This post is a part of our series, Culture Champions — Spotlighting the actionable advice, tips, tricks and learnings from top ERG leaders who are making a difference in their workplaces and communities.
Meet Cristina Rivard, Senior Director, People, Tiffany Hamilton, Sr. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Manager and Liz Eisenberg, Manager, Employee Experience at TrueCar, Inc.
Describe the synergy between DEI and Employee Experience at TrueCar?
- (Tiffany) Since starting at TrueCar, Liz and I have actively worked toward creating a synergistic partnership between DEI and employee experience. One of our team’s overarching goals is to create a career experience that is inclusive, sustainable, and enriching. We want employees to feel a strong sense of psychological safety and be comfortable bringing their whole selves to work.
- (Liz) We aim to support the ebb and flow of life and work demands in this digital and distributed work environment while promoting tools, resources, and policies that actively work against burnout. Furthermore, we’re looking to improve the quality of employees’ work experiences in the moments that matter the most. It is about being deliberate in the experiences we curate and the conditions we cultivate for our employees. This helps guide our work as partners and within our organizational development team.
How did you start preparing for the beta launch of your ERG program?
- (Tiffany) First, we utilized our DEI Advisory Committee to discuss what we envisioned ERGs to be at TrueCar. While a vital goal is for ERGs to help build community and connection among their members, we wanted people to understand that ERGs move beyond an interest group. We then formed a small working group comprised of DEI Advisory Committee members and participated in a visioning session. The goal was to imagine if it was three years from now and ERGs were launched at TrueCar, what would we see, hear, and feel if these ERGs were a success, supporting their members and the organization? Next, we researched best practices and discussed what success would look like and mean for ERGs and what sort of structures and support systems we would need to put in place to create that success. We then outlined the different roles and responsibilities within ERGs to ensure those who raised their hands to be a leader, member, or executive sponsor would understand the different expectations and responsibilities. These were some of our initial steps in preparing for the beta launch.
TrueCar has prioritized cultivating inclusive and meaningful experiences through history & heritage month celebrations. What did those experiences look like in practice?
- (Liz) This year was the first year TrueCar celebrated History & Heritage Months. We went from celebrating zero History & Heritage Months to delivering internal and external experiences for six different months, in addition to several other programs and events throughout the year. Individuals from across TrueCar came together to make each of these months unique, balancing celebration along with time for deeper insight, reflection, and growth.
History & Heritage Months have been an opportunity to create open dialogue and connection and collaboration across the organization. We recently had a kick-off meeting with the Black History Month planning committee, and as part of our introductions, we asked employees to share why they wanted to join the committee. Some of the responses included:
- A space to learn and understand more about different cultures and people.
- The appreciation that TrueCar makes these types of events a priority.
- The acknowledgment that you cannot always find intentional spaces like this set up to amplify voices, create learning opportunities and cultivate community at work.
While the People Team helped facilitate programs and events throughout the year, we don’t own them. The programming and success of these History & Heritage Months result from employees stepping up, giving their time, doing research, being vulnerable, sharing their stories, and co-creating experiences so we can all learn, grow and support one another.
How are you measuring the success of these experiences through employee engagement or participation?
- (Liz) When planning events and employee experiences, we ask ourselves ‘what does success look like?’ This allows us to have a frame of reference and a vision for how we intend the event to go. However, the real measure of success comes from participants and future engagement. At the end of each event, we send out an anonymous survey through AllVoices to garner employee feedback. We’re particularly interested in learning what resonates, if employees made a new connection or built a stronger relationship with a colleague and if they look forward to future events of the same kind. The data and anecdotal feedback collected gives us an overall understanding of the event and insight into what worked and what could be improved. Additionally, we survey committee members during our wrap-up meeting and often do a ‘gratitude’ exercise, acknowledging each member’s contribution.
- In November, we had an employee step forward and ask to do an event for Native American Heritage Month. While we didn’t have a dedicated History & Heritage Month planned, we enthusiastically created a ‘lunch and learn’ to allow the employee to share her family traditions. We had about ~30 attendees. To us, this is another example of success. We created an environment of growth and learning, where people are encouraged to tell their stories and there is a desire by others to engage and curiosity to learn more
Can you share some examples of how TrueCar has leaned into hard conversations and build inclusive skills with the team?
- Example 1: (Tiffany) One of the challenges within the DEI space is that things are constantly changing and evolving. An example of this is the different terminology used for Hispanic, Latin, Latinx, or Latino/a people. When we formed the planning committee for this History & Heritage Month, our first step was to create space to have an open and honest conversation around what to call the month.
