Employee Resource Groups – Adding Business Value

Terry Deas, Director of Diversity for Cracker Barrel and Jackie Akbari

Terry Deas, Director of Diversity for Cracker Barrel and Jackie Akbari

by Dennis A. Stull

Middle TN Diversity Forum (MTDF) is celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year with Jacky Akbari, Founder and Board Chair still at the helm.  Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) awareness, education, economic and business development have been the priority since the inception of the MTDF.  Jacky and her Advisory Council (made up of Middle TN professional who have a passion for D&I) have been providing Middle TN with cutting-edge D&I education for years now with such topics as “Tying Disability to the Bottom Line”, “Faith in the Workplace”, “The CEO Conversation on Diversity”, “Women in the Workplace” and most recently “Employee Resource Groups – Adding Business Value” with a focus on Gay Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender (GLBT) ERGs.

Laura Daily, Senior Vice President of Retail for Cracker Barrel welcomed the attendees and shared how “pleasing people” had led Cracker Barrel down the path of implementing ERGs.  It was a renewed focus on their philosophy to be more inclusive that has become key to the company’s success whether they are looking at guests, employees, vendors or shareholders.

During the ERG Event the Deputy Director of Workplace Project for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Deena Fidas, Michael Gonzales, Leader of Corporate Diversity & Inclusion, at Hallmark Cards, and Tan Fletcher, Technical Support Manager at Dell, addressed a range of topics about employee resource groups, from creation, challenges, and overall business impact. The overwhelming theme of the discussion was that it is important for each employee to bring his or her “authentic” self to work each and every day.  This type of freedom allows organizations to not only allow the employee growth and development, but that the employee has a willingness to provide discretionary efforts to see the organization succeed.

Fidas,Gonzales, and Fletcher

Fidas,Gonzales, and Fletcher

At the conclusion of the panel discussion, attendees were invited to continue the discussion in a roundtable event where success stories and best practices were shared by the panelists as well as the participants.  At the conclusion of the half day summit, participants were encouraged to share Diversity & Inclusion Plans in an effort to help organizations who are interested in developing a D&I plan or launching an ERG.  If your organization would be interested in sharing best practices please contact me at dennis.stull@ghertner.com for more information.