EP 43: Understanding Employee Resource Groups with Toby Egbuna

Understanding Employee Resource Groups

Talent management is so important for the growth of your company, and when we’re talking about recruitment and retention, we need to think strategically and long term. So how can we create a more inclusive and diverse culture within our organization so that employees feel they are not only contributing, but also valued? To help us discuss this topic today is Toby Egbuna, Co-Founder and CEO of Chezie.

What You’ll Learn In Today’s Episode

  • How an employee resource group can benefit your company. (3:30)
  • The importance of opening participation and communication within your organization. (5:13)
  • How creating an employee resource group impacts culture. (9:43)

Actionable Takeaway for HR Professionals

  • Encourage diversity and open the door for communicating vulnerable topics. (20:06)

Actionable Takeaway for Executives

  • Focus on retention and culture instead of recruitment. (19:10)

Ideas Worth Sharing

“It’s a lot easier for me to see the challenges of women, of people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, of veterans if I can get exposed to their experiences and learn from the stories of the people that identify that way.” - Toby Egbuna Click To Tweet

Resources In Today’s Episode

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Click Here for Audio Transcript

Traci Scherck: Welcome to Talent optimization with Tracy Scherck today we’re talking about both recruitment and retention that specifically impacts and what are some key ways to do that so with me today I have Toby Egbuna

Traci Scherck: And so what we’re talking about is specifically, how do we, you know, keep the best candidates that we have specifically when we start talking about inclusion and diversity work so toby welcome to the show.

Toby Egbuna: yeah thanks so much for having me Tracy i’m excited.

Traci Scherck: yeah so told me, you have had a pretty amazing path to where you are right now at Chezie that has taken you both from some amazing team sports or playing basketball into.

Traci Scherck: You know, some careers at Accenture into starting your own business, and you know winning in competition with guy roz.

Traci Scherck: So tell us a little bit.

Traci Scherck: about your pathway to where you are now and why you know, diversity and inclusion is so important to you.

Toby Egbuna: yeah.

Toby Egbuna: it’s from the very beginning, so I was born in Nigeria my parents moved us over here when I was four years old and I grew up in western clemens North Carolina went to school at unc with, as you mentioned, I played basketball I walked on the basketball team my senior year.

Toby Egbuna: After graduating I moved to Boston Massachusetts to start a job as a management consultant at Accenture.

Toby Egbuna: I was at Accenture for about five years, three years of Boston to a year in New York and then a year kind of between North Carolina and Atlanta.

Toby Egbuna: But, as I mentioned i’m a i’m a first generation Nigerian immigrant and Accenture for all the good work that they do for DEI really struggled with.

Toby Egbuna: kind of representation and I just consistently found myself and my sister dumabe was my co founder on Chezie.

Toby Egbuna: also found herself to be the only black person or maybe in this case, the only black woman in the room and.

Toby Egbuna: I think my 2019 we just kind of like stopped and asked ourselves, you know, like, why is it still happening right like, why are companies spending.

Toby Egbuna: billions of dollars DEI and jobseekers saying that you know they want to work for workplaces that for companies that represent their values and.

Toby Egbuna: Being workplaces, where they feel included, why are we still struggling to why we still facing these big problems and we just kind of wanted to set out on a path to create a platform to solve these problems right, so we launched.

Toby Egbuna: Chezie Initially it was diversify and then we kind of retains rebranded to Chezie in January of this year.

Toby Egbuna: which has the just the platform for diverse job seekers to figure out to find crews that they love by learning from the experiences of people that identify, similarly to them at a prospective company.

Toby Egbuna: And then we also offer retention solutions for companies to help them retain that every time that they have via their employee resource groups.

Toby Egbuna: So yeah we’ve been working on it for about a year now and i’m sure you have you no more questions that comes that’s the kind of just like the introductory kind of backstory.

Traci Scherck: awesome so thank you so much for that, and what is an employee resource group.

