research shows that organizations in which team members trust their colleagues beat “the average annualized returns of the S&P 500 by a factor of three.”
Building trust requires authenticity and vulnerability. The ERG has offered a space for increased authenticity during work hours, and we’ve seen that encouraging team members to bring their authentic selves to work benefits the bottom line.
As Herminia Ibarra writes in HBR, by bringing their true self to work and being accepted, employees feel comfortable to oppose norms and propose out-of-the-box ideas, fostering the innovation necessary for success in the tech sector.
No longer do I think of colleagues as simply people I speak to during the 9-to-5 daily grind, these are the people I share the majority of my time with, and I have deeper respect for them knowing the background of their lives. It has led to a deeper sense of belonging. It is yet to be determined whether the group will influence retention, but I would venture to guess that this group will have a higher employee retention rate and satisfaction rating than non-ERG members.
While the ERG has exceeded our expectations in the business sense, it has also touched hearts and lives in ways we could not have imagined. It has been a truly valuable exercise to build this group and I say that being someone who is very conscious of time investment. With that lens in mind, I can attest to the true value of dedicating company time to support employees through ERGs.
There is no work-life balance; there is a life in which both family and career are nurtured and able to thrive within the confines of the 24-hour day. On a larger scale, how does the future of work evolve to be more understanding and inclusive of families and parents? The future is TBD, but I am going into 2021 with the hopes of returning to my colleagues “IRL” and with gratitude for the support and friendships I have found with some people I have never met in person. It has been an experience and we are forever changed.
If you were wondering if an ERG is right for your organization, I hope this has left you with a resounding YES.
No matter your job role, I encourage you to lean into unity, trust, and increased collaboration. Your team will not only be better positioned for success, they will also be able to lean into one flow state where their business and family are intertwined, and thus both are strengthened.
If you’d like to chat about starting your own ERG, or if you are a SpotX employee not yet involved in our Parents and Caregivers ERG, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author
Catherine is a former expat and New York native currently living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with her husband and two-year-old twins. Catherine is the co-lead of SpotX’s Parents and Caregivers ERG, an active participant in the Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Steering Committee, as well as a content creator and the ongoing host of the quarterly Women in Leadership Fireside Chat. This is all in addition to her “day job” as a Regional Vice President at SpotX, where she and her team manage East Coast media owner relationships, both new and existing. Catherine joined SpotX a year and a half ago after a long tenure at Rubicon Project (now Magnite) in both London and New York City.