Using ERGs to Drive Community and Momentum — Lauren Flanagan

AllVoices Team
AllVoices Team
October 26, 2021
5 Min Read
Using ERGs to Drive Community and Momentum — Lauren Flanagan

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 Lauren Flanigan (she/her), Senior Brand Manager of OREO cookies. In this role, Lauren is responsible for all US paid marketing campaigns for OREO and has led launches like Gluten Free OREO, Lady Gaga x OREO, the OREO 2020 Olympics campaign, as well as the new OREO 2021 holiday campaign. Outside of her day job as Senior Brand Manager of OREO, Lauren also serves as the Co-lead for the Mondelēz International African Ancestry Council. Lauren is passionate about social justice and community service and also volunteers her time as the Vice-Chair of the Junior Board of Directors for 21st Century Leaders (a non-profit organization focused on youth development), and previously as a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters. In her spare time, Lauren enjoys practicing aerial hoop and silks, spending time with friends and family, learning all her mother’s baking recipes, traveling, live music, and finding the best brunches in whatever city she’s in. 

As Senior Brand Manager, OREO at Mondelēz International what has best prepared you to manage people and why?

I am so grateful to be in a position to be a leader of such an incredible brand. I don’t take it for granted! I can’t say that any one thing has most prepared me to lead this brand, and more importantly to lead people, but a collection of experiences, learning by watching others, and benefitting active mentorship and sponsorship have been the most impactful for me. I have consistently and intentionally sought out career opportunities that would stretch me and grow me, I have taken cues from leadership styles of leaders I admired, and have been fortunate enough to learn from leaders who took enough interest, and had enough belief in me to teach me and help me grow. I stand on the shoulders of many amazing supporters!  

What was your journey to becoming an employee resource group (ERG) leader? 

I like to joke that the journey found me! I started at Mondelēz as an intern and it was during that time that I first experienced our ERG network. As an intern, the leaders of the Mondelez International African Ancestry Council (MIAAC) sought out meetings with me and other Black interns and made a point of mentoring the interns throughout the summer. I really benefitted from their mentorship and really gained a lot of strong relationships across the organization as a result. The experience stuck with me and played a big part in my decision to join Mondelēz full time after graduating. After returning full time the following summer, I joined MIAAC officially and became an active member. A few months later, one of the leaders announced that she would be stepping down as she pursued a new role in the company and asked me to step up in her place. I gladly accepted and have been leading the organization since.  

What were some of your accomplishments over the past year in the employee experience and how would you measure your impact? 

Phew! 2020-2021 have easily been the most active years in terms of the role of MIAAC. In light of the murder of George Floyd, Mondelēz, like many other companies began to take a fresh look at the impact of DEI in corporate spaces. As a part of this growth, ERGs gained renewed support and heightened focus. We have really been able to play an active role in helping shape the company’s DEI initiatives. 

One of my most proud accomplishments relates to this. Following the protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd, MIAAC led a company-wide “Townhall” panel to bring attention to what Black employees were feeling as we were forced to process this trauma and go about our daily personal and professional lives. The panel brought real, raw, and honest conversation to the forefront and really served as the catalyst for a lot of the great DEI work the organization developed as a result  

We have since taken advantage of this great momentum by keeping the conversation going via Black History Month programming that featured everything from conversations on the need for supplier diversity to the impact of Black consumers on culture; championing increased recruiting from HBCUs; developing executive-level support for mentorship programs for black employees; and creating education and volunteer opportunities around Juneteenth  

How are you celebrated and compensated as an ERG leader at OREO/Mondelēz International? 

I believe this is an opportunity area for a lot of corporations. The work of ERG leaders is significant and unfortunately often goes somewhat unseen or underappreciated. It requires a lot of time and effort (on-top of one’s day job!) to lead a membership of 100+ people, a leadership team of 7+ people, coordinate major company-wide events, support recruitment, onboarding and retention efforts, and provide a sounding board for corporate DEI initiatives. These contributions have real and impactful benefits to company culture and ultimately the bottom line of the business. In spite of this, there is no additional compensation for this workload. While I, and many other ERG leaders, have benefitted from additional exposure to leadership and a platform for a positive presence in the organization as a result of my ERG leadership, it hasn’t always felt like enough compensation for the effort. I believe exposure is a great benefit, as is having an outlet for one’s passion for one’s community, but there is room to provide greater compensation, or at minimum, more weight given to total job performance, for those who take on the additional effort of leading an ERG.

What advice do you have for professionals looking to start or lead an ERG within their organization?

Do it! Leading a community is certainly rewarding and can be truly impactful for the business. Before you begin, be clear about your audience. Who are you serving? Why? What do they need? How can you best serve them? Next, find strong sponsors in the organization. You will need the support of leadership to help further the goals of the ERG. 

What is your call to action for leaders (executives and decision-makers in general at a company) to support the work of ERGs? 

Acknowledge the value that ERGs are bringing to your organization! Consider ERGs as a vehicle for supporting communities of your employees. Give ERGs the space to truly serve their membership. Acknowledge the effort and leadership of those leading ERGs. Consider those leadership positions as you would other leadership positions in the company. These roles can truly serve as a vehicle for leadership development. Lastly, ask yourself if you’re doing enough to show your ERG leaders that you value them. If you can, compensate them financially. If you cannot, consider their ERG leadership in their total performance review  

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

Community is a beautiful thing and can be a compelling reason to join, and even stay with a company. ERGs are wonderful vehicles for driving community and are a worthwhile investment to keep company culture strong.

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