Networking Matters

January 10, 2012 
Networking Matters - Creating and Sustaining an Effective Employee Resource Group (ERG) 

The 10th BLN Breakfast Series Event sponsored by CIBC 

The morning began with breakfast and networking opportunities on the 56th floor of Commerce Court West. Official welcome and opening comments were delivered on Behalf of CIBC’s Sharon Wingfelder, Vice-President, Diversity and Resourcing. Sharon spoke about the importance of a diverse workforce, “Our team at CIBC is made up of people from every walk of life and diversity brings with it a tremendous range of experience and perspectives and I believe that it is a key contributor to our success as an organization.”

Specific to the topic we are highlighting today, Sharon added, “Our WorkAbility network celebrates the achievements of employees in the workplace and plays a key role in helping CIBC provide better accessibility and reasonable accommodation, where both our employees and customers can promote an understanding of issues relevant to persons with disabilities in the workplace which ultimately make sour bank a better place to work.”

Matt Petersen, Director of CIBC Diversity Strategies and MC and Speaker, referred to the Ontario JOIN annual conference workshop and highlighted the dialogue leading to today’s event. All attendees were polled on registration and the following results were presented by Matt:

  • 51% indicated they have an Employee Resource Group
  • 49% indicated they do not have an ERG
  • 65% felt their ERG was functioning fairly well
  • 82% who do not have an ERG indicated they are looking at forming an ERG
  • 82% indicated they are interested in coming together to form a larger ERG Council

Matt reinforced the message for the morning, “This is the beginning of what we hope to be an exciting venture with Ontario JOIN in forming networking opportunities with ourselves and our employees going forward.”

Matt reviewed the structure and history of the CIBC’s eight Affinity Networks (ERGs) with those attending, how CIBC was able to establish its ERGs, the importance of having funding behind the establishment (whether that be executive sponsorship or through fundraising), ensuring a vision, mission and values statements for the ERG, and the importance of leadership and clearly articulated roles and responsibilities.

Matt then spoke about the uniqueness of the WorkAbility ERG at CIBC and how in 2010 CIBC began its journey to re-vitalize its ERG. Matt reviewed all of the strategies and activities CIBC undertook to be able to bring the WorkAbility ERG to its rejuvenated state today.

Each table then discussed one key question and reported back on one new idea that was shared at the table.

Sharon Myatt, Ontario JOIN’s Employer Development Consultant, then reviewed the role that Ontario JOIN could play in forming an Ontario JOIN Inter-Corporate Employee Resource Group Council. She then invited audience members to be part of the formation of the Council and highlighted some of the suggested activities and supports that Ontario JOIN could provide as the ERG Inter-Corporate Network host:

  • Provision of Inter-Connection Amongst ERGs
  • Formation of Ontario JOIN ERG Advisory Council Leadership Positions, Governance Model Framework, Working Group
  • Creation of Vision, Mission, Values
  • Monthly Meetings of ERG Advisory Council (Meeting Schedules, Agendas, Minutes, Circulation)
  • Support Newly-Emerged ERGs Throughout Start-up Phase
  • Support Member Organizations with Best Practices, Lessons Learned, Gaps, Statistics
  • Hold Annual Forum for All ERG Member Organizations
  • Provision of Quarterly E-Newsletter Featuring Success Stories, New Ideas, Emerging Workplace Issues
  • Tap Into USBLN ERGs – Cross Communication and Educational Opportunities
  • Provision of Educational Materials on AODA Standards Implementation
  • Assist with Recruiting Job Seekers with Disabilities
  • Assist with Onboarding Best Practices
  • Provision of Mentoring Opportunities Through Ontario JOIN Mentoring Connection
  • Provision of Linkages to Other BLNs in Canada
  • Provision of Networking Opportunities Through Social Media
  • Access to Calendar of Events, Seminars, Webinars Related to Inclusion and Disability

Deepak Soni, Chair of Ontario JOIN Board of Directors, then thanked CIBC and the audience and announced the next BLN event featuring Randy Lewis from Walgreen’s who has hired over 600 people with disabilities into the Walgreen’s distribution centres in the US and Kyle Maynard, award winning author of No Excuses and first quadruple amputee to get to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro’s peak on January 15, 2012 without assistance. The Atlanta native crawled all 19,340 feet of the tallest mountain in Africa by wrapping bike tires and gorilla tape around his limbs.