Employee Resource Groups at NextRoll

As the world enters a new era of working remotely, the way our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) operate will also evolve. ERGs at NextRoll are voluntary, Roller-led groups that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with NextRoll’s mission, values, and goals. At NextRoll they have a dual purpose: 

(1) helping Rollers find and feel a sense of community and support and 

(2) acting as a strategic business partner and resource for NextRoll. 

One of the biggest questions I’ve faced over the course of two months of sheltering in place and moving to 100% remote work is: “How can we continue employee engagement within ERGs virtually?” Below are my top 3 learnings on what I’ve discovered matters most to employees and some tactics on how our ERGs are engaging virtually.

1. Building Community 

Employees want to continue to feel like they can build community. With so much news surrounding us today from strict social distancing measures, increased racism towards the Asian community, and disproportionate statistics around how black and brown people are infected with COVID-19 in the US, it has become increasingly important for employees to access safe spaces where they feel they can continue to build a community. Here is how NextRoll’s ERGs are doing just that:

  • RollAsia, ERG for our Asian and Pacific Islander Rollers & Allies, hosted a virtual trivia happy hour where attendees were quizzed on Asian and Pacific Islander history.
  • RollDeep, ERG for our Black / African-American Rollers & Allies, engaged in a slack discussion over Ahmaud Arbery’s death and the impact that it has had on the black community.
  • ChaiRoll, ERG for our Jewish Rollers & Allies, hosted a virtual Happy Hour discussing the recent documentary of Unorthodox, about the Hasidic Jewish community. 
  • RollVeterans, ERG for our Veteran and Veteran family Rollers & Allies, will celebrate Memorial Day and commemorate those who have served their countries with a moment of silence and highlighting military members across the organization at our Global Company All Hands. 

As a result of ERGs creating these spaces, employees were able to interact with folks across the company and increase cultural awareness.

2. Personal & Professional Development

Employees want to continue to feel like they have an opportunity to advance personally and professionally. Speaking from personal experience, I want to feel like COVID-19 isn’t preventing me from moving forward with my life. Since shelter in place started over two months ago, I’ve picked up new hobbies such as cooking, learning how to make my favorite cocktail, and even making time to see a therapist. Here is how our ERGs are creating personal & professional development opportunities for our Rollers:

  • RollAble, ERG for our Rollers who experience mental or physical health challenges & Allies, is launching a newly formed Mental Well-Being Peer Program focused on building healthy habits to help navigate the ‘new normal’ with support from a peer. 
  • RollWomen, ERG for our Women Rollers & Allies, launched Lean In Circles virtually and a Bridging the Confidence Gap workshop focused on tackling barriers women face in the workplace.

ERGs have opened the doors to many learning opportunities.  They have provided increased opportunities for development AND a much-needed distraction from the unknown that surrounds us.

3. Giving Back

COVID-19 has united many to want to give back and support those in need. ERGs have been one foundational source to open doors for folks to understand their community and their needs during this time. Here is how our ERGs are giving back and creating awareness on how our Rollers can give back during COVID-19:

  • RainbowRoll, ERG for our LGBT+ Rollers & Allies, is collaborating with our RollAble ERG to spotlight the Trevor Project in an upcoming Lunch and Learn presentation during Pride Week. “COVID-19 has serious implications for the mental health of LGBTQ youth…Even prior to the pandemic, LGBTQ youth have been found to be at significantly increased risk for depression, anxiety, substance use, and suicide…Thus, LGBTQ youth may be particularly vulnerable to negative mental health impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.” Read more about the implications of COVID-19 and Mental Health for LGBTQ youth here.
  • RollMigos, ERG for our Hispanic / LatinX Rollers & Allies, donated to La Cocina, a nonprofit in San Francisco working to solve problems of equity in business ownership for women, immigrants and people of color. “Within weeks, sales of La Cocina-born businesses have declined 80-100%. Many entrepreneurs have made the heartbreaking decision to temporarily close their business and lay off staff.” If you are interested in donating, donate here.

Supporting local business and donating to a cause that matters to you is one small way folks can help during this time. Additionally, even simple acts of kindness like supporting those that are job seeking or sending handwritten cards to essential workers go a long way. As a result of giving back, there is an increased sense of gratitude and energy from feeling like we are doing what we can to help from afar.

While COVID-19 has forced us all to shelter in place, it has also created an opportunity to take stock of what truly matters to employees. With our new found learnings and adoption of new ways of engaging our workforce virtually, two things continue to stay true: ERGs are a source of building a community and a strategic partner to the organization. We’ve learned community and partnership isn’t contingent upon physical proximity. Building community and partnership to the organization is a mindset and we’ve continued to see that mindset in action.

Claudia Villanueva is the Sr. D&I Program Manager @ NextRoll