Toby Egbuna: Right right I probably should have said that employee resource groups are, I think these way, to put it is kind of like clubs for people have shared identities perspectives backgrounds or interests most often companies will have an employee resource group for.

Toby Egbuna: People have shared races genders often you have like a black one a women’s one and LGBT Q one.

Toby Egbuna: You might have one for veterans people with disabilities, etc, but often I made a couple companies that have like employee resource groups for working moms I spoke to a company that has an employee resource groups for people that have side hustle right.

Toby Egbuna: So really can’t it’s just generally a Community a community of people that have a shared interest in perspective and want to come together to kind of have a safe space to talk and share so you could share best practices vent to grow community and network.

Traci Scherck: Right, so I love the idea of employee resource groups and i’m going to name i’ve been a part of organizations, where we’ve tried implementing employee resource groups and it’s gotten really, really bad really.

Traci Scherck: Fast so i’m super curious what are some of those key things that you know are almost the guardrails to a positive employee resource group experience and what are some of the red flags as to hey when these are not going well.

Toby Egbuna: yeah I mean, I think I think the Foundation, only the ERG needs should be open, although you might have a woman’s the ERG you should encourage participation for men, for example, where people that don’t identify as women.

Toby Egbuna: Because it’s harder it’s much easier for a group of non identifying people to.

Toby Egbuna: understand the social issues and the challenges that women face or whatever the people or whatever group phase they’re exposed to it right, I almost said that.

Toby Egbuna: People can know about it unless they’re exposed to it because it, but then that puts like that weakness on women to teach men about women’s issues, and I would never say anything like that so.

Traci Scherck: And i’m going to circle back around to that because, is something that I think we should be talking about.

Toby Egbuna: yeah right um so one thing is just getting kind of open participation and open the ability for anyone to participate in the ERG.

Toby Egbuna: I think the second one is just measuring right thing, what happens too often is that ERG just kind of.

Toby Egbuna: A company establishes them they check the box, they can say that they have ERG to talent, they can put it on the website that we have employee resource groups but.

Toby Egbuna: Most companies don’t really have a way of knowing even who’s in what ERG, let alone, what kind of events are working best who’s the most engaged in the ERG.

Toby Egbuna: Again, employee resource groups are intended to create kind of belonging Community for black people for women for people with disabilities, etc, and it’s much harder to.

Toby Egbuna: know if that’s working if you don’t know who’s in what ERG so just some kind of measurement some kind of forum for actually tracking membership, etc, is a requirement, and I think the last thing one of the an additional thing is just kind of sponsorship right, I think the.

Toby Egbuna: it’s much harder for an ERG to be able to request budgets and to.

Toby Egbuna: draw attendance in meetings and things like that, if management’s if leadership at the company isn’t bought into it, though it’s mostly ERGs then as a result, have an executive sponsor that kind of is the liaison between the ERG, the ERGs leads and.

Toby Egbuna: The big time decision makers at the company right, so if i’m in the ERG for a black ERG, I can go to my executive sponsor and say hey.

Toby Egbuna: We need $1,000 for a to bring in a speaker for our black history month series and that executive sponsor can then.

Toby Egbuna: Take that concern or that that request up to leadership and say like we need this this money here’s what it’s for etc check a box and then they can come down and kind of tell me that it’s been approved.

Toby Egbuna: So that the the big three things I think that makes ERGs the best practices, at least for some of the best practices that you are just gonna.

Traci Scherck: Right so i’m selling an ERG to my executive team, how do I sell that, in a way that I can tie the benefit of this ERG will have a positive impact on our business results.

Toby Egbuna: yeah I think the is twofold right at the whole purpose, I think that what’s top of mind for every company right now is recruiting is diversity recruiting.

Toby Egbuna: With second of mind and probably even getting close to the first line is is retained attention keeping the talent that you already have.

Toby Egbuna: Employee resource groups again are intended to be communities for black people for women.