- As we worked to amplify the voices of members who identified within the community, we found ever-evolving answers for individuals and not a clear consensus around what terminology to use, even within the community. Some folks identified as Hispanic, while others felt this terminology was rooted in trauma from the history with Spain. Others thought we should consider intersectionality and use gender-neutral language and advocated for Latinx. Some people had never heard of the term Latinx, while others were comfortable being identified as Hispanic, Latin, Latinx, or Latino/a.
- The essential piece was to create the time and space for members of the community to share their experiences and thoughts around these words and for allies to listen, learn and understand the history, nuances, and impact. After much discussion and consideration and in a quest to be as inclusive as possible, we decided to move forward and call the month “Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month.” We moved in this direction with the commitment to take the conversation beyond the planning committee and talk about the different terminology and definitions as part of the larger heritage month. We felt this was essential to help more people understand that it is crucial to not make assumptions about how someone identifies. Instead, create the space so individuals can share their own identities and support the dialogue for learning and growing together.
- Example 2: (Liz) For Pride Month in June, we held a few events to make time and space to celebrate and honor LGBTQ history, culture and community. We came together for a Virtual Pride Celebration and a movie discussion on Marsha P. Johnson. Marsha was a notable advocate for gay rights and a true renegade of her time, serving as a catalyst for the Stonewall Riots. We picked Marsha and the film about her life because the trans and Black experience isn’t always talked about. Especially trans women of color, as they experience compounding degrees of marginalization - and violence - due to their intersectional identities.
- During the event, we mentioned Marsha’s birth name, which we later came to learn can be hurtful, especially for trans individuals. We were unaware of the potential implications when deadnaming happens. We took the opportunity to acknowledge the mistake and recognize it as a learning moment in front of colleagues. While Marsha was occasionally called by her name given at birth, which we saw in the movie, there is a lot of power in one’s name and the choice to reclaim identity, thus from that moment onward, we only used her name, Marsha. This example showcases this work can be challenging but in order to grow, there will likely be missteps along the way.
How are you incorporating employee feedback into the formation of these inaugural ERGs?
- (Tiffany) To make sure all employees were aware of the upcoming ERGs program, we introduced the initiative during our company-wide meeting in December. We wanted to highlight that ERGs are open to all employees, regardless of whether they are members or allies of the group. Because ERGs are employee-led, we shared that our first step was to invite employees to participate in an ERG interest survey. This way, we could better understand what types of ERGs would be most interesting to our employee population. Gaining this feedback will help guide our decision on which ERGs we beta in early 2022. We also felt it was essential to begin this initiative as a beta to continue to incorporate employee feedback, learn what works well, identify any challenges, and make adjustments as we roll out additional ERGs in the future.
What advice do you have for folks looking to start or lead an ERG within their organization?
- (Tiffany) My advice would be to tap into all the different resources and learnings from all the good work that has been done supporting ERGs. Listen, ERGs are not new, they have been around in some organizations for decades. However, what is new and continues to shift is how organizations work today and how employees connect and collaborate in work settings. I think it can be very beneficial to talk with other DEI professionals and folks who are currently leading ERGs to share best practices, learn how they are dealing with the challenges of creating community in a remote environment and what lessons they learned throughout their launch process. There are also many resources to access around launching ERGs, including the series of webinars facilitated by AllVoices. Taking advantage of hearing voices across many different industries can be beneficial.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
- (Tiffany) We are excited about some of the initiatives we have planned for 2022. We are continually working to help employees understand how DEI connects and shows up in each of our work within the organization every day. How it shows up in the way we design our products, how we speak to and support our consumers, how we lead as People Managers, and the creativity and innovation that it brings to TrueCar. To be an effective and impactful leader, we believe diversity, equity, and inclusion must be part of a broader leadership skillset. That is why in 2022, we are creating an Inclusive Leadership program. We will be working with our People Managers and introducing micro-learning lessons and activities to help develop additional skills and provide tools and resources to be an inclusive leader.
- Throughout 2022, we will create opportunities for employees to understand what an ally is and the types of actions required to be an ally within TrueCar. It is easy for people sometimes to forget that, yes, each of us can be an ally for someone. Diversity and DEI are more than race and gender. It includes all of the visible and invisible ways people differ, including things like age, body size and shape, neurodiversity, sexual orientation, and parental status, to name a few. DEI is expansive, and we want to continue to invite people into this conversation and understand that each of us has the opportunity to be an ally and an advocate for someone here at TrueCar and for the consumers that we strive to serve.