Toby Egbuna: And their ways for me to kind of connect with other people at the company and make me feel like I belong there right if I feel like I belong there are more likely to stay at the company, so there at the very core ERGs are retention tools.

Toby Egbuna: But they can also be excellent tools for.

Toby Egbuna: Supporting your business right and growing your business, which I think something that leadership is something that leadership is actually really, really missing out on I recently spoke to a company, they are a fitness wearables company and they.

Toby Egbuna: They actually work with their black ERG to make sure that the product works as well on darker skin, as it doesn’t lighter skin right and that’s a direct.

Toby Egbuna: Business Impact right if it works as well if it doesn’t work as well on darker skin.

Toby Egbuna: it’s gonna be hard for them to sell it, but if they can test it with the ERG and kind of confirm things, then they can actually market it that way it and you know build ads and things that kind of reach out to different audiences.

Toby Egbuna: and other example I think that pinterest black and Latin next ERG created.

Toby Egbuna: pinterest like board i’m not totally sure our participants, but they created like board contents, for you know the pinterest Community pinterest users, based on the black experience based on Black culture based on that next culture.

Toby Egbuna: And again, that like kind of that engagement with ERGs and your product development is just one example of how you can really, really support your business initiatives and not just.

Toby Egbuna: The resources, for you know retention.

Traci Scherck: Right awesome so what i’m hearing you say essentially is ERGs our solution for helping to create an inclusive workplace.

Toby Egbuna: yeah at the very core there that but I mean they can be business resources as well, and I think that’s something that a lot of companies kind of miss out on.

Traci Scherck: yeah I love that example that you just gave because that’s so incredibly important is what does this look like, at the end of the day, and how does this drive both our sales and our business results.

Traci Scherck: And so, when you look at the rg is one of the ways that i’ve seen in my experience with the Iraqis and we did a little bit differently, because we had some failures with it right, but one of the things I love about failures, is that they are the best framework to success right.

Traci Scherck: As long as we learn from them is you know its inclusion is so much more.

Traci Scherck: than conversations, but one of the things that we really started to dig into was what does this culture actually look like and what are some things that are different so.

Traci Scherck: When we did our Christmas potlucks it was alright so tell me about the food tell me about the traditions tell me about you know.

Traci Scherck: And so, changing Christmas to holiday right or some of those other things
so toby How exactly do ERGs impact culture inside of organizations.

Toby Egbuna: yeah I think if he can go back to what I was saying about ERGs being open right, so the woman ERG is accepts participation from people that know that don’t identify as women.

Toby Egbuna: It impacts culture, because it exposes those people that don’t identify certain way to the experience is the social issues, the challenges.

Toby Egbuna: The culture of the Community that they’re engaging with by joining the ERG by participating in the ERG events by by speaking to members of that ERG.

Toby Egbuna: So, for example, I think i’ve last last June, I was still working at Accenture and we had a lot of just kind of average words for it, we had a lot of like safe space venting.

Toby Egbuna: sessions basically right, where I mean it was like two or three hours very emotional.

Toby Egbuna: we’re different black people from the company, we just got to get on like go off mute and talk about their experiences in the company good bad in between, and it was.

Toby Egbuna: It was eye opening to me that so many non black people were on the call that’s like saying, like, I had no idea, this was going on.

Toby Egbuna: Right, because I was kind of like how are you all, you know because i’m so wrapped up in my own black experience I was identifying with a lot of the things being said.

Toby Egbuna: And I think that that kind of exposure into the black experience for non black people is huge and that’s exactly as I think the the African American ERG at Accenture kind of held that event, I think that is.

Toby Egbuna: exactly the kind of exposure that you need to start seeing those changes to culture right it’s a lot easier for me to understand the challenges of a woman of people with disabilities of.

Toby Egbuna: The LGBT community of veterans if I can get exposed to their experiences and learn from the stories of the people that identify that way at my company so that’s kind of how they change culture is just like by opening people’s like worldview into different perspectives out there.

Traci Scherck: Thank you so much for that, so I want to go back to one of the questions that we had at the beginning, which was.

Traci Scherck: You you had made a comment that essentially student hey I would never expect a woman to tell someone else how to be a woman right.

Traci Scherck: So help me understand and i’m just super curious you know ERGs helpful the exposure of it when the conversations already happening versus the distinction of i’m expecting you to tell me what it’s like to.

Toby Egbuna: yeah i’m gonna butcher the quote but

Toby Egbuna: We do a blog series called how to be an ally and we did one around.

Toby Egbuna: gender identity and one of the people I spoke to they.

Toby Egbuna: They use a quote like you can’t expect the victim.

Toby Egbuna: I feel like maybe you can’t expect the traumatize you can’t expect the victim to.

Toby Egbuna: Create solutions to cope with their own trauma right it’s the responsibility of the people that have caused the trauma to fix the solution and that kind of goes along what I was saying, and just that.

Toby Egbuna: it’s not a woman’s responsibility to teach me about the plight of being a woman it’s my responsibility if I want to be an ally, if I want to be an advocate to go out and learn about that play.

Toby Egbuna: Now, are there.

Toby Egbuna: Can I like Should I be able to ask questions right, so I big be able to like identify I do.

Toby Egbuna: I do this, all the time I go to my sister and asked her if I have a question if there’s something i’m not sure about when i’m learning about the woman’s experience the female experience.

Toby Egbuna: I can go to her and asked her and and she’s kind of made herself available as someone that can kind of teach me.

Toby Egbuna: But she has no obligation to do that if one day she was like listen.

Toby Egbuna: Go out learning on your own Google is free i’d be like you’re right i’ll go do that but she’s you know made herself available, but at the same time I listen to podcasts I read books I watch movies, I watch TV shows or watch documentaries whatever.

Toby Egbuna: I kind of expose me into the female experience, and I think that kind of that’s ultimately what ally ship looks like it’s being active and intentional about.

Toby Egbuna: Wanting to learn about the experiences of the different communities that maybe you’re not a part of that you that you don’t identify with.

Toby Egbuna: and finding ways that you can support those communities right, so I.

Toby Egbuna: think that I learned pretty early on, is that women oftentimes we had like spoken over right or don’t get the acknowledgement and recognition that they deserve when something happens at work.

Toby Egbuna: So I tried to be very intentional, especially when I was at Accenture it’s less so now because it’s only myself and my sister but.

Toby Egbuna: When I was at Accenture and I was working in a bigger team, I tried to be very intentional, especially if there’s a woman on the team to say Oh, thank you, Sarah for creating these slides for me or.

Toby Egbuna: Thanks, you know Jane for.

Toby Egbuna: Taking those during the meeting like really, really, giving people their credit that way, and then, if I would, if I did, I know that women generally are more.

Toby Egbuna: They get spoken over very often right so anytime that I did accidentally speak over somebody I tried to be very intentional and say like oh i’m very like you know before I even continue my thought i’m like i’m sorry I cut you off like you can go ahead.

Toby Egbuna: Just to make sure that you know I do see them and I tried, with everything I have not to do it more than once in a call if it even happens, the first time, so.

Toby Egbuna: I think I only know those things are because i’ve been very intentional about trying to learn about the platter for women and reading different books and that sort of things.

Toby Egbuna: And that’s kind of what act of valor ship looks like not to like you know pat myself on the back, I think that’s just my responsibility is something I should be doing so.

Traci Scherck: Right, and thank you so much for that, because what you kind of just shared was first we have to get to.

Traci Scherck: consciousness that these things are.

Traci Scherck: happening, and I think that you know, one of the other things I heard you say is that there’s i’m reading between the lines, a little bit, but I mean so often we’re not even conscious of the impact that we’re having based on.

Traci Scherck: who we are, or what we’re what we’re given right so in the employee resource groups, then being able to.

Traci Scherck: be a part of that, where you can listen into some of those conversations is an active part of understanding another culture and he and in hearing that in a one to one way, whereas because sometimes Google lies to you, and sometimes TV shows aren’t accurate.


Traci Scherck: So.

Toby Egbuna: yeah I mean I definitely think so, I think that you know the best.

Toby Egbuna: The best way to learn, would be to like just have somebody you can ask a bunch of questions do.

Toby Egbuna: right but that’s not that’s not realistic, all the time, so I do think that you know good alternative is books and Google and stuff like that, but the more you can just actively.

Toby Egbuna: engage with that Community by attending their events by.

Toby Egbuna: commenting on discussions that are happening in the slack channel or the team’s channel whatever.

Toby Egbuna: The better off you’ll be and the more like authentic your experience your learning will be.

Traci Scherck: yeah and one of the things you said about your sister, and I just want to point this out because I think this is really important is the fact that she has agreed to be that person for you to ask questions to you didn’t assume that it would just be that person.

Toby Egbuna: Right yeah I mean, I think, admittedly, I don’t know that I have asked, but I do think that she.

Toby Egbuna: I think we’re at the point in our relationship where you know if i’d ever if I was ever asked her too much you’re just be like yo go go on Google, or you know go talk to somebody else i’m not in the mood for this, but.

Toby Egbuna: she’s really she’s also just been really good about like calling me out when I am missing something when I am not being an ally, that I should be.

Toby Egbuna: So I mean I think most people have someone like that in their life that was that is willing to kind of I don’t want to say again be their coach but someone that is willing to help them as they go through the ally journey their allyship journey.

Toby Egbuna: And it’s really just about like finding that person and like thanking them anytime they do take an opportunity to coach you and to kind of teach you or make you a better ally.

Toby Egbuna: And not letting not making them repeat themselves right like if they tell you something that you should be doing something that not questioning and just kind of going with it and then moving on with it.

Traci Scherck: yeah absolutely and so much of the ERG is in the inclusion we’ve been talking about comes down to relationships right.

Traci Scherck: It really comes down to the relationships and the trust and when we talk about you know teams inside of a work environment or being engaged in our work it’s do I trust the people i’m working with.

Traci Scherck: You know, do I feel like I can work here, and feel good about the work and then i’m valued for what i’m doing.

Toby Egbuna: yeah.

Toby Egbuna: I think a lot of that does come with.

Toby Egbuna: You know a lot of times any ERG ideally you have participation from all levels of the organization right like their senior managers, but also analysts.

Toby Egbuna: And the best great part about the ERG being every network as an analyst, especially at a bigger company with another member of the ERG that’s maybe a senior managing data be your advocate that can be your coach and I help you as you progress through the company.

Toby Egbuna: And that’s you know that’s another piece of you know, not as read directly tied to that kind of bubbles up into retention because it’s helping you it’s helping people with their career and like professional development.

Toby Egbuna: So, again it’s a great great point Tracy is like another example of how ERGs can kind of support the business and and be these ultimately great retention tools.

Traci Scherck: awesome so a lot of our clients in.

Traci Scherck: Our services are from smaller organizations so we’re talking.

Traci Scherck: About like 50 to 250 employees.

Traci Scherck: And how, in your experience of building ERGs, and you know really taking this expertise on and the tools to do this really well.

Traci Scherck: What are the differentiation between ERGs and much smaller organizations let’s say you know less than 250 employees and you know the very large organizations of the world.

Toby Egbuna: yeah I mean ERGs I think are the smallest company i’ve spoken to that has to ERGs has like 108 people.

Toby Egbuna: Fewer than that, like generally you know if you’re a tech company with 100 people you probably only have.

Toby Egbuna: What me like you would be probably doing really well if you had 10 black people right if you had.

Toby Egbuna: So you generally just don’t even have that number is to really, really formulating your ERG, which often happens is that, like.

Toby Egbuna: You know if you have those 10 black people at 100 person company they probably have their own like private slack channel right so that like informal ERGs already happening, they maybe they plant, like their own kind of happy hours or own virtual social events, etc.

Toby Egbuna: And I think that that’s a big difference is just that, like a small company, maybe has ERGs but they’re just not officially called ERGs or just like the black slack group right.

Toby Egbuna: As it.

Toby Egbuna: As you get bigger as you get more people in the company, as you get more people looking to like network and it gets a little bit harder to know the names of everyone that you work with.

Toby Egbuna: that’s when the ERG that’s when like the formal realization of any ERG and trying to make it into like a business resource that’s when it kind of comes in handy for the smaller companies.

Toby Egbuna: I think you can get the same impact right the feeling of belonging and networking with people that invites me to you.

Toby Egbuna: it’s just harder to like formulate it as an employee resource group.

Traci Scherck: awesome so as we close every one of our podcast, and so what is one key takeaway that you have for executives listening into our conversation today.

Toby Egbuna: yeah.

Toby Egbuna: that’s a good question, I think that.

Toby Egbuna: The focus is, I think I might have said this earlier, but the, the focus is way too much on recruiting way too much on recruiting I feel like so many companies are trying they’re doing it backwards, where they’re trying to recruit and.

Toby Egbuna: not focus on creating the environment to actually keep the talent that they recruiting it’s basically like to try to fill a leaky bucket.

Toby Egbuna: It actually needs to be backwards, you need to reverse, you need to focus on retention and again a great way to do that is via employee resource groups and.

Toby Egbuna: Then from there, you can go on to.

Toby Egbuna: recruiting right and it’s it’s going to be a lot easier for you to recruit that talent, if you can point to.

Toby Egbuna: The things that you’re doing to like keep the talent that you already have in those interviews in those in those applications etc so.

Toby Egbuna: But that’s that’s my one thing for takeaways is just like focus on retention first focus on keeping the towel you already have focus on creating that inclusive workplace and then from there, the recruiting will be much easier for you to do.

Traci Scherck: Absolutely and very timely considering where we’re at.

Toby Egbuna: Right now right.

Toby Egbuna: I think that the first step for DEI establishing stuff getting.

Toby Egbuna: posting jobs on on diversity recruiting platforms and and launching you ERGs and logging into line and getting trainings and etc, but the next step is.

Toby Egbuna: Really, knowing the impact of those things that you’re doing right what’s measured gets managed and it’s very easy for you to just kind of watch stuff.

Toby Egbuna: and forget about it, because you have no data no stats no no metrics or kpis around the success of those programs.

Toby Egbuna: So for employee resource groups in this kind of like the benefit of the Chezie your dashboard is just being able to track who’s in what ERG how many events, the average person is attending what the net promoter score for the kind of events that you’re doing is.

Toby Egbuna: etc, and then the ultimate goal is based on the data that you have right you’d be able to say that people that are in employee resource groups or people that participate in our training programs are or people that are in our mentorship programs or whatever kind of.

Toby Egbuna: DEI work that you’re doing people that participate in our DEI if it’s already.

Toby Egbuna: 30% more likely to stay at the company, the people that aren’t right and then it’s a lot easier for you to go to leadership and say we need more money for this DEI work because it’s directly contributing to us retaining the talent, we have.

Traci Scherck: Absolutely and tying into performance sometimes to.

Toby Egbuna: It right that also works.

Traci Scherck: That are actively involved our highest performers.

Traci Scherck: And that’s an.

Traci Scherck: Easy one right, because we know that they’re more productive and profitable engaged for the organization.

Traci Scherck: awesome well Thank you so much for joining us today, and if you’re interested in learning more about toby and what he’s doing you can find him at Chezie and I do have his linkedin and his website in the show notes, so you can follow up with him so thanks so much for joining us today.

Toby Egbuna: Of course, thank you for having me.

Traci Scherck: Have a great day.